Archives de septembre 2012

Fictional Japanese nuclear disaster film shot partially on Fukushima grounds

A deserted Fukushima devastated by a nuclear meltdown triggered by an earthquake and tsunami last year stood in for a fictional Japanese prefecture in director Sion Sono’s new film.

“Kibou No Kuni” (The Land of Hope) premiered this week at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs through to September 16.

In his latest project, the director of “Cold Fish” (2010), “Guilty of Romance “(2011) and “Himizu” (2011) pulls audiences into a family’s suffering in the wake of the disaster that killed 19,000, without using any potentially exploitative real-life footage. No special effects, no bodies littering streets.

 

 

But some scenes were filmed on location with a deserted Fukushima standing in for fictional Nagashima prefecture to give the film a startling, documentary-like veracity.

The filmmaker says a fictionalized account of this tragic story is able to touch audiences more deeply than a documentary on Fukushima, allowing them maybe to come to terms with the “horrible reality… of living with radiation” without forcing people to “relive” the disaster of March 11, 2011.

“For the film, I spent six months researching Fukushima, I met with many inhabitants of the region,” he said in an interview with AFP.

“Japanese peasants are shy, but they opened up to me much more than they did with journalists who covered the disaster,” he said. Some of their conversations were used as dialogue for the film.

This is why, he says, perhaps the film might seem “more like a documentary than a feature film.”

“The Land of Hope” follows a farming family living a peaceful rural life until a nuclear disaster strikes.

 

 

Yoichi Ono (Jun Murakami), his wife Izumi (Megumi Kagurazak) and elder parents Yasuhiko (Isao Natsuyagi) and Chieko (Naoko Otani) face a terrible decision: stay and risk radiation poisoning, or go.

Out of concern for their unborn child Yoichi and Izumi reluctantly leave the family farm and relocate to a nearby city while Yasuhiko and Chieko remain.

The young pregnant Izumi however is plagued by paranoia, unconvinced that her new home is safer from airborne contaminants (one scene shows her in chemical/biological protective clothing while shopping for vegetables at a local grocery store).

Yoichi’s aged parents back at the farm, meanwhile, are pressed by authorities to leave, but Chieko suffers from a degenerative illness and removing her from familiar surroundings could exacerbate her already fragile condition.

Official reports were critical of the government’s and company Tepco’s emergency handling of the nuclear meltdown and releases of radioactive materials from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant — the world’s largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The events are still fresh for many in Japan, says Sono, noting that he had to go to Britain and Taiwan to seek financial backers for the film.

Sono says, however, that he sees in the ashes of Fukushima emerging “hope.”

“One morning during filming within the 20 kilometer radius of the power plant I saw the sun rise,” he recalled. “The colors were magnificent. I told myself it was the dawn of a new day and life continues.”

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Radioactive fallout detected far from Fukushima

 

A significant quantity of radioactive cesium, likely from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, has turned up in subsea mud about 200 kilometers away, near the mouth of the Shinanogawa River on Japan’s northwestern coast.

Scientists said samples taken in 2011 at Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, contained concentrations of up to 460 becquerels per kilogram of dry mud, a level comparable to that detected at a river mouth in Tokyo Bay last year.

Some isotopes of cesium are heavily radioactive. They are produced in uranium fission and deposits are often closely associated with nuclear accidents and atomic weapons tests.

A team sampled coastal seabed mud last August around the mouth of the river’s Okozu diversion canal, which discharges into the Sea of Japan. The team was led by Hideo Yamazaki, a professor of environmental analysis at Kinki University.

The sample sites lay beneath 15, 20 and 30 meters of water. Scientists took mud from those depths, and analyzed cesium concentrations at intervals of 1 centimeter.

The highest concentration was 2-3 cm below the mud surface at a water depth of 30 m. That reading of 460 becquerels per kg compares to samples of over 400 becquerels around the mouth of the Arakawa river in Tokyo Bay in August 2011.

Both readings are dozens of times higher than contamination detected after past atmospheric nuclear tests.

At a depth of 20 m the maximum concentration was 318 becquerels per kg, while at 15 m it was 255 becquerels.

