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Daunting challenge of Fukushima clean-up

Julian Siddle, BBC News
…The clean-up strategy for Fukushima and Date City was devised by Shunichi Tanaka, the former acting head of Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency.

“Usually the contamination happened in a nuclear facility, inside a controlled area, but this type of contamination is global environmental contamination – it’s completely different,” he says…

Following the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 11 March last year, wind carried a cloud of radioactive debris off towards the north-west.

This airborne debris fell on populated areas beyond the 20km exclusion zone that would later be set up around the plant…

The radioactive fallout from the nuclear plant contained a number of radioactive isotopes – products of the nuclear reactions – which differ widely in how long they persist in the environment…
(5 March 2012)

Fukushima plant still needing great care a year after tsunami

Mainichi Daily News
A year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was ravaged by a huge earthquake and tsunami, Japan continues to face the challenge of keeping the complex under control without much knowledge of what is actually happening inside the three crippled reactors…

The nuclear crisis at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture occurred shortly after the March 11 natural disasters led to the loss of nearly all of the plant’s power sources, and consequently the ability to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools.

The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors have suffered core meltdowns and the buildings housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 reactors were ripped by explosions caused presumably by hydrogen released from the core.

Following a painstaking process to contain the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the government announced in December that the plant has achieved a stable state of cold shutdown.

But the fact that no one knows precisely what has happened inside the reactors and where the melted nuclear fuel is located means there is still great uncertainty over the situation at the complex…
(8 March 2012)

Fukushima residents plagued by health fears of nuclear threat in their midst

Justin McCurry, The Guardian
A year after the power plant’s triple meltdown, conflicting official information leaves families confused and fearful for their future…

“Many parents won’t let their children play outside, even in places where the radiation isn’t that high,” said Koji Nomi of the Fukushima chapter of the Japanese Red Cross, which organised the event. “Unless they have the opportunity to run around, their physical strength is at risk of deteriorating.

“That in turn puts them at risk of succumbing to stress. Some are allowed to play outside for short periods every day, but that’s not enough.”

Hundreds of thousands of children in the area have been living with similar restrictions since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s triple meltdown last March, sending radioactive particles over a wide area…

“We have stopped eating rice grown by my husband’s parents, and I never buy locally grown vegetables,” Abe, 46, said. “I started buying imported meat, and we drink only bottled water. I try not to hang out laundry on windy days … I’d like to be able to air our futons, but I can’t.”

Her concerns centre on her daughter, who has a tiny lump on her thyroid gland. Doctors have assured her it is benign. “Even though they say there’s nothing to worry about I’d like her to have more frequent tests,” Abe said.
(9 March 2012)

Fukushima: the social impact of a nuclear disaster

Hiroki & Ngaire Takano, The Ecologist
The earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Japan last year compounded pre-existing issues like falling birth rates, fragmented families and shrinking communities. What does the future hold?…

To someone like me who has lived in, and has had family ties with Japan, an overriding question remains how the disaster affected these communities. The triple disaster has highlighted and compounded such pre-existing underlying issues as falling birth rates, the fragmenting of the family unit, and the shrinking of local communities. During the five years before the disaster, birth rates had been steadily falling in Japan. The now daily concerns about radiation levels, safe food and water have left many young couples unwilling to take on the perceived risky task of raising children in a dangerous environment.
(15 Feb 2012)

Japan’s Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown, at Least for Now

Martin Fackler, New York Times
All but two of Japan’s 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan — once one of the world’s leaders in atomic energy — will have at least temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its electricity.

With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders…

The loss of nuclear power has hurt in another way: economists blame the higher energy prices for causing Japan’s first annual trade deficit in more than three decades, which has weakened the yen and raised concerns about the future of the country’s export-driven economy. And as the weather warms, Japan faces a possible energy crisis, considering that last summer it still had 19 nuclear plants in operation.

On a more fundamental level, the standoff over nuclear power underscores just how much the trauma of the Fukushima accident has changed attitudes in Japan, long one of the world’s most committed promoters of civilian atomic energy. Political and energy experts describe nothing short of a nationwide loss of faith, not only in Japan’s once-vaunted nuclear technology but also in the government, which many blame for allowing the accident to happen…
(8 March 2012)

Japan tsunami: the recovery, one year on – interactive

Paddy Allen and Martin Shuttleworth, The Guardian
Press agencies have been gathering pictures from some of the worst-hit areas of Japan showing how communities are slowly repairing their towns. In a series of montages they have combined pictures taken during or just after the tsunami hit, with images taken up to a year later. Photographs: AP, AFP, Getty
(8 March 2012)

Japan – One Year After the Catastrophe – Interactive with video

Anne Nackhaus and Roman Hoefner, Der Spiegel
The residents of Japan’s northeaastern coast are still coping with the aftermath of the triple catastrophe. Journalists Anne Nackhaus and Roman Hoefner traveled to the region to make this SPIEGEL video special.
(7 March 2012)

Japan Is Now Another Spinning Plate in the Global Economy Circus

Chris Martenson,
At the circus, you are sometimes treated to the spinning plate act where a performer tries to keep an improbable number of plates spinning at once, racing from one plate to the next as their wobbles indicate the need for another dose of momentum. Considering the number of spinning and wobbling plates that our central planners are managing, it’s easy to be both amazed and anxious at the same time.

The difference between the spinning plate analogy and real-world economic and financial systems is that if a failure occurs out in the real world, it has a very high chance of spreading across and through the other elements of the system. Contagion is the fear, as if in finally toppling, one plate will crash into its neighbor and set off a chain reaction of falling plates.

To carry this metaphor, Japan is a wobbly plate.

For those who are in a hurry today, the bottom line is that Japan is in serious trouble right now and is a top candidate to be the next black swan…
(5 March 2012)

Fukushima hopes “world’s first floating offshore wind farm” will spark post-tsunami recovery

Business Green
Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, which was last year hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, could become an export hub for offshore wind technology under plans put forward by a consortium to build the world’s first floating wind farm.

Logistics corporation Marubeni yesterday announced it would lead a project to build three floating wind turbines with a total of 16MW capactity and one floating substation off the coast of Fukushima, with work starting as early as this year…
(7 March 2012)