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fission has not resumed at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, Goshi Hosono, told this to reporters on Friday after radioactive xenon was found at the plant's No. 2 reactor this week. The presence of xenon indicates that nuclear fission occurred recently. Hosono said xenon was detected not because of new developments, but due to detailed radiation monitoring by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. He also said he supports the utility's view that xenon was produced through spontaneous fission, not sustained fission, or criticality. Hosono said a precondition for putting the plant's reactors into a cold shutdown is ensuring that the accident will no longer escalate. He added that an absence of criticality is one way to achieve such a state. He suggested that the government hopes to present related measures this month to coincide with a monthly review of the timetable for bringing the plant under control. Friday, November 04, 2011 16:48 +0900 (JST)
Cesium-contaminated mushrooms served in food Radioactive cesium exceeding the government standard has been found in mushrooms grown at a facility in Yokohama City, near Tokyo. About 800 people were served food containing the mushrooms from March through October. The city says high levels of radioactive cesium were found in dried shiitake mushrooms harvested in both months. The contamination is believed to have been caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident. The contamination in March was up to 2,770 becquerels of cesium per kilogram; in October, 955 becquerels per kilogram. Each exceeded the government's standard of 500 becquerels. The facility checked the mushrooms for radioactive contamination this week after concerned citizens inquired about possible contamination in food served there. Yokohama is around 250 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The mushrooms were reportedly not sold on the market. Friday, November 04, 2011 21:26 +0900 (JST)
Buried bottle determined to be radiation source Japan's science ministry has determined that high radiation readings taken near a supermarket in Tokyo were caused by radium in a buried bottle. On Wednesday, workers removed the reagent bottle along with some contaminated underground soil from the parking lot of a supermarket in Hachimanyama, Setagaya Ward. After the removal, radiation in the area dropped to 25 microsieverts per hour, which is one-1,600th the previously observed level. The ministry says the source of the radiation was the radium 226 in the bottle. The radioactive substance is used in cancer treatments and to make fluorescent paint. Last week, the ministry reported detecting radiation of up to 170 microsieverts per hour at a height of 1 meter above the ground at 2 spots, one at an asphalt parking lot and the other at a sidewalk. Officials say that during a survey on Wednesday, they found 15 other spots in the same area emitting relatively high radiation. The highest reading was 12 microsieverts per hour. They say all 15 spots registered far less radiation when measured at a height of 1 meter. The science ministry decided to pile up sandbags at some of the spots to block the radiation. In the middle of last month, radiation of up to 2,707 microsieverts per hour was observed at another spot in Setagaya Ward. Officials determined that the source of the radiation was some jars in a wooden box under the floor of a vacant house. An analysis indicates that the radioactive material may be radium 226. Friday, November 04, 2011 10:41 +0900 (JST)
Shareholders to seek money from TEPCO managers Tokyo Electric Power Company shareholders are poised to launch court procedures and demand that the utility's current and former management return more than 14 billion dollars to the firm. About 30 shareholders plan to file a class-action lawsuit against roughly 60 executives who worked at TEPCO over the past 2 decades. The investors say they will take legal action if the company refuses to demand that the executives return the large sum of money. Observers say that if the shareholders go to court, the damages they would seek would be a record high in Japan's judicial history. The shareholders claim that TEPCO executives failed to take adequate safety measures to protect the plant from an earthquake and tsunami waves. One investor said that the executives repeatedly emphasized the safety of nuclear plants. However, the accident has caused irreparable damage. The group claims that at shareholders' meetings the executives never heeded the safety concerns discussed involving nuclear power generation.
TEPCO says it can't comment on the lawsuit until it knows more details. Friday, November 04, 2011 04:56 +0900 (JST) TEPCO to post huge net loss for FY2011 Tokyo Electric Power Company will post a second straight loss for the business year through next March due to costs associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster. TEPCO estimated on Friday its net loss for fiscal 2011 will total 600 billion yen, or about 7.7 billion dollars. The utility attributed the massive loss to the cost of ongoing efforts to stabilize the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Another factor is the expected increase in fuel costs of thermal power plants to cope with power shortages. TEPCO also estimates energy-saving efforts by households and businesses will cause consumption to fall by up to 9 percent. As a result, annual energy sales are projected to decline by one percent from the previous year. The utility plans to book an extraordinary loss of about 13 billion dollars to compensate those affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A government-backed fund is expected to contribute about 11.5 billion dollars worth of public funds to assist TEPCO make the payments. TEPCO president Toshio Nishizawa says the company will certainly face financial difficulties without the support of the fund. Friday, November 04, 2011 19:37 +0900 (JST)
No room for administrative 'sectionalism' in dealing with nuclear disaster
One-year-old Himari, center, held by her mother Tomomi Sato, left, undergoes a radiation screening test at the welfare office in Oyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 24, 2011. (Mainichi) Internal exposure and external exposure to radiation are technically two different things, but to those who are under threat of radiation exposure, there's no significant difference; they're on the receiving end of both. There's no distinction between "internal" or "external" when it comes to fears for one's well-being. Last week, the Food Safety Commission (FSC) submitted a recommendation to Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoko Komiyama suggesting a maximum 100-millisievert cumulative lifetime internal exposure to radiation through food. Though the commission had initially incorporated both internal and external exposure in its calculations, it ultimately did an about-turn, merely addressing the risks from food -- its stated field of expertise -- in its final report. As for external exposure, the commission stated that "the issue should be dealt with by the appropriate agency." The public, however, is urgently seeking a yardstick by which to measure the overall risks that we face. I fully understand that it's a huge challenge to offer such information. But by now, no one believes that food issues should be tackled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) takes up the problem of external exposure. Since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant began, the "vertical sectionalism" that has prevented collaboration among various agencies and ministries has been highly criticized. Needless to say, to bring together those various organizations and respond organically to the unfolding disaster takes political strength and fortitude. When I think about this sort of sectionalism, I'm reminded of the Kanemi oil poisoning incident that wreaked havoc in western Japan. The death of a massive number of fowl in the spring of 1968 had prompted an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry -- which oversaw poultry farming -- to investigate the factory where the deaths originated. The official, however, failed to look into the cooking oil that the same factory produced, and made no attempts to advise the Ministry of Health and Welfare -- which oversaw food products -- to pursue the matter. That fall,
countless people fell ill through dioxin-contaminated cooking oil that had been produced at the very factory. Had the agriculture ministry official stuck their nose into the health ministry's "business" and worked together, it's likely that many of the deaths and negative health effects could have been prevented.
