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Fukushima fallout fears over Japan farms
By Jennifer Carpenter Science reporter, BBC News
Continue reading the main story
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Fukushima: As bad as Chernobyl? 'Ten years' for Fukushima lessons Japan's nuclear picture unclear
New research has found that radioactive material in parts of north-eastern Japan exceeds levels considered safe for farming. The findings provide the first comprehensive estimates of contamination across Japan following the nuclear accident in 2011. Food production is likely to be affected, the researchers suggest.
The results are reported in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. In the wake of the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, radioactive isotopes were blown over Japan and its coastal waters. Fears that agricultural land would be contaminated prompted research into whether Japanese vegetables and meat were safe to eat. An early study suggested that harvests contained levels of radiation well under the safety limit for human consumption. Contaminated crops Now, an international team of researchers suggests this result deserves a second look. To estimate contamination levels, Teppei Yasunari, from the Universities Space Research Association in the US state of Maryland, and his colleagues, took measurements of the radioactive element caesium-137 in soil and grass from all but one of Japan's 47 regions and combined these results with simulations based on weather patterns following the meltdown. Caesium-137 lingers in the environment for decades, and so is more of a concern than other radioactive elements released in the cloud of steam when the reactors' cooling systems failed, leading to explosions. The team found that the area of eastern Fukushima had levels of the radioactive element that exceeded official government limits for arable land. Continue reading the main story
Becquerels and Sieverts
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A becquerel (Bq), named after French physicist Henri Becquerel, is a measure of radioactivity A quantity of radioactive material has an activity of 1Bq if one nucleus decays per second and 1kBq if 1,000 nuclei decay per second A sievert (Sv) is a measure of radiation absorbed by a person, named after Swedish medical physicist Rolf Sievert A milli-sievert (mSv) is 1,000th of a Sievert
Under Japanese Food Sanitation Law, 5,000 becquerel per kg (Bq/kg) of caesium is considered the safe limit in soil (caesium-137 makes up about half of total radioactive caesium, and therefore its safe limit is 2,500 Bq/kg). The researchers estimate that caesium-137 levels close to the nuclear plant were eight times the safety limit, while neighbouring regions were just under this limit. The study showed that most of Japan was well below (average about 25 Bq/kg) the safety limit. Relatively low contamination levels in western Japan could be explained by mountain ranges sheltering those regions from the dispersal of radioactive material, the authors said. Food production in the most contaminated regions, the researchers write, is likely to be "severely impaired", and that Fukishima's neighbouring regions, such as, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Chiba are likely to also be affected. "Some neighbouring prefectures... are partially close to the limit under our upper bound estimate and, therefore, local-scale exceedance is likely given the strong spatial variability of [caesium-137] deposition," the researchers explained in PNAS. They urge the Japanese government to carry out a more thorough assessment of radioactive contamination across Japan before considering future decontamination plans.
A second study, published in the same edition of PNAS, collected over a hundred soil samples from within 70km of the Fukishima plant, and found similarly high caesium-137 levels across the Fukishima prefecture, and its neighbouring regions. Radioecologist Nick Beresford from Centre of Ecology and Hydrology in Lancaster explained that once in soil, caesium will become bound to mineral components, which limits its uptake into plants. However, this process depends on the soil type. "Caesium stays mobile for longer in organic soils, hence why England and Wales still have some post-Chernobyl restrictions in upland areas," he told BBC News. Ploughing, and some fertilisers can help farmers reduce plants' uptake of the dangerous elements, and binding agents can be added to animal feed to reduce their uptake from the gut, he added. Local recordings New figures on background radiation levels recorded 60km northwest of the Daiichi power plant have also been released this week by Japanese physicist Tsuneo Konayashi from Fukushima Medical University. Dr Konayashi saw an initial spike reaching over nine times the usual levels hours after the explosions at the plant; five months later levels have dropped to one and a half times those expected. He continues to monitor radiation levels and distribute his data around campus.
Mountains limited spread of fallout from Fukushima
A deserted field and buildings inside the contaminated exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station are seen through a bus window near Okuma, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, Pool) NEW YORK (AP) -- A map of radioactive contamination across Japan from the Fukushima power plant disaster confirms high levels in eastern and northeastern areas but finds much lower levels in the western part of the country, thanks to mountain ranges, researchers say The mountains sheltered northwestern and western parts of Japan as radioactive cesium-137 emerged from the power plant and blew downwind, the scientists said. Cesium-137 is just one of the radioactive materials that came out of the plant, but researchers focused on that because it's particularly worrisome. It lasts for decades in soils, emitting radiation and potentially contaminating crops and other agricultural products. The research, published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows estimated levels of contamination. It did not investigate implications for health. The researchers, from Japan, Norway and the United States, said the levels they estimated would severely restrict food production in eastern Fukushima Prefecture and hinder agriculture in
neighboring provinces. That outcome is already recognized in Japan, where regulators monitor food products from those areas for contamination before they are cleared for shipment. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 140 miles (225 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, was heavily damaged in March when it was swamped by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake. A second report, from a separate group of Japanese scientists, investigated levels of radioactive cesium, iodine and tellurium on the surface in east-central Japan. Such materials are airborne after a nuclear accident and fall to the ground when it rains. While the power plant incident began on March 11, the study linked ground contamination in the Fukushima prefecture to a March 15 rainfall, and contamination in Tokyo and some other areas to a March 21 rain. Soil contamination in Tokyo has already made officials ban shipment of tea leaves grown there, and some elementary schools in Tokyo and nearby have taken decontamination steps like removing topsoil. In addition, there is growing concern about radioactive "hotspots" found in Tokyo and elsewhere outside Fukushima. The Japanese government has taken responsibility for decontamination. Journal: http://www.pnas.org (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011 http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111115p2g00m0dm015000c.html
