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  • GOJ Ministry of Environment is dispersing Tohoku debris, including Fukushima nuclear debris, around Japan despite objections of prefectural govts

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 20th, 2011

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    Hi Blog.  Here we have some more GOJ mischief in the works regarding the Fukushima debacle.  What follows is a primary-source document from the Minister of the Environment, Division of Waste and Recycle Policy, dated October 7, 2011, addressed to all prefectural waste management department heads.

    It concerns disposing of debris from the Tohoku disaster areas in other prefectures, as a follow-up to their communication/”survey” of April 8, 2011, where they asked regional governments to pitch in in dispersing the rubble nationwide.  The Education Ministry acknowledges that several prefectures expressed trepidation at spreading radioactive refuse all over Japan.  Nevertheless, as Tokyo has started undertaking the disposal of the debris, it’s clear the GOJ considers it high time that others did their part (as per the “close cooperation” (genmitsu ni rentai shi) between the Minstry and the regional environmental agencies) to match that effort.  It is clear that by the fourth paragraph of the directive below, the Ministry will be moving forward with this policy full steam regardless of regional objections.

    The results of the abovementioned April communication/”survey” where local governments balked will not be made public.  That is to say, those prefectures who balked at taking radiation into their area will not be named [after all, we don’t want NIMBY citizens rallying behind their local representatives that are clearly antipathetic towards GOJ policy].

    COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I had heard about this months ago (a rumor that toxic waste from Fukushima was being delivered to my nearby garbage incinerator in Hassamu, Sapporo), but lacked enough evidence to say much at the time.  Now we have documented proof that the Japanese government (the Environment Ministry, no less) is taking steps to pressure local governments nationwide into swallowing their fair share of the radiation.  Why does this debris have to be carted around the country?  Not only could it contaminate the entire nation, it will also shield the nuclear power industry from criticism and responsibility — as it will make it harder to link radiation to the cause of any future sickness or death if casualties are not limited to the Fukushima area.  Having the national government shove this down the local governments’ throats is one thing, but the sheer venality, nay, flat-out evil of this kind of policy is staggering.

    Just in case you think this may be a hoax, see the Chunichi Shinbun of October 15, 2011 (reprinted below) acknowledging this dispersal is exactly what’s happening, with the local governments (in this case, Aichi-ken) refusing to make public how much debris they’re disposing of.  Arudou Debito

    /////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Courtesy https://sites.google.com/site/natrium100mg/ with commentary in English at http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2011/10/radioactive-debris-ministry-of.html

    事務連絡

    平成23年10月7日

    関係都道府県廃棄物行政主管部(局)御中

    環境省大臣官房廃棄物・リサイクル対策部
    廃棄物対策課
    東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の受入検討状況調査について

    東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の広域処理については、本年4月8日付け事務
    連絡「東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の広域処理体制の構築に関する調査につい
    て(依頼)」により各地方公共団体における災害廃棄物の受入処理に関する調査を実施
    し、多数の回答を頂きました。

    しかしながら、放射性物質による災害廃棄物の汚染を心配する意見が全国各地で寄せ
    られ、慎重な対応を余儀なくされていたところです。

    環境省では、今般の東京都における広域処理のスタートを契機として、今後、広域処
    理を加速するため、環境省本省と地方環境事務所が緊密に連携し、広域処理のマッチン
    グを進めることとしています。

    このため、各地方公共団体における災害廃棄物の受入検討状況を把握し、得られた情
    報を用いて具体的なマッチングを実施することを目的として、別紙要領により調査を実
    施いたします。

    なお、本調査の結果について、個別の地方公共団体名は公表しないこととしています。
    御多忙の折、大変恐縮ではございますが、御協力方よろしくお願いします。

    連絡先
    環境省大臣官房廃棄物・リサイクル対策部
    廃棄物対策課  担当:敷田、青竹、播磨
    TEL : 03-3581-3351(内線6857)
    E-mail : hairi-haitai@env.go.jp

    別紙

    東日本大震災により生じた災害廃棄物の受入検討状況調査要領
    1. 調査方法
    「災害廃棄物受入検討状況調査票」により、責管内市区町村分を取りまとめの上、
    回答してください。
    2. 回答提出先
    別添の提出先に電子ファイルを提出願います。
    3. 回答期限
    平成23年10月21日(金)17:00

    4. 記入上の留意点
    ① 検討状況
    以下のA~Cから選択して記入してください。
    A:既に受け入れを実施している
    B:被災地への職員派遣や検討会議の設置等の具体的な検討を行っている
    C:被災地への職員派遣や検討会議の設置等は行っていないが、受入れに向け
    た検討を行っている
    ② 検討内容等
    具体的な検討の内容や進捗状況を記入してください。
    ③ 受入れが想定される廃棄物
    以下のような記載を参考にしてください。
    ○ 可燃性混合廃棄物(木くずやプラスチック等が混合した状態の廃棄物)
    ○ 不燃ごみ(割れたガラス等、埋立処分が必要な廃棄物)
    ○ 粗大ごみ(家具等で粉砕処理を必要とする廃棄物)
    ○ 燃え殻等(火災により発生した燃え殻等、埋立処分が必要な廃棄物)
    ④ 処理施設名(処理内容)
    受入が想定される施設名と処理内容(焼却、粉砕、埋立等)を記入してください。
    ⑤ 1日処理可能量
    処理余力を勘案し、1日の処理可能量を記入してください。
    ⑥ 年間最大受入可能量
    処理余力・保管能力等を勘案し、年間最大受入可能量を記入してください。
    ※③~⑥については、受入れ可能となった場合に想定される処理能力等を可能な
    範囲で記入してください。

    回答提出先

    ●北海道地方環境事務所(北海道)
    環境対策課
    電話 011-299-1952
    FAX 011-736-1234
    電子メール REO-HOKKAIDO@env.go.jp

    ● 環境省現地災害対策本部(東北地方環境事務所)
    青森県、秋田県、山形県
    電話 022-722-2871
    FAX 022-724-4311
    電子メール REO-OHOKU@env.go.jp

    ●関東地方環境事務所
    茨木県、栃木県、群馬県、埼玉県、千葉県、東京都、神奈川県、新潟県、山梨県及び静岡県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 048-600-0814
    FAX 048-600-0517
    電子メール HAIRI-KANTO@env.go.jp

    ● 中部地方環境事務所
    富山県、石川県、福井県、長野県、岐阜県、愛知県及び三重県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 052-955-2132
    FAX 052-951-8889
    電子メール REO-CHUBU@env.go.jp

    ● 近畿地方環境事務所
    滋賀県、京都府、大阪府、兵庫県、奈良県及び和歌山県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 06-4792-0702
    FAX 06-4790-2800
    電子メール REO-KINKI@env.go.jp

    ●中国四国地方環境事務所
    鳥取県、島根県、岡山県、広島県及び山口県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 086-223-1584
    FAX 086-224-2081
    電子メール REO-CHUSHIKOKU@env.go.jp

