Japan says several measures taken by South Korea violate the WTO’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) agreement and Seoul has failed to justify its trade restrictions as required, the WTO said in a statement.
Under WTO rules, South Korea has 60 days in which to deal with Japan’s concerns in bilateral talks. After that Japan could ask the WTO to adjudicate on the matter.
“In upcoming talks with Japan, we plan to explain fully that the import ban is necessary for people’s safety, and actively deal with Japan over the issue they raised based upon WTO’s dispute settlement procedures,” South Korea’s trade, agriculture, foreign affairs and other related ministries said in a joint statement.
“We’ve urged the South Korean government to lift the ban, but we expect it is unlikely to be dropped quickly,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a statement on Thursday.
Last October, the Japanese representative at the WTO committee said contamination levels in more than 99 percent of food items were below standard limits, and strict measures prevented the sale or export of any food exceeding those limits.
South Korea’s representative told the same meeting that its restrictions were in line with WTO rules, but Japan had not provided it with sufficient data for an objective and science-based risk assessment.
The average annual value of South Korean imports of Japanese fish and seafood was $96 million in 2012-2014, less than half the average of $213 million in 2006 through 2010, according to data from the International Trade Center in Geneva.
Ex-Futaba mayor sues state, Tepco over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times: here.
Tepco to sell large portion of uranium reserves — Enformable Nuclear News: here.
Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017 — The Japan Times: here.
Survey: Large majority of Fukushima evacuees have family members with health problems — The Asahi Shimbun: here.
Fukushima thyroid examination May 2015: 103 Thyroid cancer cases confirmed, 5 in the second-round screening — Fukushima Voice: here.
Huge spike in neurological diseases in Japan after Fukushima; 600% rise in disorders among evacuees: here.
Japan still aims to start removing fuel debris from stricken reactors in 2021 — The Japan Times: here.
Risk of hydrogen explosion from leaking containers at Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun: here.
Fukushima pressure relief system failed at reactor 2 after disaster, Tepco reveals: here.
IAEA report on Fukushima slams lack of tsunami preparedness despite awareness of threat — The Japan Times: here.
Spent-nuclear fuel issues plague restarts — The Japan Times: here.
Letters from Mitsuhei Murata, former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, to Caroline Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Washington Post: here.
The Horrors of Fukushima — Mitsuhei Murata, April 20, 2015: here.
FUKUSHIMA – In 30 to 40 years from now, a majority of the young people living in 12 radiation-contaminated municipalities in Fukushima do not plan to be living in the same place where they experienced the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it has been learned: here.
Plan to end rent subsidies for some Fukushima evacuees under fresh fire: here.
The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. are planning to push back the start of removing spent fuel at the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex by two to three years from the current schedule, according to government sources: here.
7,000 Tochigi residents seek compensation over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times: here.
Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster — Truthdig book review: here.
Birds Are in a Tailspin Four Years After Fukushima
Like the proverbial canary in a coalmine, avian abundances may paint a grim picture of the effects of nuclear disasters on wildlife
The first time Tim Mousseau went to count birds in Fukushima, Japan, radiation levels in the regions he visited were as high as 1,000 times the normal background. It was July 2011, four months after the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent partial meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the nation was still recovering from massive infrastructure damage. Still, when Mousseau and his research partner rented a car and drove up from Tokyo, they encountered little resistance on the road.
“I knew we had to get there and capture as best we could the early effects [of radioactive contamination] that nobody had really looked for,” he remembers thinking after seeing news of the Fukushima disaster. “Ultimately we realized that our best possible approach for that first year was simply to start doing bird counts.”
Now, after four years surveying bird populations in 400 sites around Fukushima-Daiichi, Mousseau and his team have assembled a grim portrait of the disaster’s impact on local wildlife, using bird populations as a model system. Even though radioactivity has dropped throughout the region, their data show that bird species and abundances are in sharp decline, and the situation is getting worse every year.
“At first only a few species showed significant signs of the radiation’s effects,” Mousseau says. “Now if you go down and around the bend maybe five or ten kilometers [from a safe zone] to where it’s much, much hotter, it’s dead silent. You’ll see one or two birds if you’re lucky.”