Nano-level oxygen bubbles found useful to purify lake
HAKODATE, Japan (Kyodo) -- Water quality of lakes can be improved through the injection of tiny nanometer-sized oxygen bubbles which stimulate aquatic microorganisms, with the potential to purify entire lakes, according to a research team which conducted a study last month at a park in Nanae, Hokkaido. Designed by a group of local businessmen studying ways to improve water quality at the Onuma quasi-national park and carried out by researchers at Hakodate-based Kadokami Laboratories of Integrated Sciences, the results of the experiment were reported to local governments. The so-called nanobubbles remain in the water for a long period as they weigh almost the same as water particles, while waterborne bacteria are able to break down organic matter more vigorously when fed efficiently with oxygen, the researchers said. In the Oct. 20 experiment, 2 tons of water containing oxygen bubbles about 100 nanometers in diameter, made by mixing water and oxygen using a specially designed machine, was poured into a part of the lake suffering from blue-green algae bloom and containing about 350 tons of water. As a result, the number of bacteria increased up to about four-fold and nitrifying bacteria, which decompose ammonia, intensified their activities some 1.5 times, they said. Blue-green algae will stop blooming and sludge will disappear from the lake bottom in about eight to 10 years when 10 tons of water containing oxygen nanobubbles is poured every day at the mouth of a river running into the lake, the researchers estimate. Yoichi Kadokami of the lab said, "Oxygen nanobubble technology has no environmental cost. It can be used in various scenes where water quality needs to be improved." (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Failure to ask burning questions poses danger and impedes new discoveries
In this March 11, 2011 file photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., tsunami waves come toward heavy oil tanks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) "Eliminate cliches from your writing," more experienced reporters always told me. In other words, if those veterans had had their way, we shouldn't have been talking about the Greek financial crisis "capturing the attention" of those around the world who were "waiting with bated breath" for the results of the referendum, or that they "heaved a sigh of relief" when the worst-case scenario was averted. I still think, however, that cliches can be effective. They're a type of formula, like the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why) and one H (how) of journalism. What I believe are more dangerous are the habits that we've fallen into when it comes to asking questions. La Sagrada Familia is a church in Barcelona, Spain, that was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction for the past 130 years. It has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is wildly popular among tourists. Etsuro Sotoo, a 58-year-old Japanese sculptor serving as the construction project's head sculptor, recently gave a lecture at Kyoto Saga University of Arts. As I listened in, Sotoo and the students engaged in a discussion of the conflict between religion and art, contemporary civilization and culture. This somewhat "lofty" discussion had continued for a while, before one student bluntly asked: "How can I work where you do?" There was a drastic shift in the mood in the room. Sotoo welcomed the question, remarking, "That was an honest question that came from your heart, wasn't it?" He encouraged others to do the same, explaining, "The commonly asked 'sophisticated' questions are actually not productive. Ask the questions that you're burning to ask. Those are the good questions." Going to pains to gauge what others are thinking or might think, and asking "smart" questions usually doesn't lead to any interesting discoveries anyway.
Crushed piping is observed from inside a bus at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Ikuro Aiba,
Pool) I was reminded by something that happened a few years back. A student at a junior high school that had brought in a bestselling author to give the students a lecture asked, "How much did you make from your book?" Stunned by the frankness of the question, the author announced the figure. I could never ask such a question. If there's anything I learned from the March 11 quake, tsunami and the ongoing nuclear disaster, it's this: did we not make the mistake of failing to ask the people we consider experts such honest and "unsophisticated" questions? (By Masaharu Sakakibara, Kyoto Bureau) Click here for the original Japanese story (Mainichi Japan) November 14, 2011
文章から紋切り型を排しなさい。先輩から常々そう教えられた。つまりギリシャの財政 危機の「成り行きが注目され」たり、国民投票の行方を「固唾（かたず）をのんで」見守っ たり、土壇場の危機回避に「胸をなで下ろし」たりしてはならないのである。 でもね、と思う。紋切り型が有効なときもある。表現が悪ければ「ある種の定型」と言 い換えてもよい。ニュースのイロハ「５Ｗ１Ｈ」だって定型の一つ。怖いのはむしろ「問 い」の惰性化ではなかろうか。 スペインのサグラダ・ファミリアといえば建築家のガウディが設計し、着工から１３０ 年近くたってまだ建築が続いている教会である。世界文化遺産に も登録され、観光客の 人気も高い。その現場で主任彫刻家を務める外尾悦郎さん（５８）が先日、京都嵯峨芸大 で行った講義が面白かった。 宗教と芸術、現代文明と文化の相克について学生との対話が続いた。少し背伸びしたよ そ行きのやりとりが続くうち、「どうすれば先生のところで働け ますか？」と単刀直入 な質問が飛び出した。それまでの空気ががらりと変わった。外尾さんは「あなたの本心か ら出てきた質問ですね」と歓迎し、「一般的な、 カッコいい質問は実はよくない。聞き たい気持ちを抑えきれないことを聞く。それがよい質問」と促した。 「こんなことを聞いたらばかにされないか」。周りの空気を読みながら賢そうな質問を 並べても、結果は大抵つまらない。 何年か前のできごとを思い出した。中学校で講演したベストセラー作家に「いくらもう かった？」と質問した生徒がいた。あまりの率直さに作家はついポロリ。「自分にはとて も聞けないなあ」と脱帽した。 震災と原発事故を経験し、つくづく思う。専門家と称する人々に私たちは率直な「問い」 を怠っていなかったか。（京都支局)
Group to study cattle's radiation exposure in Fukushima nogo zone