    ● 高松事務所
    徳島県、香川県、愛媛県及び高知県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 087-811-7240
    FAX 087―822―6203
    電子メール MOE-TAKAMATSU@env.go.jp

    ● 九州地方環境事務所
    福岡県、佐賀県、長崎県、熊本県、大分県、宮崎県及び鹿児島県
    廃棄物・リサイクル対策課
    電話 096-214-0328
    FAX 096-214-0349
    電子メール REO-KYUSHU@env.go.jp
    ENDS

    ===========================

    愛知県、がれき受け入れ市町村 公表せず

    中日新聞 2011年10月15日 09時03分

    http://www.chunichi.co.jp/s/article/2011101590090305.html

     東日本大震災で発生した岩手、宮城両県のがれき処理で愛知県が県内市町村に受け入れ可能な量を再調査している問題で、環境省と県は14日、調査終了後も、受け入れ可能な自治体名や数、処分できるがれきの量を公表しない方針を示した。

    がれき受け入れに関しては、環境省が4月に調査した後、福島第1原発事故による放射性物質の付着を懸念する住民感情が高まり、実施されなかった。このため、同省の再調査の要請を受け、愛知県が13日に市町村などの担当者を集めて情報連絡会を開き、21日までに環境省に回答を報告することにしていた。県環境部の担当者は、再調査の結果を公表しない理由を「県は国の調査を仲立ちするだけ。国の非公表の方針に従いたい」と説明した。

    環境省は今回の再調査を、個別の地方公共団体名を公表しない前提で行っているという。同省廃棄物対策課は「今回はあくまで調査の段階。全国の受け入れ可能量など一定の情報は公表するが、県ごとの受入量までは出すつもりはない」と説明。「実際に受け入れる時は、市町村側が住民に説明することなどを検討したい」と話した。

    全国市民オンブズマンの新海聡事務局長は「地域の安全と被災地支援のバランスをどう取るか難しい問題だが、がれきはどこかで処理しなければならない。困難な問題だからこそ、住民に情報を公開し、議論していくことが大切で、非公開にするのは、間違いだ」と国や県の対応に疑問を呈した。

    (中日新聞)

    26 Responses to “GOJ Ministry of Environment is dispersing Tohoku debris, including Fukushima nuclear debris, around Japan despite objections of prefectural govts”

    1. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      I suppose this is where we ARE seeing a bit of “gambaru” at work – apparently Tokyo is taking a fair share of the debris, under the rationale that “We have been benifitting from the Fukushima power plant for decades. It’s about time we did something for the people of Fukushima”, or words to that effect.
      But certainly, there should be no secrecy.

    2. Edmund in Tokyo Says:

      I’m not really seeing how the conspiracy theory about making everywhere radioactive so that we can’t tell how sick people got from radiation in Fukushima works. The radioactive exposure from the stuff they’re going to put in the landfill must be tiny compared to what people nearer the plant will be exposed to.

      Is there any evidence against the official story here? Namely that there are shedloads of slightly radioactive debris that have got to go in a landfill somewhere, and the affected areas don’t have enough capacity on their own to deal with it as fast as we’d like?

      – My question is, why is the GOJ strongarming local governments yet keeping it secret from the public? How about convincing the public with some actual empirically-based science that there is no danger?

    3. AJ Says:

      Mr. Arudou,
      With respect, the newspaper article clearly states that all of the waste is from Miyagi and Iwate. I think the catch-all term “disaster areas” is misleading and should be avoided. As we all know from repeated news reports, areas affected by the tsunami and areas affected by the nuclear accident overlap in some instances, but by no means in all. The waste being transported is tsunami rubble not nuclear waste. There is no scientific reason to suppose that the remains of buildings from the Iwate and Miyagi coast would exceed normal radioactivity levels.
      If the volume of rubble to be processed far exceeds local processing capacity (which would seem a clear motivation for this policy), isn’t sharing the burden to speed up reconstruction exactly what the government should be doing? Leaving the waste in huge piles is a health hazard. Methane build up can cause fires too.
      TV reports have indeed shown Tokyo residents up in arms about these proposals. But surely groundless objections to accepting waste from outside the contamination zone are a pretty good example of “talking about helping while refusing to actually help”, the very attitude you have previously criticized on this site.
      I would find it very sad if the government’s earnest efforts to sort out the waste problem resulted in international headlines about an “evil policy to spread radiation around Japan”. Such rumors can only further damage the tourist industry and isolate our country.
      In the current climate of radiation hysteria, where mothers armed with Geiger counters can force the national news to broadcast hours of coverage about a single tin of radioactive substances found abandoned in a shed, is it really possible the government would needlessly ship thousands of tons of radioactive waste to municipalities across the country? None of the waste is contaminated. None of the waste is even from Fukushima. Let’s keep some perspective here.

      – Again, why the official secrecy, strongarming, and the lack of empirical evidence to the public that the refuse is NOT unsafe? It should be pretty easy to prove that to the public. Treat our citizens like they are adults that can handle informed consent, not like panicky children that are a pesky impediment to the smooth running of bureaucratic policy drives.

      To answer your question, is it possible the GOJ would do all that? Given the lack of forthcoming information divulged to the public so far in this crisis (to the point of not admitting there was even a meltdown for months!), I would say yes, it certainly is.

    4. James Annan Says:

      We’ve already seen that a handful of ignorant busybodies complaining is enough to scare local govts off perfectly safe activities like using fireworks from Fukushima – it is hardly surprising if the Govt wants to avoid this sort of obstructionism. As anyone who has been there can attest, there are literally mountains of junk and rubble that obstruct any attempt at local regeneration, and families living in shonky portacabins in the meantime.

    5. AJ Says:

      Thank you Mr. Arudou for your response to my post (3) above.
      I am not sure their is evidence that the government is doing this with “official secrecy” (a TV report on a nationwide broadcaster some days ago publically announced that the waste had been tested and was found to be lower than standard Tokyo waste. I recall a limit of 8000 Becquerels/kg as the ceiling for shipping waste outside its prefecture of origin).
      However, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the government is not doing all they can to publicize this program and has not released any hard evidence. Well, then I would have to agree with James(4) that maybe the government is treating people “like panicky children” because they are behaving like panicky children.
      Do you remember when some vegetables exceeded permissible limits and the government said they were still safe to eat? People started jumping up and down saying “that makes no sense”. It made perfect sense. Food limits are designed to cover situations where someone is eating food of a given radiation level in vast quantities day in day out. Limits have to be designed for the worst case scenario or people could, in extreme circumstances, say that they got sick eating food the government claimed was safe. As there is therefore no option but to set highly conservative limits assuming repeated ingestion, limited one-off consumption is not harmful, even if the stated limit is exceeded on a given day.
      This is simple, intuitive logic. But people don’t get it. They panic, the demand “straight answers”, they accuse politicians of being two-faced by setting limits and then overturning them at their convenience. This is a nonsense. Poor public understanding of science can result in poor policy-making and obstruct required action.
      Turning to your link, and the demand for “capitulation” from “naysayers”, I am not convinced the argument is as one-sided as you portray. Many people said the panic in Tokyo was unwarranted as there was never any chance of deadly radiation levels more than 200km from Fukushima. There is still no evidence to the contrary. One cannot justify the unscientific assessment of the situation in Tokyo, and claim to be right all along, by referencing the actual, undeniable danger closer to the reactors.
      The two regions are different. The two situations are different. Nuclear power has ruined the lives of many people in Fukushima. It has had negligable effect on people in the capital, beyond the effects of second-hand hysteria.
      Finally, yes the government lied and kept the meltdown secret. However, it does not logically follow from such secrecy that everything they say henceforward, about logistic matters such as transporting tsunami rubble, is also untrue.