Mousseau’s team conducted almost 2,400 bird counts in total and gathered data on 57 species, each of which showed specific sensitivity to background radiation. Thirty of the species showed population declines during the study period, the team report in the March issue of the Journal of Ornithology. Among these, resident birds such as the carrion crow and the Eurasian tree sparrow demonstrated higher susceptibility than migratory species, which didn’t arrive in the region until a few weeks after the partial meltdown in early March.
Nuclear accidents are rare in human history, so we have very little data about such radiation’s direct effects on wildlife. Mousseau has spent the past 15 years drawing comparisons between nuclear events to help build up our knowledge base and fill in the gaps. For instance, while there are no official published records of the Chernobyl disaster’s early impact on wildlife, plenty of work has been done in recent years to assess Chernobyl’s ecosystem post-accident, from local birds to forest fungi.
When Mousseau returned to Fukushima in 2012, he began capturing birds in irradiated zones that had patches of bleach-white feathers. It was a familiar sign: “The first time I went to Chernobyl in 2000 to collect birds, 20 percent of the birds [we captured] at one particularly contaminated farm had little patches of white feathers here and there—some large, some small, sometimes in a pattern and other times just irregular.”
His team thinks these white patches are the result of radiation-induced oxidative stress, which depletes birds’ reserves of the antioxidants that control coloration in their feathers and other body parts. In Chernobyl, the patches have a high coincidence with other known symptoms of radiation exposure, including cataracts, tumors, asymmetries, developmental abnormalities, reduced fertility and smaller brain size.
By 2013, the birds Mousseau was counting in Fukushima had white patches big enough to be seen through binoculars.
Presented together, Mousseau thinks such data sets on Chernobyl and Fukushima could offer significant evidence for radiation’s prolonged, cumulative effects on wildlife at different stages after a nuclear disaster. But other experts have a completely different take on the available information.
“I’m not convinced about the oxidative stress hypothesis, full stop,” says Jim Smith, editor and lead author of Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences and an expert on pollution in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. “The radiation levels in both Fukushima and Chernobyl are currently low-dose, and the antioxidant capacity of a cell is way, way bigger than the oxidizing capacity of the radiation at those levels,” he says. This would mean the white feather patches—and perhaps the overall bird declines—are being caused by something other than radiation.
Birds’ feathers often change color as a byproduct of aging, much like our hair color changes as we get older. They also get replaced in molt cycles a few times a year and require new doses of melanin every time to retain their pigment. According to Yale evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum, this opens the door for pigment mutations to occur quite regularly—whether or not a bird lives in or passes through a radiation zone.
“It’s a bit like fixing a car: the problem may be obvious, but there are lots of moving parts,” says Prum, who studies the evolution of avian plumage coloration. “Melanin stress can manifest in the same way—such as white feathers—under a variety of circumstances, and the causes behind it can be very diverse. Just this winter I saw four species with abnormal white pigmentation visit my feeder at home, but I’m not too worried about radiation levels in New Haven.”
Prum says he had heard the ecosystem at Chernobyl was doing quite well, an opinion defended by Mousseau’s critics. Back at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., Smith primarily studies aquatic invertebrates, and in some of Chernobyl’s most contaminated lakes he has actually observed increased levels of biodiversity following the accident.
“Many of the literature studies on animals find it difficult to distinguish between the early effects of high doses shortly after the accident and later effects of much lower subsequent doses,” Smith says. “Plus some of them don’t properly account for the ecosystem impacts of removal of humans.”
Back in 2000, Robert Baker and Ron Chesser of Texas Tech University published a paper characterizing Chernobyl as a wildlife preserve, established thanks to the absence of humans since the accident. …
Mousseau acknowledges that his research methods deviate from those of “old-school radiation biologists,” whose work has typically measured responses to radiation based on Geiger counter readings of individual animals. Not caring about the exact levels of radioactivity, as Mousseau says he does not, understandably ruffles some feathers.