A cow is fed straw at a cattle farm on July 15 in Asakawa, Fukushima Prefecture, which was found to have fed cows radioactive cesium-contaminated straw. (Mainichi) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A group of veterinarians and other researchers will soon begin studying cattle's radiation exposure at farms in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture within a no-go zone near the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, participants said Tuesday. Many of the roughly 3,500 cattle at farms within the 20-kilometers radius of the plant are believed to be living in the wild after their owners evacuated in March in the wake of the country's worst ever nuclear disaster. About 70 cows, however, have been recaptured and are now being raised on farms in parts of Minamisoma within the zone, according to the city office. The group, including radiobiologist Nobuhiko Ito, a professor at Kitasato University, and members of the Japan Veterinary Medical Association will visit cooperating farms on a regular basis and study the extent of cattle's contamination with radioactive materials, they said. The study, which they plan to have subsidized by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, is expected to offer clues about the impact of internal radiation exposure on humans, as well as help livestock farmers take antiradiation measures in the future, they said. The group will focus on such areas as the distribution of contamination inside the cows, the degree of decline in internal exposure when they are fed with untainted items, and how radioactive materials transfer from soil to pasture and then to the meat of the animals, Ito said. The radiation-exposed cattle in Minamisoma have been recaptured since summer as farmers sought to raise them for research purposes despite a government instruction in May to slaughter them, under which about 250 have been culled with the consent of their owners. Apart from the group's study, a team of Tohoku University and other researchers is poised to begin a study on decontaminating cattle by the end of this year, they said. Yoshihisa Yamane, head of the vet association, said, "It is important to make effective use of the animals for research, also from the viewpoint of animal protection, rather than just destroying them." (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
The Prometheus Trap/ A new series
Previous ArticleThe Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-1 November 15, 2011
According to Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who gave fire to humans. The acquisition of fire allowed humankind to develop civilization. Fire derived from fossil fuels further spurred production capacity. In time, humans attained atomic fire, a feat that was also described as "superior energy." Playing with fire, however, has presented humans with a dilemma. Humans, who achieved a civilized world through Prometheus, are now troubled by atomic fire. The series of articles contemplate the country, its citizens and electric power in light of the failure of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. *** The first series, "Men in Protective Clothing," consists of eight parts and was written by Staff Writer Motoyuki Maeda.
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-1
Previous ArticleFukushima native, foreign minister, Genba in dilemma over nuclear exports Next ArticleThe Prometheus Trap/ A new series
November 15, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MEDA / Staff Writer 'Please, get away from here' Tsushima district in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is located in the mountains approximately 30 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). On March 12, the day after the nuclear accident, 10,000 people fled to the Tsushima District from the coastal area that lies within a 10-km radius of the nuclear power plant. Residents took people into their homes, since there was not enough room at the elementary and junior high schools, community centers and temples. One after another, people began arriving at Mizue Kanno's home throughout the day. By evening, 25 people had gathered. Although many were relatives and acquaintances, there were also strangers among them. Her new house had recently been built after having torn down the family's 180-year-old, traditional Japanese home. It has an impressive gate, expansive grounds and a large room measuring 20 tatami mats (approx. 33 square meters). It was just right for accepting evacuees, and the yard was filled with evacuees' cars. "I don't know what happened at the nuclear power station, but if we evacuate this far, then we should be OK." Everyone looked relieved for the moment. Kanno, 59, cooked two pressure cookers full of rice and made an evening meal of rice balls and miso soup with pork and vegetables. People who fled with only the clothes on their backs assembled in the large room and began eating. Following dinner, everyone introduced themselves and formed rules for living together: * To prevent the toilet from getting clogged, toilet paper should be thrown away in the cardboard box placed next to the toilet. * Everyone should help cook and serve meals. * Do not hesitate to be open with one another. ... The people split into groups and slept in two rooms. Kanno handed out all the futons she had.
Then, Kanno stepped outside, where she noticed a white van that had stopped in front of her house. Inside were two men wearing white protective clothing. They turned toward her and shouted, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. "What? What's the problem?" Kanno asked. "Why are you here?! Please, get away from here." Kanno was shocked. "Flee? But this is an evacuation shelter." The two men got out of the car. Both were wearing gas masks. "Radioactive materials are spreading." They spoke in a grave tone and with a sense of urgency. National road No. 114 that runs past her house was bumper to bumper with cars at a standstill, full of people who couldn't get into evacuation shelters. The two men also shouted to the people who had gotten out of their cars, "Quickly, get back into your cars!" The two men then drove off in the direction of Fukushima city. They did not go to the branch office of the town hall, or place a warning on the message board. The government had said that areas outside of a 10-km radius were safe. Why, then, were those two men wearing protective clothing and gas masks as well? Who exactly were they? Kanno was puzzled, but at any rate she hurried back to the house and told the evacuees about the men in protective clothing. Fleeing farther away in the middle of the night A discussion began. "If it really is dangerous, there should be some information from the town or the police. Let's see what happens." Everyone had finally gotten settled in and were reluctant to move. However, in the middle of the night the situation suddenly changed. Several buses arrived at the community center, which served as an evacuation shelter. One of the evacuees noticed the arrival and told everyone the bus drivers had said they were "moving the evacuees." At the time, the town of Namie was shuttling residents within a 20-km radius who were late in evacuating to the Tsushima district. Kanno was unaware of that fact but had concluded that the area was unsafe. She woke her sleeping guests and a discussion began again. Most did not want to leave, but one woman noted that, "If everyone stays, then Mrs. Kanno's family can't leave." That settled it. "Let's drive as long as the gas lasts." After midnight, two young couples left with a newborn baby who had just been born in February and their small children. Though at first the couples were reluctant to flee on mountain roads so late at night, Kanno gave them rice balls, saying, "At least get the children out of here." The next morning on March 13, another discussion ensued after breakfast. A young couple with children who had said the night before they wouldn't leave, decided they would go for their children's sake. An older woman lent the couple her car. "Since I'm alone, I'll catch the bus at the evacuation center."