      – We have a long history of the GOJ not telling it citizens what they need to know to allay health and safety concerns in the case of corporate and bureaucratic malfeasance, from Minamata on down. In this ongoing Fukushima debacle, the public’s trust has already again and again been bamboozled beyond belief. Is it any wonder that now they are, as you put it, “demanding straight answers” (How dare they!) and not just taking things at face value? I think the GOJ should now be working double time to get that trust back. These documents prove to me that the GOJ is yet again not doing that — it’s still working within stated paradigms of strongarming and non-forthright disclosure for bureaucratic (if not, quite possibly, corporate) exigency.

      I guess it comes down to whether you trust the GOJ — whether you believe that there is good faith behind this policy. I don’t. Apparently you do. Thank you for giving your standards of evidence that would make you change your mind. Mine are that every truckload of rubble bound for another prefecture must be publicly tested, hopefully by an agency independent of the GOJ (bring in a trustworthy agency from overseas, if necessary), for a safe standard of radiation approved by scientists agreed upon in advance between local and central government, and reject it for transport if levels exceed. As it stands, it’s just too easy to slip in a radioactive mickey given the rubric behind the rubble.

    6. Jim Di Griz Says:

      This clearly proves (or at least reinforces) my opinion that despite a change in government, the unofficial policy of the GOJ, with regard to environmental contamination, has not changed since the days of Minamata Disease. The waste will spread around the country, in secret, and if anybody gets sick later, the government will deny any link, and start a long, drawn out legal process, hoping that the victims will die before making the GOJ accountable. Once this policy is carried out, if any group objects, I’m sure that many local and national politicians will do a lot of hand-wringing (or should that be bowing?), and shrug off accountability with a ‘shou ga nai’, and further instructions to ‘ganbare’.
      In many ways, the behavior of successive GOJ strongly resembles patterns of an abusive relationship.

    7. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I was so stunned that I couldn’t keep my opened mouth shut, when I dropped my eyes on a couple of following sentences in the environment ministry’s confidential letter:

      “放射性物質による災害廃棄物の汚染を心配する意見が全国各地で寄せられ、慎重な対応を余儀なくされていたところです。
      環境省では、今般の東京都における広域処理のスタートを契機として、今後、広域処理を加速するため、環境省本省と地方環境事務所が緊密に連携し、広域処理のマッチン グを進めることとしています。”

      This is indeed an act of coerced agreement. An evasion of critical questions and concerns– masked with a moderate tone and polite style in Japanese language is indeed the paradigmatic of ministry authority’s rhetoric of deception. Note that an emphasis on an affective language style over the structure in argumentation is a common assumption in Japanese writing and composition. Structural argumentation is not very important to many Japanese—which is the very reason for causing serious misunderstandings in the texts and contexts across a linguistic and cultural boarder(Welcome to the “Lost in Translation”!) until today.

      When did the environment ministry officially announce a region-wide de-contamination plan to all prefectures–including Tokyo? How much time did they give local governments for the deliberation on the plan?? And when did all prefectures EVER consent to such a high risk-involving task???

      The most detrimental effect of post 3/11 triple-disasters, I think, is increasingly defective characters of the GOJ ministers–arrogant, robotic, and clueless.

    8. AJ Says:

      Thank you for you further response after (5) above. I appreciate you setting out your position (incidentally, although I disagree, I think you come across as far more persuasive in your response to me above – in setting out what measures you would like to see in place before the policy goes ahead – than you do in your original post about government “evil”).
      Just a quick point about your comment “Is it any wonder that now they are, as you put it, “demanding straight answers” (How dare they!)”
      Perhaps I did not explain myself well. What I mean is that people misunderstand that concept of a “straight answer” such that they continue to ask for one even after getting one. Referring back to the contaminated food in (5) above, the straight answer is “the limits are conservative to account for repeated consumption, eating it once is not going to kill you”. That is the “straight answer” right there. However, as the straight answer is not a simple “yes” or “no” people confuse honesty with obfuscation and continue to demand a level of black-or-white clarification (is it dangerous? one-word answer only please!) that simply does not exist.
      To relate this back to the issue of the waste, the government could try and make sure every news bulletin started with a big announcement about the levels of radiation in the rubble headed for Tokyo. They could issue press releases saying “don’t worry, it is only 2000 bq/kg (for example). Then someone will start demanding, 1000, then 500, then 0 (which is certainly not possible), and the whole reconstruction effort gets delayed accordingly. That said, when the program starts, there may well be a series of press releases on radiation levels posted in Japanese on various ministry websites. Sometimes, information may be hard to find but that does not mean it is non-existent (I read Japanese, but find government websites a nightmare to navigate…)
      As for the strong-arming, well don’t you think there is a degree of urgency here? If I had a 5m high pile of refuse next to my house, I think I would be grateful for it.

      – Again, it’s a matter of faith that is the nub of the disagreement between you and me. Faith in the government telling us the straight poop (not just giving us, as per your definition, a straight answer). We as the public have been lied to for decades worldwide by the nuclear power industry (and that includes keeping us in the dark about the science both then and now, in order to get the public second-guessing itself into silence), and also by the government(s) in cahoots. Sorry, I personally need numbers, quantifiable numbers of safety, in advance before agreeing to any policy like this. That was not offered. Instead, as this document demonstrates, the government’s presumption is that the public will not agree to this policy (in fact, according to the “survey” mentioned in this document, members of the representative democracy that Japan is supposed to be DID express disagreement). So, the government, as usual, kept things quiet and undisclosed, and after strongarming, expected the typical fait accompli would resolve everything. Sorry, this is not acceptable as standard operating procedure anymore. That dynamic, and I will call it “evil” particularly in this case, is what got us into this mess into the first place.

      Regarding this discussion: Thanks for explaining your standpoint in a calm, reasoned manner, without resorting to recriminations and impugning motives or character (something that is, alas, also S.O.P. amongst many critics of Debito.org). But we’ll have to agree to disagree. Again, thanks.

    9. debito Says:

      Just as an aside, here’s a family measuring neighborhood and supermarket radiation levels in Tokyo and putting it up on Facebook. Worth a look.