“We’re strictly motivated by measurements of ecological and evolutionary response,” Mousseau says. “Our extraordinary evidence relates to these censuses, these massively replicated bionic inventories across a landscape scale and in both locations, and that has not been done in any rigorous way by any of these other groups.
“The data are not anecdotal, they’re real and rigorous,” he adds. “They’re replicated in space and time. How you interpret them is up for grabs, and certainly a lot more experimentation needs to be done in order to better appreciate the mechanism associated with these declines.” For their part, Mousseau’s team hopes next to understand why different bird species in their data appear to demonstrate varying levels of radioactive sensitivity. They’re headed to Chernobyl again next week, and back to Fukushima in July.
Update 5/1: James Smith’s affiliation has been corrected; he is a professor at the University of Portsmouth.
Fukushima No. 1 workers with high radiation doses up 1.5-fold — The Japan Times: here.
The 42 cameras were installed in the exclusion zone by The Tree Project in November 2014. In order to get a true picture the cameras are moved to new, randomly selected, locations at approximately 8 week intervals, which will mean by the end of 2015 the cameras will have been positioned at 84 locations.
“This will be achieved through four interlinked science components beginning with improving our understanding of the biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides in soils through to studying the transgenerational effects of ionising radiation exposure on wildlife. Our studies will combine controlled laboratory experiments with fieldwork; most of which will take place in the Chernobyl Exclusion.”
Four months into the project the team has already captured more than 10,000 images of animals, suggesting the 30km zone, established shortly after the April 1986 disaster when a nuclear reactor exploded, ejecting radioactive material across the surrounding terrain and high into the atmosphere, is thriving in wildlife.
Soil underneath a slide at the park in the north-west of the Japanese capital showed radiation readings of up to 480 microsieverts per hour, the local administrative office said.
Anyone directly exposed to this level would absorb in two hours the maximum dose of radiation Japan recommends in a year.
“Many children play in the park daily, so the ward office should explain the situation,” Kyodo News quoted a 62-year-old local woman as saying.
The radiation level is over 2000 times that at which the national government requires soil cleaning in areas around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where reactors melted down after the March 2011 tsunami.
That standard, however, is for measurements taken at 0.5 to 1.0 metres above ground, while officials in Tokyo’s Toshima ward checked the ground itself.
Officials were made aware of the contamination after a local resident reported it on Monday and say they do not think it is connected to the disaster at Fukushima.
“Because the area in which we detect radioactivity is very limited, and readings in surrounding parts are normal, we suspect radioactive materials of some kind are buried there,” local mayor Yukio Takano said in a statement.
The park was built in 2013, two years after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, a local official said, on what was previously a parking lot for Tokyo’s sanitation department.
Top soil at the lot was replaced before the land was turned into a park, said the Toshima official.
Bird populations may have declined to a large extent in Japan’s Fukushima province due to the disaster that occurred there in 2011. Scientists have taken a closer look at bird populations and have found that since the March 11 earthquake, which caused the nuclear catastrophe, bird populations have plummeted.
“We were working with a relatively small range of background exposures in this study because we weren’t able to get into the ‘hottest’ areas that first summer after the disaster, and we were only able to get to some ‘medium-hot’ areas the following summer,” said Tim Mousseau, one of the researchers, in a news release. “So we had relatively little statistical power to detect those kinds of relationships, especially when you combine that with the fact that there are so few barn swallows left. We know that there were hundreds in a given area before the disaster, and just a couple of years later we’re only able to find a few dozen left. The declines have been really dramatic.”
The scientists also analyzed how the response of bird species differed between Fukushima and Chernobyl. One contrast was that migratory birds fared worse in the mutagenic landscape of Chernobyl than year-round residents, whereas the opposite was true for Fukushima.
“It suggests to us that what we’re seeing in Fukushima right now is primarily through the direct result of exposure to radiation that’s generating a toxic effect-because the residents are getting a bigger dose by being there longer, they’re more affected,” said Mousseau. “Whereas in Chernobyl, many generations later, the migrants are more affected, and one possibility is that this reflects differences in mutation accumulation.”
he operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says radioactively contaminated rainwater is spilling outside the facility’s port after pumps to prevent leakage stopped working: here.