By evening, all 25 people had re-evacuated to other locations such as Fukushima, Koriyama and Minami-Soma. Kanno told others who had sought shelter in a nearby house about the men in protective clothing. One laughed saying, "I worked at TEPCO. The nuclear power plant we built could never be that dangerous." The man had fled not from the nuclear accident, but from the tsunami. Kanno felt relieved. She and her oldest son, Junichi, 27, decided not to flee. Junichi was in charge of distributing food from the regional center, which served as a shelter, and was making rice balls. "I can't leave everyone behind." At that time, readings at locations approximately 10 km from the Tsushima district using instruments measuring up to 30 microsieverts per hour were going off the meter. By MOTOYUKI MEDA / Staff Writer
世田谷 放射性物質の撤去作業 東京都の担当者によりますと、地面の下から瓶のようなものが見つかり、鉛の容器で遮蔽 されたということです。文 部科学省などによりますと、瓶の中には放射性物質のラジウ ム２２６が入っていた可能性が高いということで、今後詳しい分析が行われる予定です。
11 月 15 日 5 時 11 分 東京電力福島第一原子力発電所の事故で放出された放射性物質は、北海道や中国・四国地 方にまで拡散 し、土壌に沈着した可能性があるとするシミュレーションの結果を名古屋 大学などの研究チームがまとめました。研究チームでは「除染が必要なほどではないも のの、全国で土壌調査を行うべきだ」としています。 名古屋大学などの国際研究チームは、原発事故のあとの３月２０日から１か月間、各地で 実際に計測さ れた放射性物質のデータを地球全体の大気輸送モデルと組み合わせ、シミュ レーションを行いました。その結果、事故で放出されたセシウム１３７の一部は、北 海 道や中国・四国地方にまで拡散し、雨などの影響で土壌に沈着した可能性があることが分 かったということです。セシウム１３７は半減期が３０年のため、影 響が長く残るとさ れていますが、土１キログラム当たりの濃度は、高いところで、北海道東部の一部で２５ ０ベクレル、中国・四国地方の山岳部で２５ベクレル 程度とみられ、研究チームでは、 いずれも除染が必要なほどではないとしています。シミュレーションを行った名古屋大学 の安成哲三教授は「放射性セシウムが 全国的に広がっている可能性があることが分かっ た。局地的に放射線量が高いホットスポットが出来ているおそれがあり、全国で土壌調査 を行うべきだ」と話し ています。
= Radioactive cesium may have reached Hokkaido
A team of researchers says radioactive cesium discharged from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may have contaminated soil in Hokkaido and areas of western Japan more than 500 kilometers from the plant. The international team, including researchers from Nagoya University, simulated the spread of radioactive materials. They combined global atmospheric patterns with nationwide radioactive measurements taken over one month from March 20th, 8 days after a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima plant. The researchers say the results suggested that some cesium-137 had reached the northernmost island of Hokkaido, and the Chugoku and Shikoku regions of western Japan. They say the radioactive material may have accumulated in the soil due to rain. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years. But the research team says the pollution is not high enough to require decontamination. The radiation density per kilogram reached 250 becquerels in eastern Hokkaido, and 25 becquerels in mountainous areas of western Japan. Nagoya University professor Tetsuzo Yasunari says the simulation suggested cesium had dispersed across a wide area. He called for a nationwide testing of soil, and warnings of hot spots where radiation levels are high. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 06:16 +0900 (JST)
Fukushima native, foreign minister, Genba in dilemma over nuclear exports
Previous Article8 months into nuclear crisis, progress and uncertainties Next ArticleThe Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-1vember 14, 2011
Soon after the crisis started at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Koichiro Genba continued to push exports of Japanese nuclear power technology as a key pillar in reviving the nation's economy. But that was before residents in the foreign minister's constituency were forced to scrape away layers of radiation-contaminated soil and raised questions about whether they could continue living in their homes. Genba is from Tamura city in Fukushima Prefecture. His parents' house is about 40 kilometers from the stricken Fukushima plant. Genba has now toned down his pitches, despite being a key member of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet involved in selling Japanese nuclear technologies overseas. "He apparently has conflicting feelings on the exports of nuclear power plants," a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said of Genba. In Hawaii on Nov. 11, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asked Genba for an early accord on nuclear energy, a prerequisite for exporting nuclear plants and related technologies. Russia has shown a strong interest in Japanese companies' technologies for the construction of nuclear power plants. But instead of giving his Russian counterpart a sense of optimism for the deal, Genba only replied, "I am asking the Diet for deliberations." In October, Noda said Japan will export nuclear power plants and related technologies to Vietnam, as well as resume discussions with India and Turkey for the same purpose. But Genba's enthusiasm for these nuclear sales appears to have waned since the March 11 tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant. After becoming foreign minister in early September, Genba said in a meeting at his ministry: "We must not think only about exports of nuclear power plants. As for countries we have talked with, there are no other ways (except to export nuclear technologies) because we have built relations of trust with them. "But as the next step, let's export environmental technologies." And at a news conference on Nov. 9, Genba said, "As for new (nuclear) projects overseas, we should hold deliberations on them again." Behind Genba's softened stance is the sentiment of Fukushima residents trying to adjust to life near the site of the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl crisis. At the elementary school in Tamura that Genba attended, the playground is now dotted with mounds of radioactive soil covered with sheets. "The hardest thing for us is that we cannot foresee our future," a Tamura resident said. A Genba supporter added: "Although the government will not allow construction of new nuclear power plants in Japan, it is exporting them. It's contradictory." On Nov. 6, Genba visited Fukushima city to help out candidates running in the Fukushima prefectural assembly election. He did not say anything about exporting nuclear power plants. When he was state minister in charge of national policy in the Naoto Kan administration, Genba played a key role in maintaining the policy of exporting nuclear technologies after the March 11 disaster. Genba also opposed Kan's plan to "abolish all nuclear power plants in Japan," modifying the policy to "reducing the number of nuclear power plants in the country." Concerned that an immediate absence of nuclear power plants in Japan would hurt the Japanese
economy, Genba decided that the best approach would be to lower Japan's dependence on nuclear power from the middle- and long-term perspective. In the closing days of Kan's administration in August, Genba also agreed with the government's view: "We will decide our stance (on exporting nuclear power plants) based on the results of the investigation into the accident at the Fukushima plant. We will maintain the projects we are currently negotiating (with foreign countries)." In late October, Genba and Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna agreed to resume negotiations on a nuclear energy accord. But Genba added to the agreement a sentence that said the two countries will make efforts to strengthen cooperation in the field of environmental technologies, including renewable energies. (This article was written by Takashi Oshima and Shigeki Tosa.)