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tokyo-Kids-Radiation/227762067240468?sk=wall

    10. Charuzu Says:

      Regarding the comments by AJ:

      He states:

      “maybe the government is treating people “like panicky children” because they are behaving like panicky children.”

      He later adds that:

      “people misunderstand that concept of a “straight answer” such that they continue to ask for one even after getting one.”

      The consequence of which he states as:

      “Poor public understanding of science can result in poor policy-making and obstruct required action.”

      I think that the notions expressed fail to incorporate the notion that Japan is a democracy.

      As such, the government is not authorised to treat its own people or to consider them to be “panicky children” except in extreme emergencies, such as the emergency evacuation.

      Japanese have the right to continue to ask for answers that are comprehensible and trusted by them.

      That right exists even if data is fully presented, because the data must be both comprehensible AND trustworthy. Trust is lacking by many now.

      Indeed, a reason why many Japanese do continue to feel “panicky” is that they fundamentally disagree with the comment that AJ later offers, that:

      “yes the government lied and kept the meltdown secret. However, it does not logically follow from such secrecy that everything they say henceforward, about logistic matters such as transporting tsunami rubble, is also untrue.”

      Most Japanese (and non-Japanese) tend to believe that if a body of people (such as the Japanese government) deliberately and with clear intent lie about very important issues, then they will continue to lie about such important issues.

      Indeed, democracies throughout the world regularly show that, and there is indeed (contrary to the assertion) evidence that this is a reasonable belief to hold and that it is logical to hold such a belief.

      Japan suffers from a deficit of accountable democracy.

      Japanese intuitively know that, and rightly understand that the information from the Government cannot be relied upon to be true, and yet there exists no reasonable to the government.

      However, it is the deeper deficit of accountable democracy that is really the cause for concern.

      Just as the government is untrustworthy for most Japanese regarding this incident, it is similarly untrustworthy for many other issues.

      And that untrustworthiness is not tied to the ruling party, but rather to inherent deficits in Japan’s practice of accountable democracy.

      And that is lamentable in a Japan that has had democracy for many decades.

    11. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Charuzu@10

      That right exists even if data is fully presented, because the data must be both comprehensible AND trustworthy. Trust is lacking by many now.

      The problem is this: for the data to be comprehensible the population of Japan is going to need higher education in the sciences – probably Physics. If you extrapolate your suggestion to other areas where expert knowledge has to be trusted (environment, finance, urban planning, etc) then they’ll probably have to be educated in a wide range of disciplines. Both are non-starters.

      – Sez you. It’s like saying that people should be ignored because they are illiterate (in this case, illiterate in the science). So why bother making them literate; never mind that their functional illiteracy has been part of nuclear power policy all along.

      Wow, the condescending attitude some critics of opponents of nuclear power have towards the public is amazing (paraphrased: “they are so ignorant that they deserve to be ignored, never mind informing them”; that’s how those in the know and in power can maintain their political advantage).

      This express degree of toadyism towards the powerful settles the argument for me, thanks. Now I personally am doubly reassured I’m doing the right thing by bringing this issue up.

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      If anybody would like to add their voice in objection to this shady government policy, please consider joining the ‘Stop Spreading Radioactive Rubble Around Japan’ project;

      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dFV1NWEwOVd5STNMb2ZNVzlYTWxuR0E6MQ#gid=0

      ////////////////////////////////////////

      To Whom it may concern
      [日本語は下へ、↓ French, Italian ↓ German ↓ ]

      We are writing this letter in support of a network of thousands of mothers across Japan who fear the devastation resulting from the tsunami on March 11th and the grossly negligent government policies since its occurrence. We believe the government’s negligence will have more adverse consequences than the already catastrophic impact of the tsunami and resulting radiation exposure. An almost certain rise in cancer rates for millions of people is the best case scenario from the continued leakage from Fukushima Daiichi reactors No. 1, 2, 3, and 4. It is our intention to limit the exposure of human beings to this risk to the greatest extend possible.

      Statement of Purpose. It is the belief of the undersigned that the dangerous radioactive rubble at Fukushima Power Plants and the other areas around must be left at the site of the disaster. Efforts must be focused on ending the ongoing fires at the plant, and people should be evacuated from the immediate area in accordance with radiation levels set before March 11th. All recent Japanese Government policy changes to increase allowable radiation levels must be overturned to pre-disaster levels.

      Today Japanese government is systematically spreading radioactive material, publicly hosting events to eat food from Fukushima as a patriotic act, raising radiation safe standard for food and rubble alike. For example in Japan today food reading 499 bq/kg can be legally distributed in the market without any label for consumers. Similarly has twice raised allowable levels of radiation for rubble which they will now ship across the country to be burned and dumped into the ocean at locations including Tokyo Bay. This negligent behavior must be stopped or an already devastating event will turn into an historic environmental disaster with international reach.
      The Japanese Environmental Ministry estimates 23.82 million tons of rubble resulted from the March disaster in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. This rubble is one of many obstacles that Japanese are facing, because they must remove the rubble in order to rebuild their lives. If the rubble piled up everywhere were not a big enough problem for the government, there is the added fact that much of this rubble contains radioactive material from the nuclear spill.

      Tokyo’s local government officially accepted 1,000 tons of rubble from Iwate, they will transport the debris on trains and burn it and use the ashes as landfill in Tokyo Bay starting at the end of October, 2011. Iwate Prefectural government estimates indicate that the rubble contains 133 bq/kg of radioactive material. This would have been illegal before March but the Japanese Government changed the safety level for rubble from 100 bq/kg to 8000 bq/kg in July, 2011, then again to 10,000 bq/kg in October. Tokyo officials announced that they will accept 500,000 tons of rubble in total.

      In the same Iwate prefecture, On August 12th, 2011, 1130 bq/kg readings were detected on firewood (on surface bark) , and the Kyoto local authority who was going to burn it for a popular religious event decided not to do so because of the contamination.

      It is difficult to accurately speculate about the consequences of these government actions, but no one can argue that a huge environmental gamble is being waged.

      The problem is not restricted to the Tokyo area, which is geographically near the impacted areas. The governor of Tokyo stated that he hopes this would encourage other local authorities to accept rubble. The Minister of the Environment, Mr. Hosono, said in a September 4, 2011 press conference that “it is the consideration of the national government [or as Japan as the nation] to share the pain of Fukushima with everyone [or everywhere] in Japan,” reiterating his intention to create a final processing facility outside Fukushima Prefecture for debris and dirt from near the nuclear accident to be burned. If many other local governments in Japan decide to follow Tokyo’s lead it will cause areas where are not yet directly impacted by the radioactive spill to contaminate their local soil and water.

      We are asking you to please discourage the Japanese government from spreading, burning and dumping rubble from contaminated areas. It should be left on site and people should be evacuated from those areas according to the standards in place before March 11th.