In this March 24, 2011 file photo, a young evacuee is screened at a shelter for leaked radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Fukushima, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana) There's another case in Japan's past that makes the calls for swift measures in response to the current nuclear crisis all the more compelling. Minamata disease, considered one of Japan's first pollution-related epidemics, was "officially" discovered in 1956. Three and a half years later, the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Food Poisoning Subcommittee released a report pointing to "some kind of organic mercurial compound" as the culprit. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), however, argued that it was "too soon to conclude that the chemicals came from the factory." In 1968, when environmental and health problems across Japan were making headlines, Minamata disease was finally recognized as a pollution-caused illness. It was not until 1971 that it was determined that vertical sectionalism rampant at the time would not lead to a resolution and the Environment Agency was established, comprising officials from various government agencies and ministries. By then, over 15 years had passed since the disease was first identified. In the film "Ikiru" (To Live), directed by Akira Kurosawa, residents petitioning the city to build a park for their children are bounced around by various public agencies that all claim to lack the authority to handle the matter. It's a portrayal of Japanese bureaucracy in the 1950s, and I want to believe that our country will not take the same tack today. (By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer) Click here for the original Japanese story (Mainichi Japan) November 4, 2011
＜ｋａ－ｒｏｎ＞ 「内部被ばく」「外部被ばく」といっても生きている人間はその影響を一身に合わせて 受ける。不安や危機感に内、外の線引きはなかろう。 先週、食品安全委員会が食べ物による内部被ばくで健康に影響する判断基準として「生 涯累積でおよそ１００ミリシーベルト以上」を示した。厚生労働相への答申である。 外部被ばくは考慮していない。当初は内部・外部の合計線量としていたが、一転本来の
使命である食品のリスク評価に限定した。外部被ばくをどう判断するかなどについて「し かるべき機関が策を講ずる問題だ」という。 だが国民は全体的なリスク評価、物差しを知りたい。率直で緊要な願いだ。 非常に難題であることは分かる。でも、今や、食べ物は厚労省、外部被ばくは文部科学 省などと分けてやっているような事態でないことは、誰も感じ取っているはずだ。 原発事故発生から、さまざまな機関の連携不十分な「縦割り」弊害は指摘されてきた。 全体を束ねて有機的につながった対応。それには言うまでもなく、何より政治の腕力、胆 力が要る。 縦割りの弊害で改めて思い起こすのは、ダイオキシン類混入の食用油で西日本一帯に惨 禍を広げた「カネミ油症事件」。１９６８年早春、鶏が大量死 し、農林省（当時）の係 官が原因工場を調べたが、疑うべき同じ工場の食用油は追及せず、厚生省（同）に連絡し なかった。その秋、次々に被害者が現れる。 もし係官が本来の「持ち場」ではない食用油にも首を突っ込み、厚生省と連携していた ら、人間の生命健康被害はかなり防げただろう。 今原発事故で盛んに強調される「迅速な対応」も、裏腹の苦い歴史がある。 公害の原点といわれる水俣病。５６年の「公式確認」から３年半を経て、厚生省食品衛 生調査会は「原因はある種の有機水銀化合物」と答申した。だが通産省（当時）が「工場 から出たと結論づけるのは早い」と横やりを入れる。 やっとこれが「公害病」と認められるのは、列島中に環境と健康破壊の問題が広がって いた６８年。さらに、到底縦割りで対処できないと各省庁から人 を少しずつ集め、環境 庁（現環境省）が設置されるのは７１年のことだ。水俣病の存在が明らかになってから、 実に１５年以上を経ていた。 不衛生な環境の子供たちに児童公園をと住民が陳情するのに、権限の細分を盾に「うち の一存では」とたらい回しにする。黒沢明監督の「生きる」が描く５０年代の役所だが、 今の事態には、遠い昔話と信じたい。（専門編集委員）
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