Board of audit says lab for Monju reactor should not go to waste
In this file photo, the nuclear reactor Monju is seen in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, on Nov. 16, 2010. (Mainichi) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Board of Audit of Japan called on Monday for the operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor to find a use for the reactor facility's laboratory, on which 83 billion yen has already been spent. The lab, which is designed to develop new nuclear fuel recycling technology and has yet to be completed, has been unused since its construction work was suspended in 2000 following several accidents. The Monju reactor has been considered crucial to perfecting the country's nuclear fuel cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel from Japanese power plants would be reprocessed for reuse as plutoniumuranium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel. Its practical use was planned to begin around 2050. The reactor first achieved criticality in 1994 but was shut down following leakage of sodium coolant and a resulting fire in 1995. The predecessor body of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency halted the construction of the lab in Ibaraki Prefecture five years later. The board also pointed out the total money spent on the Monju project between fiscal 1980 and March this year came to 1.08 trillion yen whereas the agency earlier projected it at 926.5 billion yen. The board urged the agency to make more accurate cost estimates to enhance the transparency of the undertaking by tallying up expenses incurred before fiscal 1980, salaries for research and development staff and real estate taxes paid to the Fukui Prefecture city of Tsuruga, where the Monju reactor is located.
Given that the project will come under scrutiny by a government cost-cutting panel later this month, the board said the pros and cons of continuing with development work should be decided based on accurate data after the agency has fully informed the public about the costs of Monju. The new recommendations by the board will be incorporated in its accounting report next year. Public anxiety about the safety of the accident-prone project has grown amid the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Gov't to lower Fukushima plant workers' maximum radiation exposure
In this May 15, 2011 photo released Friday, June 10, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), workers take break in a temporary rest area at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. （AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Health minister Yoko Komiyama said Monday the government will restore to the normal level the maximum dosage of radiation to which workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant can be allowed to be exposed after the crippled facility reaches a stable state of cold shutdown within this year as planned by the government. At present, workers trying to stabilize the nuclear complex are to cease work after being exposed to 100 millisieverts of radiation since March under rules devised in the emergency situation. The plant was hit by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that month.
In this April 18, 2011 photo released Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Ehime University Medical Department Prof. Takeshi Tanigawa, workers, mostly employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co., engaged in operations at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, take rest inside a gymnasium that serves as their temporary dormitory at Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power
Plant in Naraha, 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of the former plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Ehime University Medical Department Prof. Takeshi Tanigawa) After the cold shutdown, the limit will be lowered to the normal level of 100 millisieverts every five years and 50 millisieverts per year, Komiyama said. But the allowable limit will remain at 250 millisieverts until April 30 next year for some 50 nuclear experts at Tokyo Electric Power Co., whose expertise is vital in bringing the plant under control. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Shikoku Electric Power submits stress test results on Ikata reactor
This July 23, 2011 photo shows the Ikata nuclear power plant, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co., in Ikata, western Japan. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) MATSUYAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Shikoku Electric Power Co. submitted on Monday the results of stress tests on the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture to the government to seek permission to resume operation of the reactor idled for regular checkups. The utility said the results of the stress tests ensure enough safety of the reactor as required by the government in July to withstand major earthquakes or tsunami in the wake of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant triggered by the March earthquake and tsunami. After examining about 100 pieces of equipment, the utility found that the reactor's cooling system to protect fuel rods is capable of withstanding an earthquake 1.86 times the strongest assumed seismic wave of 570 gals in the location, it said, adding that important buildings at the plant will not be flooded by tsunami of up to 14.2 meters high. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency will examine the results of the stress tests. As the test results will also be examined by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is unclear when the utility will be able to resume operation of the reactor. Shikoku Electric Power was the second utility to submit the results of stress tests after Kansai Electric Power Co. reported last month on the results of such tests on the No. 3 reactor at its Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Safety cost for each nuclear reactor projected at 19.4 bil. yen
In this March 11, 2011 file photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., tsunami waves come toward heavy oil tanks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The antidisaster measures the government has required nuclear power plant operators to take in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis would cost 19.4 billion yen per state-of-the-art reactor, government panel projections showed Monday. That would translate into a total of roughly 950 billion yen if the costs of taking such measures for all 49 reactors in the country were added up, excluding the six units at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s disaster-hit complex in Fukushima Prefecture. The projections, which calculated the costs of required measures, including those aimed at preventing a reactor core meltdown in the event of complete power loss, will be reported to a meeting of a cost-examining panel under the government's Energy and Environment Council on Tuesday. The projections were made after a panel member said the costs of nuclear power generation should include those for necessary safety measures. Their sheer amount suggests enormous expenses associated with operating nuclear reactors despite electric power companies' argument that nuclear power is a cheaper source of energy than thermal power, such as liquefied natural gas and coal.