      It is the opinion of the undersigned that, if allowed to proceed, we will witness an historic error conducted by the Japanese government that will negatively impact human lives for hundreds of years. The alternative is that we act immediately to prevent this unnecessary outcome, and history will remember this only as the time that Fukushima Daiichi region was rendered uninhabitable rather than a worse, if uncertain, alternative.

      Humbly Signed,

      *********************************************************************** 
      関係者各位へ

      私達は、 原発震災にはじまる被害、日本政府の怠慢によるさらなる被害を危惧する全国の何千人もの母親たちを支援する事を、ここに声明いたします。政府の怠慢は、津波による破滅的な影響をさらに悪化させ、人々の放射能被曝に繋がると私たちは危惧しています。 福島第一原子力発電所の第1、2、3、4号機からは今もなお、放射能が漏れており、何百万もの人々がガンの発症率を高めるというシナリオは容易に想像できます。

      声明文の目的:人類に襲いかかるリスクを最小限に押さえるためには、被曝を最小限に押さえること。これをしないのは犯罪です。我々署名者は、福島原発周辺、影響を受けた地域の放射能に汚染された危険な瓦礫は、汚染地域に残すべきだと強く主張します。未だ収束の見えない原子炉の問題解決に全努力を投入すべきです。また、福島原発周辺の住民は、3.11の震災前の被曝許容線量の基準に従って、放射能汚染地域から避難させるべきです。

      日本政府により引き上げられた 被曝許容線量基準値は、震災前の基準値に戻すべきす。 今日、日本政府は、 福島県産の食品を食べるイベントを 公に開催し愛国心を強調し、食品と瓦礫における放射線量基準値をひき上げることで組織的に放射性物質を日本中に広げています。例えば食品は(暫定基準値の 500 bq/kg以下であれば)499 bq/kgであったとしても何の表示もなしに合法的に流通する事が許されます。同様に、政府は瓦礫における許容基準値を2度にわたり引き上げ、被災地の瓦礫を日本各地に運び、焼却し、東京湾を始めとする海に埋め立て、又は廃棄する予定です。このような政府のおろかな行為は直ちに止めなければいけません。さもなければ、この度の悲惨で破滅的な事故が、歴史的な国際環境汚染に発展してしまいます。

      日本政府の環境省によると、3月の震災により、被災した岩手県、宮城県、福島県の沿岸地域には推定2380万トンの瓦礫があるそうです。この瓦礫が被災地復興に立ちはだかる深刻な問題の一つです。 大量の瓦礫があちこちに山積みになっている上に 、その瓦礫の多くには放射能が付着しているのです。

      東京都は岩手県からの1000トンの瓦礫受け入れを正式に表明しました。これらの瓦礫は、2011年10月下旬から電車で運ばれ、焼却処理の後、東京湾の埋め立て地に使われます。岩手県は、これらの瓦礫には133 bq/kgの放射性物質が付着していると発表しています。この数値は、3月の震災前の基準では違法にあたりますが、日本政府は震災前の100 bq/kg から、7月には8000 bq/kg、そして10月には10,000 bq/kgと、基準値を引き上げました。東京都は今後、合計50万トンの瓦礫を受け入れると表明しています。

      同じ岩手県で、2011年8月12日、薪の表皮から1130 bq/kgの放射能が測定されています。この薪を使って人気の宗教行事を計画していた京都府は、その薪の使用を中止しました。

      政府のこの様な対策と行動がどのような結果を生み出すか、正確に予測する事は困難です。しかしながら、日本政府が環境に対して大きなギャンブルをしていると言う事は誰の目にも明らかでしょう。 これは、原発事故現場から地理的にさほど遠くない東京周辺だけの問題ではありません。東京都知事は、東京都による今回の瓦礫受け入れが、日本各地の地方自治体による瓦礫受け入れ促進に役立てば、とコメントしています。細野環境大臣は、2011年9月4日の会見で、「 福島の痛みを日本全体で分かち合うことが国としての配慮ではないかと思っている。」と述べ、 福島県外に最終処分施設を設け、福島県の瓦礫や汚泥を焼却処分する意志を改めて表明しています。もし、日本各地の自治体が、東京に続いて瓦礫の受け入れを始めると、現在、放射の漏れの影響を受けていない地域にまで、土壌や水の汚染を広げる事になります。

      ここに、日本政府に呼びかけ、汚染瓦礫の地方への拡散と、焼却廃棄処分を阻止する事に、どうか協力してください。

      汚染瓦礫は汚染地域から持ち出さず、 3.11以前の基準値に従い、人々を汚染地域から避難させるべきです。 もし日本政府がこの計画を続行すれば、今後何百年、何千年にも渡り人類に被害を及ぼす歴史的な過ちを犯す事になると 私たち署名者は考えます。住めなくなってしまったのは福島第一原発の周辺地域だけであったと歴史に残すために、他の汚染されていない土地を守るために、今こそ行動する時なのです。

      謙虚に署名します。
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dFV1NWEwOVd5STNMb2ZNVzlYTWxuR0E6MQ#gid=0

    13. Charuzu Says:

      E.P. Lowe:

      The argument that you make — that the populace must be expert in a discipline in order to make a public policy decision regarding that discipline — would render all democracy moot.

      It is essentially the argument made by those critics in Europe and Japan of liberal democracies in the 1920s and 1930s.

      I would assert that trust by the Japanese populace for politicians can be earned through transparency, through an alignment of actions and words, and through honesty.

      Circumstances do change, and politicians will have to alter actions based on circumstances.

      If there is a highly transparent and honest system by which politicians explain their actions, then the Japanese people will come to trust their political leaders, and any changed decisions that are made.

      However, Japanese governmental actions are far from that ideal.

      At this time, I would assert that Japan should increase radically the level of transparency in place.

      It could, for example, make all technical briefing documents and technical meetings fully available to the public, without redaction.

      It could allow non-governmental experts to attend actual technical meetings and provide their own independent analyses if they chose of the options and strategies being undertaken.

      The penchant for secrecy erodes trust.

      Trust is the most valuable asset for a democracy, and Japan has deeply inadequate levels of public trust.

    14. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Charizu @ 13

      The argument that you make — that the populace must be expert in a discipline in order to make a public policy decision regarding that discipline — would render all democracy moot.

      I was only commenting on your suggestion – I was not arguing that only people expert in disciplines should make decisions on them. Japan has a problem in that corruption exists across society, and that people in power should not be questioned (seems to hold for people like Professor Kodama too). Many democracies have expert bodies for examining legislation – Japan doesn’t seem to have one. This seems to be left to the media and whoever steps into the spotlight. I don’t think that’s a satisfactory way of evaluating complex policy issues.

      It is essentially the argument made by those critics in Europe and Japan of liberal democracies in the 1920s and 1930s.

      Not my argument.

      I would assert that trust by the Japanese populace for politicians can be earned through transparency, through an alignment of actions and words, and through honesty.

      In 100% agreement with you.

      Circumstances do change, and politicians will have to alter actions based on circumstances.

      However, when public pressure goes up against reality – and let’s look at the climate change issue here – politicians should and must listen to experts and try to educate the populace.