The research results will be published at the fall meeting of the Oceanographic Society of Japan, which opens in Shizuoka on Sept. 13.

***

To read The Asahi Shimbun stories on the survey on seabed mud in Tokyo Bay, visit:

(ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201202080058)

(ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201205100076).

By NOBUTARO KAJI/ Staff Writer
 
 

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Japan energy deadlock deepens

 

 
 
 
Japan's Fukushima plant

Japan’s Fukushima plant

 
 
 

Deadlock in Japan between anti-nuclear activists and advocates of atomic power deepened on Monday as the government failed to produce an expected proposal to reduce the role of nuclear power in the country’s energy portfolio after the Fukushima disaster.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government had been widely expected to announce a decision on energy policy and a reduction of the share of nuclear power to 15 per cent or less by 2030.

Instead, Noda said he wanted the government to decide the direction of energy policy this week.

« The present situation is that the majority of the people want us to aim at a zero-nuclear society, » the Prime Minister told a news conference after formally announcing his candidacy for re-election as Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader.

The government has been drafting a new energy policy since the Fukushima plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years. It had to scrap plans to boost nuclear’s share of electricity supply to more than 50 per cent from nearly 30 per cent before the crisis.

The issue could become a focal point of a general election expected within months that Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is likely to lose and the government has wavered over whether to set a timetable for abandoning atomic energy.

« They must feel very threatened by having a policy put in place, even by a party that’s expected to suffer a major defeat in the next election, » said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University, referring to pro-nuclear power interests.

« I guess they worry that the next government might not want to or be able to roll this back. »

Earlier on Monday, Noda said in his platform for re-election as party leader that Japan should aim to abandon nuclear power. But he gave no timetable for doing so.

Noda faces three rivals, but is expected to be re-elected as head of his party, which proposed last week that Japan should move towards ending reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s.

Noda also said Japan should build no new nuclear reactors and strictly apply a law limiting the lifespan of existing units to 40 years. That would bring atomic power’s share to around 15 per cent of electricity by 2030 and zero by mid-century.

The Fukushima disaster prompted the shutdown of all 50 reactors in Japan for safety checks.

Noda’s decision to approve the restart of two reactors to avoid possible power shortages sparked outrage among anti-nuclear activists. Japan ended voluntary targets to cut power use for the summer last week with no shortages reported.

Signs the government was leaning toward a plan to exit nuclear power by a specific date have triggered a fierce counter-offensive by pro-atomic interests.

Japan’s nine regional nuclear utilities and business lobbies argue that abandoning nuclear power in favour of fossil fuels and renewable sources such as solar and wind power will boost electricity prices. That, they say, would make industry uncompetitive, complicate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and threaten the utilities’ financial viability.

Nuclear energy advocates also say dumping nuclear power would annoy Japan’s security ally, the United States, the world’s largest producer of nuclear power.

« To decide on zero nuclear power would be very tough for Japan’s economy now and in the future, » Hiromasa Yonekura, head of the Keidanren business lobby, told a news conference. « In addition, I think US-Japan relations would worsen. »

Anti-nuclear advocates counter that predictions of damage to the world’s third-biggest economy are exaggerated and that a policy shift will create new chances for corporate profits in areas such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The push to set a timeline for exiting nuclear power has also run into opposition from the northern prefecture of Aomori, home to a plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The recycling plant in the village of Rokkasho has yet to begin operating due to technical glitches nearly 20 years after construction began. The prefecture is threatening to send back stored waste if the government abandons the recycling programme.

 

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Post Fukushima disaster, Japan to abandon nuclear power by 2030s: report

TOKYO: Japan will abandon nuclear power within the next three decades under new government policy on the post-Fukushima energy mix, a newspaper said Wednesday. 

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration will declare its intention to permanently shut down reactors by some time in the 2030s, the Mainichi Shimbun reported, citing unnamed government sources. 

The move would bring resource-poor Japan into line with Germany, which has said it will wean itself off nuclear power by 2022, and comes as regular vocal protests against nuclear power continue. 

The government « will formally decide at an energy and environment meeting this weekend » to stop the use of nuclear, the paper said. 