In this June 12, 2011 photo released on July 5, 2011, by Tokyo Electric Power Co., masked workers in protective outfits prepare to drop a sliding concrete slab into a slit of the upper part of the sluice screen for the Unit 2 reactor at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, in their effort to decrease the leaking of radiation contaminated water into the ocean. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) The 19.4 billion yen needed to take necessary antidisaster measures for each state-of-the-art reactor
includes 11.8 billion yen needed to prevent a meltdown of the core even if electric power and seawater-based reactor cooling functions are all lost in a tsunami. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission, another government panel, has said a severe accident at a nuclear plant would add up to 1.6 yen per kilowatt-hour to the cost of nuclear power generation in Japan. The cost included costs for decommissioning an atomic plant, which had never been considered previously. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Hackers may have stolen IDs, PWs for all Japanese lower house members
The first meeting of a public-private committee on defending against cyber attacks convenes at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Oct. 25. (Mainichi) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Hackers may have stolen login IDs and passwords for all Japanese House of Representative lawmakers and their secretaries and read e-mails to some of them, a lower house report said Monday. The report said a file of coded IDs and passwords for all lower house members and their secretaries has been found in the personal computer that was infected first with a virus and became available for operation by hackers, according to the lower house secretariat. Hackers accessed relevant mail servers more than 10 times between Aug. 24 and Sept. 7, indicating they may have read some lawmakers' e-mails, it said. A total of 32 personal computers and servers have been found infected, although no trace of information leaks has been confirmed. Virus-infected computers accessed unlawful websites in China and Singapore, the report said. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
TEPCO shareholders ask firm auditors to sue 61 directors
Tokyo Electric Power Co. headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- More than 40 shareholders of Tokyo Electric Power Co. asked auditors of the utility on Monday to file a lawsuit against 61 current and former board members to have them pay a total of 5.5 trillion yen to the company as their negligence in safety caused huge losses resulting from the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant, a lawyer representing the shareholders said. In the written request, 42 shareholders said that the company, known as TEPCO, should use funds, to be recovered through the lawsuit, for compensation for victims of the accident caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that crippled the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the lawyer said. The shareholders are set to sue the 61 directors, including current Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, if the auditors fail to deliver on the request within 60 days. The 61 individuals are board members since July 2002 when a government study panel warned that an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 could occur in such locations as off the Sanriku region in northeastern Japan.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO) Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, right, speaks during a news conference at the company's head office in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye) Although TEPCO calculated in 2008 that a tsunami of 15.7 meters could hit the nuclear power plant if a magnitude-8.3 quake occurred off Fukushima Prefecture, the board members failed to take countermeasures such as raising the height of tsunami barriers protecting the plant, the shareholders were quoted as saying in the request. TEPCO declined to comment. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
96-year-old journalist still hopeful in face of nuclear disaster
Takeji Muno (Mainichi) "This is where my alma mater, the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages, used to be located," 96year-old journalist Takeji Muno said when he arrived at the Palaceside Building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, home to the Mainichi Newspapers headquarters. "It's also where I was when the Feb. 26 Incident took place." He added, referring to the attempted coup d'etat by Japanese military troops in 1936. Muno came accompanied by his son and used a cane, but his voice was full of life. "We knew from our experiences with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the use of nuclear energy would produce radioactive materials that would threaten people's lives. Was it right for us to use that nuclear power toward economic and industrial expansion?" asked Muno, a journalist of 75 years. "What we should have done is thoroughly consider this question when nuclear energy was adopted in the 1950s. But all we heard was the 'safety myth,' that with the power of science, it was possible to keep damage to a minimum. Politicians, bureaucrats and the media contributed to the creation of that myth. We must not gloss over this fact. We have to look it straight in the eye." Before and during World War II, Muno reported from the battlefields in China and Southeast Asia as a reporter for Hochi Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun. On Aug. 15, 1945, the day the war ended, he quit his job at Asahi. In his book, "Taimatsu juroku-nen" (Sixteen years of Taimatsu), Muno explained the motivation for his resignation: "As individual journalists and as a newspaper company, we lent a hand to the execution of war. Even if it was not our true intention to do so, even if our cooperation was passive..." Muno decided he could not keep his comfortable position at the paper knowing that he was partly responsible for the war. He returned to his hometown in Akita Prefecture, began to publish the weekly newspaper Taimatsu, and has spoken out about various issues to this day. It is because of this that Muno's criticisms of mass media sting. "What happened at the newspaper during the war is that people were self censoring their articles. Because saying certain things would result in military pressure, we tied ourselves down. It was a 'loss of self' for the newspaper, or in other words, 'suicide.' Didn't the newspapers repeat the same mistake with the nuclear plants, having taken care not to step on the toes of the power companies who were their advertisers?" Muno said in a single breath. And then: "Let me rest for a moment," and took a sip of his coffee. As I sat overwhelmed by Muno's vigor, I recalled something he wrote in another one of his books, "Kibo wa zetsubo no domannaka ni" (Hope lies in the middle of despair).