      If there is a highly transparent and honest system by which politicians explain their actions, then the Japanese people will come to trust their political leaders, and any changed decisions that are made.

      Amen.

      However, Japanese governmental actions are far from that ideal.

      True, and the bureaucracy should be included in that.

      At this time, I would assert that Japan should increase radically the level of transparency in place.

      Agreed.

      It could, for example, make all technical briefing documents and technical meetings fully available to the public, without redaction.

      Agreed, with the proviso that if special interest groups engage in spin it should be noted and communicated by the government – they should not let erroneous ideas gain legitimacy in Japan’s media.

      It could allow non-governmental experts to attend actual technical meetings and provide their own independent analyses if they chose of the options and strategies being undertaken.

      But who is a non-governmental expert? Someone who makes enough noise? Sounds like that idea would need some form of accreditation for the experts. Could be done though professional bodies.

      The penchant for secrecy erodes trust.

      Trust is the most valuable asset for a democracy, and Japan has deeply inadequate levels of public trust.

      And for that the media must be open and critical, as well as government. I’ve seen a lot of rubbish spouted on NHK since the disaster that would have resulted in the spouter being torn to shreds, intellectually speaking if they had been issued on a UK show. Instead they are lauded as giving wisdom. For an example of this we had Yōji Yamada, of Tora-san fame, stating that we should all go back to the simpler days of steam locomotive. Murakami and Oe are two other persons in a similar mould to this.

      I’d like to see a lot more people who have investigated the effects of radioisotope exposure professionally in the media – but it seems their opinion is not wanted.

    15. Charuzu Says:

      EP Lowe:

      You say:

      “Many democracies have expert bodies for examining legislation – Japan doesn’t seem to have one.”

      This organisation — http://www.japan-acad.go.jp/ — in principle has the ability to do it. Similar bodies do so in Europe and elsewhere.

      You say:

      “if special interest groups engage in spin it should be noted and communicated by the government – they should not let erroneous ideas gain legitimacy in Japan’s media.”

      I think that it to be unreasonable for the government in a democracy to be charged with forbidding erroneous ideas from gaining legitimacy in the media.

      While media can be regulated to prevent deliberate and defamatory items, I believe that government must be extremely chary of regulating the media for “erroneous ideas.”

      Regulation of the media for “erroneous ideas” smacks of Chinese media regulation.

      You ask:

      “But who is a non-governmental expert?”

      I would err on the side of transparency. What is the harm of having additional attendees? They need not be permitted to speak. If one wants to have a speaking role, then some form of accreditation may be necessary.

      You rightly note that the media must be open and critical, and I believe that the internet allows for greater access to information than ever before.

      Japan suffers from a paucity of accountable democracy, and that is also due to its success in throttling its media.

      See: http://cpj.org/blog/2010/02/japanese-investigative-reporter-challenges-kisha-s.php

      Japanese governments should permit anyone to attend all meetings with the media, and I believe such a change in transparency should be radical and err on the side of extreme openness.

    16. Olaf Says:

      Radioactivity and ‘informed consent’.

      I think James Annan and AJ are right. Get rid of the rubble ASAP, but in a safe way.
      I also agree with Debito that the public needs to be informed. But I also have to caution against sensationalism (Debito’s ‘toxic waste': low level radioactive refuse is NOT toxic. Then, living in Denver (Colorado) would be toxic, too.).
      E.P. Loewe (#14) wrote ‘I’d like to see a lot more people who have investigated the effects of radioisotope exposure professionally in the media – but it seems their opinion is not wanted.’

      You are right, the problem is that ‘the other side’ will not believe ‘the experts’ that their opponents will present.

      So, the only way is to educate. And this is not easy. I myself am a chemist, took a course in nuclear chemistry, handled alpha+beta isotopes with ‘my bare hands’. Still, I have problems digesting the numbers and published data about the risk of radioactive exposure.

      So, here is my ‘expert’ opinion in a nutshell:
      1. acute health effect occur at doses >1 Sv short term exposure. This happened to nobody in Fukushima.
      2. increased cancer risk is for lifetime doses of >1 Sv. Statistically, 1.3 Sv will lead to 5.5% increased cancer death. Extrapolating down to 100 mSv: will lead to an increase by about 0.5% (in Japan: death by cancer will increase from 40 to 40.5%, or so). This is statistically NOT significant. It is just an extrapolation.
      3. 1-10 mSv per year is the range of exposure to radioactivity in our everyday life, normal environment (natural, medical, intercontinental flights, etc)(source: Dr. Ben Monreal, UC Santa Barbara).
      4. One 200 g steak that is contaminated with 500 Bq/kg Cs-137 will increase my exposure by 1.7 microSv (0.0017 mSv) over my lifetime (source: Dr. Horst Miska, EU expert on radioactivity).
      5. My body contains 8000 Bq of natural radioactivity, mostly K-40 and C-14.
      6. It is better to burn things in filter-equipped incinerators than in the wild, even though the rubble has to be transported over wide distances.
      7. there is a report about increased health-beneficial antioxidants in medical doctors who are exposed to x-rays. Secondary Source: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/doctors-exposed-to-radiation-adapt-1826/

      We should not forget that we live in a body that can adapt to it’s circumstances. Workout leads to the built up of muscle mass, because the body copes with the increased load.
      Similarly, environmental stress ‘beefs up’ the cellular protection and repair mechanisms.

      So, I do not worry about low level radioactive waste burned in an incinerator close to my home.
      Speaking of incineration: coal contains quite a bit of radioactive K-40 and other isotopes, too. So, shutting down nuclear reactors worldwide will lead to an INCREASE of radioactivity in the environment.

      A final note about not trusting the Jp government.
      There has been a report by intl groups that the released radiation is double as high as reported by the jp gov. I think this actually backs up the jp gov. A factor of 2 is NOTHING (mind you, the best calibrated gamma detectors have an error range of 50%). So, we can to a certain extent trust the published numbers by official jp sites.
      In this day and time of the internet, greenpeace, etc, no government can risk to be caught lying.

      OLaf

      – For the record, Olaf, I did not say “toxic waste”. I said the rumor was of “toxic waste”. Please quote me correctly.

    17. Olaf Says:

      Re: “Evil” government.
      I am sorry, even if I have to repeat myself, the question what amounts to an evil government keeps spinning in my mind.
      1. burning low level (how much? nobody knows, if any) radioactive waste in an incinerator?
      2. burning more coal in even more power plants and hence increasing local and global radioactivity?
      3. not telling the consumer that he will receive 3 micro Sv/hour in an intercontinental flight?
      4. sending hordes of employees through x-ray machines in annual health checks?
      (btw, I opted out of Barium-x-rays of my stomach. I prefer to swallow a camera. So I am not a gimme-all-you-can radiation junkie, as it might have sounded in my previous post).
      5. not telling the consumers of other sources of cancer (among them alcohol, a strong toxin on the short term that may lead to liver cancer in the long run).
      6. protesting nuke tests (atmospheric nuke tests by USA, USSR in the 60ies and 70ies was a MAJOR source of Cs-137)

    18. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Charuzu@15

      EP Lowe:

      “Many democracies have expert bodies for examining legislation – Japan doesn’t seem to have one.”