A group of 9 citizens had filed for the injunction to keep the plant’s No.3 and 4 reactors offline, citing safety problems.
Officials of the plant’s operator, Kansai Electric Power Company, said they had taken thorough anti-quake measures based on lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.
At the Fukui District Court on Tuesday, presiding judge Hideaki Higuchi said Kansai Electric is too optimistic in assuming that no major earthquake would hit Takahama, as 5 unexpectedly large quakes have hit nuclear plants across Japan in less than a decade.
The judge also said the Nuclear Regulation Authority‘s new requirements should be as tough as possible to eliminate any risk of disaster, but are too lax to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors.
Tuesday’s injunction takes effect immediately, so Kansai Electric will not be able to restart the reactors unless the court decision is overturned.
KANSAI Electric Power was banned from reopening two nuclear reactors in western Japan yesterday on safety grounds.
Fukui District Court judge Hideaki Higuchi ordered the firm to keep its No 3 and No 4 reactors offline at Takahama plant in Fukui prefecture, home to some 12 reactors.
The court criticised Nuclear Regulation Authority safety standards for being too lax, even with stricter requirements imposed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which saw a major earthquake partly destroy reactors … .
The court ruling said that meeting the new standards does not guarantee the safety of Takahama’s reactors.
It noted that four of Japan’s 17 nuclear power plant complexes had suffered through earthquakes exceeding their anticipated seismic motions in the past decade and suggested Takahama could be next.
“Excluding the Takahama plant from the risk of such earthquakes is merely groundless optimism,” it ruled. “An accident at the plant could cause irrevocable damage.”
The judge cited spent fuel storage pools without proper containment and a moratorium on a compulsory radiation-free emergency command centre as examples of regulators’ “lack of rationality.”
A group of residents requested the injunction in December, saying that a massive earthquake exceeding the facility’s resistance standards could cause damage similar to the Fukushima crisis.
Kansai Electric said that it plans to appeal against the ruling, calling it “extremely regrettable and unacceptable.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-business government has been pushing for a restart, saying that prolonged stoppages are bad for the economy.
Radiation measured at deadly 9.7 sieverts in Fukushima reactor — The Japan Times: here.
An investigation carried out by The Independent newspaper reveals that there is a risk that food manufactured around the Fukushima nuclear disaster site may be entering the United Kingdom, raising the prospect of mildly carcinogenic ingredients entering the food system: here.
Expected surge in workers hitting radiation limit leaves No. 1 plant’s decommissioning in jeopardy — The Japan Times: here.
This 14 minute clip represents the hour or so climax of the protest which began at 3:30pm as a gathering and march to the emperor‘s house to protest the reopening of one of Japan’s nuclear plants.
The police barricaded sidewalks on both sides of the street leading to the Emperor’s Gate, keeping the protest in two separate but equally huge groups. At sunset protesters on one side with mics were cheerfully calling to their counterparts. When they caught their attention, both sides began waving with glee.
Eventually the numbers of people were simply too great and it seemed the desire to be one even greater, in the midst of louder and louder chanting in unison “Saikado Hantai” meaning “You restarted the plant, we disagree” a female began singing and soon after noticing a commotion I turned with my camera just in time to catch protesters in nearly perfect unison defying the police barricades and claiming the street for approximately one hour of celebration before police buses moved slowly in on the crowd. Fortunately the protesters had no qualms moving aside after their brief but clear moment of triumph.
Despite public opposition following the Fukushima disaster, industry officials and their supporters claim the country needs atomic power to play its part in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure a stable electricity supply.
“This year marks the exit from zero nuclear power,” Japan Atomic Industrial Forum chairman Takashi Imai proclaimed to an audience of 900 people yesterday.
But the Japanese public remain deeply concerned about safety, more than four years after a tsunami sparked meltdowns at Fukushima, spreading radiation over a large area and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Anti-nuclear activists are challenging the decisions to restart the four reactors at two power stations in court.
A ruling on the Takahama station in central Japan is expected today, while one on the Sendai plant in the south is expected on April 22.