"Journalism, in my opinion, serves as a twice-daily adviser to the people. It's one of the important bonds that tie the individual to the whole," Muno wrote. "Its mission, more than anything, is to shed light on the causes, processes and results of society's ever-emerging dynamics, and reveal the path by which each result gives way to the next cause... Business corporations in the news industry are moving away from its original essence and mission at an increasingly rapid pace. Meanwhile, agony continues to grow within the social landscape." So is there no way out for journalism, which failed to prevent the ongoing nuclear crisis? "What you need to do is go back to where you started," Muno answered. "Soon after I became a newspaper reporter, a more experienced reporter told me that articles about the 'beauty of nature' make it into the paper, but those are just summaries of what happened, and don't constitute news that goes into the causes and processes of what's happening. The mass media today still continues to base their stories on announcements made by the government and the police. If I had another body, I'd want to produce a newspaper with younger journalists that would be read by younger readers." Muno, who has stomach and lung cancer, seemed cheered by the thought. "Whenever something happens in this country, the subject (doer) and accountability disappear. We say that it's the fault of the state, society, or someone else," said Muno. Who was responsible, and how were they supposed to fulfill that responsibility? When was that issue supposed to be debated? Muno said that these questions always go unanswered. "After World War II ended, people in both cities and rural villages worked frantically. Japan lost its colonies and had no money or resources. The military industry was outlawed. I, too, worked feverishly with rural youth to create a local community that made sense to us. People valued each other and suffered together as we sought joy and hope." And it was thanks to such a foundation that Japan was able to enter a period of rapid economic growth. Peace industries such as televisions, refrigerators and cars expanded exponentially. "But," Muno continued, "this country didn't do something that it should have done when it lost the war. It did not administer justice for its own war crimes, and have not extended sincere apologies to the countries that it mistreated. In my opinion, there were certain historical steps that should have been taken, but this country sidestepped them. Japan accomplished a miraculous reconstruction, but it left out the basics." Writes Muno in the aforementioned "Kibo": The punitive justice handed down by history is harsh. History may allow regression to those who fail to carry out what they should as human beings, but it does not allow such people to go forward." These are sobering words. They sound like a rebuke against the politicians, bureaucrats, scientists and the media forced to partake in serious self reflection to avoid another crisis like the one ongoing at the Fukushima plant. "The people who allowed this disaster to happen must take responsibility," Muno said. The veteran journalist lives not far from where he was born, in the Akita Prefecture city of Yokote, an area full of rice paddies and fields. Coming from a line of Tohoku region natives, he has more than a few things to say about the history of Japan's northeast. "For generations, the Tohoku region has been subject to discrimination under Japan's power structure. Particularly since the Meiji Restoration, Tohoku has been treated like a colony, evident in the attitude that "each mountain north of the Shirakawa area of Fukushima Prefecture is barely worth a penny" (as suggested by feudal domain leaders in western Japan who collaborated to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate). When I lived in Tokyo, women from Tohoku were sold to (the red-light district) Yoshiwara whenever there was a lean rice harvest, and many men who went to Tokyo were ridiculed for their Tohoku dialect and committed suicide," said Muno. "The nuclear power plant, too -- why wasn't it built in the middle of Tokyo? What happened was that the