      This organisation — http://www.japan-acad.go.jp/ — in principle has the ability to do it. Similar bodies do so in Europe and elsewhere.

      That would be a good place to start.

      “if special interest groups engage in spin it should be noted and communicated by the government – they should not let erroneous ideas gain legitimacy in Japan’s media.”

      I think that it to be unreasonable for the government in a democracy to be charged with forbidding erroneous ideas from gaining legitimacy in the media.

      I didn’t say forbidden – ‘noted and communicated’ were the words I used. For example, look at the anti-vaccine crusade in America – if the Center for Disease Control had just stepped back and let advocates fight it out then things would have probably spun out of control. Likewise if NASA and other government agencies had refused to comment on Climate Change then we’d be facing a much more dangerous world, although to be honest – not much more dangerous than we face now.

      Now can Japan sustain such professional agencies given the need for shame-avoidance – causing secrecy and preventing people speaking their mind – and bureaucrats whose eyes are on a nice amadukari parachute at the end of their careers? That is the question. Maybe the Japan Academy would be a good arbiter.

      While media can be regulated to prevent deliberate and defamatory items, I believe that government must be extremely chary of regulating the media for “erroneous ideas.”

      I’m thinking along the line of patently false information, or hyped information that needs to be challenged.

      Regulation of the media for “erroneous ideas” smacks of Chinese media regulation.

      Not what I was saying – I never mentioned regulation – only communication.

      “But who is a non-governmental expert?”

      I would err on the side of transparency. What is the harm of having additional attendees? They need not be permitted to speak. If one wants to have a speaking role, then some form of accreditation may be necessary.

      The problem may arise if people attend who are intent on disrupting the work. I agree that accreditation of some sort would be good – even if to an NGO. I note that a leader of an NGO was present and spoke at the latest meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission.

      >You rightly note that the media must be open and critical, and I believe that the internet allows for greater access to information than ever before.

      There’s a flip-side to that though. There are people, on different sides of many debates, who are more than willing to bend the truth, lie, or even just misinterpret facts in such a way that facts become some flexible material to be bent to whatever goal the debater wants. Once again – look at climate change, vaccination, 9/11 and many other contentious topics in society. There’s an old adage which I think is key – “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts.”

      Japan suffers from a paucity of accountable democracy, and that is also due to its success in throttling its media.

      Agreed – the Press Clubs are an affront to democracy.

      Japanese governments should permit anyone to attend all meetings with the media, and I believe such a change in transparency should be radical and err on the side of extreme openness.

      I would agree with that statement 100% – no more press clubs.

    19. Curious Says:

      So can anyone confirm whether any waste debris from Fukushima prefecture is being shipped to other prefectures for incineration?

    20. Jobe Says:

      Even if the debris is not radioactive, the idea of bringing waste from lesser populated areas to burn in more densely populated areas is lunacy. The debris will spread a large number of toxic substances apart from radiation, including dioxin and heavy metals.

    21. David Says:

      As I understand it no municipality is allowing contaminated waste to be shipped in for incineration. However non-nuclear debris would have to be – the soil remediation process requires cement plants close by (debris is sorted, the really toxic stuff that doesnt break down at high temperatures is seperated and put into storage and the rest is used in the production o concrete). Because of high capex involved in building remediation plant and need to have cement plants close buy they will have to ship debris to the plants. Note that this is nothing ‘new’, toxic (non radioactive) debris is always carted to the plant. Still, because of the nuclear issue local governments are loath to allow even non-nuclear debris in to their municipality for disposal.

    22. flyjin Says:

      Bianca Jagger weighs in:

      http://www.majiroxnews.com/2011/11/06/bianca-jagger-delivers-protest-letter-to-japanese-ambassador/#comment-1524

      Eating food from Fukushima is patriotic? Then nationalism will doom this country…What next, mass suicides?

      ===============================

      Bianca Jagger delivers protest letter to Japanese ambassador
      11/06/2011 By majiroxnews

      TOKYO (majriox news) — Bianca Jagger delivered a letter to Japan’s ambassador to London Nov. 2, protesting the government’s handling of radioactive rubble and contaminated food.

      “The letter I delivered to Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi is on behalf of the thousands of Japanese mothers who live in fear of the radioactive exposure from the Fukushima disaster,” said Jagger, founder and chair of the Bianca Human Rights Foundation. The Nicaraguan-born human social and human rights activist has been awarded numerous international humanitarian awards. She was formerly known as an actress, model and the first wife of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

      She added that there were piles of radioactive rubble accumulated from the wreckage left by the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the region.

      “The Japanese government is systematically spreading, burning and dumping radioactive material and publicly hosting events to eat food from Fukushima as patriotic,” Jagger said. “If other local governments in Japan decide to follow Tokyo’s lead (to accept contaminated rubble), it will cause areas that are not yet directly impacted by the radioactive spill to contaminate their local soil and water.”

      Additionally, she said the government should lower the radiation safety standards back to the pre-disaster levels and evacuate those who live near highly contaminated areas.

      She warned Japan’s government that only a change in its policies could prevent a tragic outcome.

      “No one can deny that huge environmental gamble is now being waged, ” Jagger said. “The government should take the appropriate actions to protect the present and future generations.”

      Link to the letter: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/dv7seu

    23. Charuzu Says:

      Might this new development:

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/high-levels-of-cesium-detected-in-fukushima-rice

      have any positive effect on further discussions towards greater openness?

      I ask, given the religious and sanctified role of rice in Japanese consciousness?

    24. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Debito

      Couldn’t find the exact thread I was looking for, but I fount this;
      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111206a5.html

      ‘Traffic accidents involving highway debris in the Tohoku region have surged 3.5-fold since the March 11′, ‘Many of the accidents are being caused by vehicles hitting debris dropped by trucks’.

      I hope that they can be a little more careful when they start carting contaminated debris around the country for incineration!

    25. TJJ Says:

      Debito, perhaps this may be of interest regarding lawsuits against Tepco

      http://www.law.com/jsp/tal/PubArticleFriendlyAL.jsp?id=1202539161404

      ////////////////////////////////////

      Fukushima: The Legal Aftershocks
      Ben Lewis
      THE ASIAN LAWYER.COM
      01-23-2012

      To observers from more litigious societies, the fact that the catastrophe at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant has yet to spawn a massive lawsuit has been well-nigh impossible to comprehend.

      That may be about to change.

      A group of shareholders has said it will launch a derivative suit against the corporate directors of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) if it is not satisfied with a report from the company explaining why it chose not to sue those directors itself. The 42 shareholders claim that the directors failed to raise the height of tsunami barriers that would have protected the plant, in spite of a 2008 report warning that a quake at sea could trigger a destructive tsunami. If the suit goes ahead, the group plans to ask for $72 billion, which would be the largest civil damages claim in Japanese history.