Tokyo has worked to hammer out a new energy policy in the wake of last year’s crisis, when reactors at Fukushima were swamped by the tsunami, sparking meltdowns that spread radiation over a large area. 

In the months that followed, Japan’s entire stable of reactors were shut down for routine safety checks, with only two of them ever having been restarted, and those in spite of often vocal public protest. 

Last week, Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) issued a policy recommendation saying Japan should « put every political resource to realise a situation where the number of nuclear plants operated be zero in the 2030s ». 

The DPJ listed three principles to achieve this: not constructing new nuclear plants, stopping old nuclear plants after 40 years of operation, and only approving the restart of nuclear plants that had passed safety checks by a nuclear regulator. 

The policy paper recommended Japan make greater use of renewable energy, and take further energy saving measures, including the use of smart metering. 

It also said Japan should develop resources in nearby waters and look to cheaper procurement of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels, including shale gas. 

Japan, with precious few resources of its own, is presently heavily dependent on oil from the Middle East and has been forced to ramp up its imports to make up the energy shortfall over the last 18 months. 

Nuclear had provided around a third of the country’s electricity before the disaster at Fukushima. 

Noda said Monday he will incorporate the DPJ’s recommendations into his new energy policy, which is expected to be finalised later this week. 

Ahead of a general election expected this autumn, nuclear energy has become a hot button issue in Japan with regular protests that sometimes attract tens of thousands of people calling for it to be ditched. 

At the same time the country’s powerful business lobbies have worked hard to push for a restart of shuttered reactors, fearing power shortages. 

Germany last year said it would shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022, while in Italy, a referendum rejected any resumption of nuclear energy generation, which was halted after the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl.

 

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/post-fukushima-disaster-japan-to-abandon-nuclear-power-by-2030s-report/articleshow/16362582.cms

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It will take more than a pop group to save Fukushima’s reputation

Last March, Tatsuya Yamaguchi of the idol group Tokio told the media that he was determined to someday reopen Dash Village, the farm that he and his bandmates built from scratch as an ongoing project on their long-running Nippon TV series « The Tetsuwan Dash. » The farm is in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, which was contaminated by radiation following the nuclear disaster of March 2011. The entire area was evacuated, and Tokio had to abandon the land they had so painstakingly transformed using traditional farming methods.

 

News photo
Idol hands make right: Tatsuya Yamaguchi (left) and Shigeru Joshima (center) of the pop group Tokio present Fukushima Prefectural Gov. Yuhei Sato (right) with a donation to aid the disaster-stricken prefecture. KYODO

 

Yamaguchi’s dream may never come true. Last week, « Tetsuwan Dash » launched a new project called Dash Island, which will see the quintet turn an uninhabited outcropping into something livable. For the last year, the Dash Village idea was kept on life support with segments called Dash Village Excursions, in which Tokio traveled to farms in other prefectures to learn different cultivation methods. But given the amount of time and money required to make an island habitable, it’s doubtful they can devote any more to Dash Village, even if the area is declared safe and reopened, which is not likely to happen any time soon.

So the group has decided to give something back to the prefecture that became its second home. Since July Tokio has been appearing in TV commercials and transportation ads for Fukushima produce. At first, it shilled for peaches. Soon it will be boosting rice. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the prefectural government has set aside ¥242 million for media campaigns to convince the rest of Japan that Fukushima produce is safe. So far it seems to have worked. The price of Fukushima peaches has « recovered » to about 80 percent of its pre-nuclear-crisis level. At one point last year, the price had dropped to half its 2010 peak.

In contrast, the Asahi Shimbun’s coverage of the same topic centers less on economics than on perception, and talks about more than peaches. The focus of Asahi’s report is that « rumor damage » (fuhyō higai) still affects consumer attitudes toward Fukushima, though not necessarily in ways you might think. The local agricultural cooperative, JA Fukushima, analyzed prices at Tokyo’s main wholesale market between April and August and found that for core Fukushima produce prices were not only lower than they were in 2010, but, except for peaches, also lower than they were in 2011.

In April the government introduced new radiation testing standards, and everything from Fukushima passed with flying colors, so why have prices not increased? Last year the media described how negative rumors from the disaster area were making it difficult for producers in the area to sell their wares. As a result while many consumers did avoid produce from the region, and continue to do so despite the encouraging test results, a good number last year also bought Fukushima products simply because they wanted to support the area. This « artificial eagerness » may be cooling down. Now that it seems agricultural products from Fukushima are safe, people don’t feel they have to buy them any more. The chairman of JA Fukushima said as much at a recent meeting with the agricultural ministry.

This perception gap was also investigated by the Tokyo University of Agriculture, which surveyed market prices of vegetables from both Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures before and after the nuclear disaster, alongside related media reports. Ibaraki Prefecture was also affected by the disaster and, like Fukushima, is economically reliant on agriculture. TUA found that during 2011 retail prices for Fukushima produce did rise at some point, while Ibaraki prices dropped and remained low. At the same time, the number of news stories about Fukushima, the prefecture most closely identified with the nuclear disaster, was three times the number published about Ibaraki. Regardless of the content of the reports, the researchers concluded that the coverage effectively promoted Fukushima produce.

The agricultural ministry has sent notifications to other ministries, saying that consumers may forget about the disaster. It asks for the ministries’ support in helping boost sales of products from Fukushima. Seven and i Holdings has said it will carry out a Tohoku sales promotion project at its stores, and the Tokyo Wholesale Market will set up special Fukushima booths at its October fair. Some retailers have questioned this « intervention, » saying it will reinforce the impression that consumers still aren’t buying Fukushima produce. Even a representative of the prefecture’s publicity division told Asahi that it’s time to promote the region’s products in terms of quality and not as a bid for sympathy.

The argument obscures another more critical argument: Is the produce really safe? This debate is even more contentious, since it relies on scientific assessments whose reliabilty is not confirmed by consensus. Each side is associated with a side in the related nuclear-power debate. Those who believe Japan should continue with its nuclear-energy policy tend to also believe the fallout from Fukushima is negligible and that the media causes more pain and confusion by reporting it. Those who are against nuclear power tend to think that no level of radiation is safe and that the authorities, abetted by the same media, are not frank about the dangers. What one side calls « rumor damage » the other characterizes as vital information.

Last month the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War held a conference in Hiroshima, and two non-Japanese members talked to Tokyo Shimbun about Fukushima. Though they agree the situation there isn’t as serious as it was at Chernobyl, they believe it is natural for residents to be anxious « because they can’t get second opinions. » All information is important when people are faced with decisions about their health and the health of their children.

 

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20120909pb.html

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International flights resume from crisis-hit Fukushima

News photo
Climbing back: Passengers prepare Monday to board a China Eastern Airlines chartered flight bound for Shanghai at Fukushima Airport, which resumed international services for the first time since the March 2011 disasters. KYODO

FUKUSHIMA — Fukushima Airport resumed international flight services Monday when a plane left for Shanghai, marking the first such flight since the prefecture was hit by March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant catastrophe.

Around 140 passengers, including Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, boarded the chartered jet operated by China Eastern Airlines.

Before the triple disaster, China Eastern Airlines operated two flights between Fukushima and Shanghai per week, while South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines had three flights between Fukushima and Seoul. Both services halted after the disasters struck.

The 140 passengers Monday included 120 tourists and a 20-member team led by Sato to tout Fukushima as a tourist destination.

 

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20120911a5.html

 

 

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International flights resume from crisis-hit Fukushima

News photo
Climbing back: Passengers prepare Monday to board a China Eastern Airlines chartered flight bound for Shanghai at Fukushima Airport, which resumed international services for the first time since the March 2011 disasters. KYODO

FUKUSHIMA — Fukushima Airport resumed international flight services Monday when a plane left for Shanghai, marking the first such flight since the prefecture was hit by March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant catastrophe.

Around 140 passengers, including Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, boarded the chartered jet operated by China Eastern Airlines.

Before the triple disaster, China Eastern Airlines operated two flights between Fukushima and Shanghai per week, while South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines had three flights between Fukushima and Seoul. Both services halted after the disasters struck.

The 140 passengers Monday included 120 tourists and a 20-member team led by Sato to tout Fukushima as a tourist destination.

 

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20120911a5.html

 

 

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