      There is no real chance of collecting that much. The suit is expected to target fewer than 60 former and current Tepco directors, and the lawyer behind the prospective case, Hiroyuki Kawai of Tokyo’s Sakura Kyodo Law Offices, acknowledges those being targeted certainly do not have anything near the amount he is planning to demand.

      But Kawai, who asks a reporter if a $72 billion damages request would make his the largest claim ever in the world–it wouldn’t–is looking to the suit mainly to draw attention to the suffering of the Fukushima victims and the continuing dangers of nuclear power. He says a central aim of his lawsuit is to prevent the plant from reopening and to discourage the use of nuclear energy in Japan in general. “[Carbon dioxide] is better than radiation,” he says.

      Not that Kawai doesn’t hope to extract something from the directors. He says that Tepco’s directors and ex-directors, while not billionaires, were paid handsome annual salaries. The Washington Post reports that the utility’s president and 20 directors received a combined $8.9 million in 2009–an average of about $425,000.

      “It’s true that Japanese people don’t like litigation so much, but in this case our clients think it is important,” says Kawai. “The reason is that the directors and ex-directors get very good salaries and enjoy a good life. On the other hand, the victims–they are living in hell. It’s very unfair.”

      Since the plan is to file a derivative suit, in which shareholders sue on behalf of the company, any damages would go to Tepco, where Kawai says they would go to pay compensation to the Fukushima victims. The aim is most definitely not to recompense shareholders for financial losses, says Kawai, who adds that he turned away several shareholders who had that aim in mind.

      Even $72 billion would likely prove inadequate to the task of compensating the victims though. An investigation committee set up by the Japanese government estimates the compensation bill over the first two years to be $58 billion. But the total figure may reach $143 billion, according to an estimate by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

      Most of those claims have been expected to be processed via a mediation scheme rather than litigation. The Japanese government has set up a fund to pay damages on the company’s behalf, and contributed an initial $26 billion to it, with a further $11.7 billion payment approved in November and more capital injections to come. For its part, Tepco will make annual contributions to the fund along with Japan’s other nuclear operators. The plan is to ensure that victims get a swift payout while keeping Tepco on life support and generating power for a country that had to ration electricity usage for six months after the disaster.

      The government’s choice to bail out Tepco rather than let it implode was perhaps inevitable. Past industrial accidents in Japan have shown that it is the desire to restore order, and not the battle for compensation, that prevails.

      Order, in this case, begins with paperwork. The 150,000 people displaced by the Fukushima Daiichi accident face the expenses claim from hell: Each claimant must fill in a 56-page form using an accompanying 156-page manual, while providing receipts and other documentation.

      Any disputes over the level of compensation will be referred to a mediation center set up by the government staffed with dozens of lawyers in Tokyo and Fukushima.

      Most disputes will come from individual residents arguing that their payment from the compensation fund doesn’t meet their individual circumstances, says Yoshimasa Furuta. A partner at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, he is a special member of the Dispute Reconciliation Committee supervising the compensation process, as well as one of the mediators working at the center. Those disputes are likely to range from claims for payment of transport and living costs incurred by a mass evacuation to the more nebulous costs of compensating for “mental anguish.” There will also be claims from businesses, particularly in the tourism and agricultural sectors, Furuta says.

      Tepco has vigorously defended those lawsuits launched against it to date by spa and inn operators. Owners of the Sunfield Nihonmatsu golf course in Fukushima filed a suit against Tepco in August 2011, saying that radioactive cesium had contaminated the course. The company demanded $1.1 million in compensation, and for Tepco to decontaminate the course. Tepco says the Nihonmatsu municipal government’s radiation readings, on which the golf course’s claim was based, are flawed.

      The utility also contended that the “ownership” of the emissions after the disaster had transferred to the landowner–an argument thrown out by the Tokyo District Court. But the court rejected Sunfield’s claim anyway, ruling that decontamination is the responsibility of local and national governments, not Tepco. The golf course operator has appealed, but if the decision is upheld by the higher courts, some in Japan fear it could shift the clean-up costs onto the public purse in future litigation.

      Most parties are probably not going to go to court though. “The resort to litigation as a means to resolve your disputes is not part of the culture here,” explains Scott Nonaka, a partner in the Tokyo office of O’Melveny & Myers. That all parties get a result of some kind is the most important outcome, he says. Even if that result is unsatisfactory, Japanese people are most likely to resign themselves to it rather than enter into an unseemly dispute.

      Furuta thinks that there is another reason that Japan has fewer lawsuits. “In my personal opinion, it is a matter of the judicial system rather than culture,” he says, adding that the U.S. judicial system encourages litigation. Punitive damages, wide-ranging document discovery, and formal class actions–all of which he says fuel litigiousness–don’t exist in Japan.

      If those affected by the accident turn to the courts, Nonaka says, their experience will be very different from that in the U.S. Most strikingly, Japanese courts emphasize maintaining order over determining who is in the right. To achieve this, Japanese judges actively try to encourage a private settlement throughout the entire process.

      There are signs that attitudes to litigation are changing in Japan’s business community. Nonaka says he sees more willingness among Japanese in-house lawyers–particularly younger ones–to assert their rights. Japanese society is becoming less communitarian, he says, and that’s beginning to rub off on business norms.

      “I do think it will be interesting to see, at least among the businesses affected [by the Fukushima disaster], whether there is a push [toward recourse in the courts] if they don’t feel the compensation is adequate,” says Nonaka.

      Kawai agrees, noting that one supposed advantage of mediation–speed–has so far not been evidenced. Of around 600 claims filed with the mediation center, Kawai says only three have so far been resolved.

      “They are negotiating now and using ADR,” he says. “There are very small numbers of litigation [suits] against Tepco because victims are waiting for the mercy of the government or Tepco.” Kawai believes many of the claims currently being negotiated will become lawsuits by the end of the year, when the limits of that mercy become apparent.

      In any case, hopes of a quick resolution of the full range of legal issues arising from the Fukushima disaster are misplaced, says Tokyo-based partner David Case of White & Case. For one thing, the long-term health implications of radiation exposure from the Fukushima meltdown are still unknown.

      As late as August, Tepco was still finding fresh pockets of radiation around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, some of them at lethal levels. As a result, Case says, “you’ve got people who aren’t even born yet who could have claims.”
      ENDS

    26. kansaiben Says:

      Forget the safety issues for just a second (which are real and many).

      Why waste resources trucking debris around Japan?

      Why isn’t the closest suitable waste disposal facility (or few facilities) to the disaster affected region expanded so that it can handle higher volumes of debris so that it is trucked only tens of kilometres, not potentially hundreds?

      The current policy of sharing it around the country could just be a stop gap measure while the facilities were being readied.

      There must be a more efficient way to dispose of the rubble.

      There is so much potential for the improvement of efficiency in Japan.

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