government and TEPCO tricked the people of Tohoku and built it there." In the areas hit hardest by the March 11 disasters, entire homes were washed away and many people were killed. Close to the stricken power plant, not all the dead bodies have been recovered. Massive numbers of people have been left to wander, without homes. And still, Japanese politics remains in disarray. "The state is focused on maintaining a nation deeply in debt, and is not protecting its citizens. No god, Buddha, philosopher or revolutionary is going to tell us what to do," Muno said, but added that he wasn't pessimistic. "The only thing is for each and every ordinary person to take action," he said. "It's through everyone's efforts that we eliminate everyone's pain and sadness. Together, we'll create joy and hope. We have to work together, and the emphasis is on 'we.' If we keep at it without giving up, even in the face of despair, we'll break through the wall and let a ray of hope shine through." (By Mamoru Shishido, Evening Edition Department) Click here for the original Japanese story (Mainichi Japan) November 13, 2011
特集ワイド：日本よ！悲しみを越えて ジャーナリスト・ むのたけじさん
むの・たけじ １９１５年、秋田県六郷町（現美郷町）生まれ。本名・武野武治。４８年 に週刊新聞「たいまつ」を発行し、主幹を務める。現在は休刊中。著書に「詞集たいまつ」 「いのち守りつなぐ世へ」など。＝三浦博之撮影 ＜この国はどこへ行こうとしているのか＞
「ここは戦前、私が卒業した東京外国語学校のあったところ。２・２６事件も、この場 所で経験しました」 １９３６年に起きた陸軍青年将校らによる反乱事件の思い出話を、さらりと口にする。 東京・竹橋のパレスサイドビル。むのたけじさんはつえを突き、次男に付き添われて現れ たが、大きな声には精気がみなぎっている。
ペンを握り続け７５年。９６歳の現役ジャーナリストは、東京電力福島第１原発事故の 「責任」の所在をまず問うた。 「原子力エネルギーを扱えば放射性物質が出て人間の命に脅威を与えることは、広島・ 長崎の原爆経験で分かっていた。その原子力で経済や産業を活発 にして良かったか。本 来、１９５０年代の原発導入時に徹底的に検討すべきだった。ところが我々が耳にしたの は、科学の力を尽くせば被害を最小限にとどめ得 るという安全神話。政治家、官僚、マ スコミがその神話づくりに協力した。この事実をごまかしてはダメだ。真っすぐに見つめ ないといけない」 １５０センチの体から放たれる言葉に気迫がこもる。 戦前戦中、報知や朝日の新聞記者として中国、東南アジアの戦場を取材した。４５年８ 月１５日の終戦の日、朝日新聞社を去る。その心情を、著書「た いまつ十六年」（岩波 現代文庫）にこう記している。＜個々の記者としても新聞社全体としても戦争の遂行に手 助けした、かりにそれは本意ではなく消極的に協 力しただけというものであっても…… ＞ 責任を感じながら、のうのうと社に居残ることはできなかった。秋田県に帰郷し、週刊 新聞の「たいまつ」を発行、地域に根ざした言論活動を続けてきた。そんなむのさんだか らこそ、自らの古巣であるマスメディアに対する口調はひときわ厳しい。 「戦時中、新聞社内で何が行われたかといえば、記事の自己規制です。余計なことを書 けば軍部から圧力がかかると、自らを縛りつけてしまった。新聞 社の『自己喪失』、言 い換えれば『自殺』がその実態でしたな。原発についても広告主の電力会社を気遣って、 同じ過ちを繰り返してしまったのではないでしょ うか」 一気にそう語り、「ちょっと休ませて」とホットコーヒーを一口すすった。 その迫力に圧されながら、むのさんの「希望は絶望のど真ん中に」（岩波新書）にある 一節を思い出していた。 ＜ジャーナリズムは、私の考えでは民衆生活の朝夕の相談相手ですな。個体と全体をつ なげる絆の大切な一本ですな。世の中の続発する動態についてそ の原因と過程と結果を 明らかにして、さらに一つの結果が次の新しい原因となる筋道を明らかにする作業、これ が何よりの任務です。（略）報道産業の株式会社 たちはますます急速に本来の性質や任 務から離れていき、そして社会情勢はますます深刻な苦悶（くもん）を増やしていく…… ＞ 原発事故を防げなかったジャーナリズムに「活路」はないのか。 「原点に立ち返ればいいんです。新聞記者になり立てのころ、先輩記者に『花鳥風月を 書けば新聞に載るけど、それは日々の出来事をまとめたトピック スであって、出来事の 原因やその過程を掘り下げたニュースではない』と教えられました。今のマスメディアは 相変わらず、行政や警察の発表モノばかりを書い ている。私に体がもう一つあったら、 若者に読まれる新聞を一緒に作りたいねえ」 胃と肺にがんを患うむのさんは一瞬、うれしそうな表情を浮かべた。 「この国では何か問題が起きた時、主語と責任が抜け落ちてしまう。国家、世の中、他 人が悪いと」。むのさんはそう言う。誰が、どんな責任を負うべきなのか。そして、それ をいつ議論すべきか。 「終戦後、日本は都市も農村も、必死に働いた。植民地を失い、金も資源もない。軍事
産業も禁止された。私も農村の若者と一緒に納得いく地域共同体を作ろうと無我夢中でし た。人が人を大切にして、一緒に悩み苦しみ、喜びや希望を求めていた」 その時代を土台に日本は高度経済成長期を迎え、テレビや冷蔵庫、自動車といった平和 産業を発展させた。 「ただ」とむのさん。「この国は敗戦時にやらねばならないことをやらなかった。自ら 戦争犯罪を裁かず、迷惑をかけた国々に真摯（しんし）におわび していない。私が思う に、歴史には必ず踏み上がらないといけない階段があるのに、この国はそれをすっぽかし てしまった。奇跡の復興を遂げたけれども、根本 が欠けていた」 著書「希望は……」に、こんな一節がある。 ＜歴史の下す因果応報の裁きはきびしい。人が人として必ずやらねばならぬことをやり 遂げない人に対しては、後退させることはあっても、歴史の道を前へ進ませない＞ 厳しい言葉だ。原発事故を二度と繰り返さないために、自己検証を迫られている政治家、 官僚、科学者、マスメディアに向けられたやいばとも言える。 「この事故に加担した者たちは、きちんとけじめをつけないといけないんです」 雪で作った洞「かまくら」で知られる秋田県横手市で暮らす。田んぼと畑に囲まれた農 村地帯だ。先祖代々、農民として東北の地に根ざしてきた身は、その歴史についても黙っ ていられない。 「東北は昔から、日本の権力構造の中で差別されてきました。特に明治維新以降は『白 河以北は一山百文』と言われ、植民地の扱いを受けてきたんで す。私が東京にいたころ、 コメが不作になれば東北の女性は吉原に売られ、上京した男性は東北弁をあざ笑われて、 自殺した者もうんといた。原発も、なぜ東京 のど真ん中に造らなかったの？ 東北の民 衆をごまかしながら、国や東電が東北に造り上げたわけでしょう」 津波で土台から家が押し流され、多数の犠牲者を出した今回の地震。原発周辺では、い まだに遺体さえ収容し切れておらず、大勢の人々が流浪の民と化している。にもかかわら ず肝心の政治は混迷したままではないか。 「今の国家は借金だらけのこの国を維持することに懸命で、国民を守っていない。じゃ あどうすると教えてくれる神様仏様、哲学者、革命家だって現れやしない」と語るむのさ んだが、悲観はしていないという。 「平凡な人間１人ずつが動くしかない。みんなの苦しみ、悲しみはみんなの努力でなく していく。喜び、希望はみんなで作る。『みんな』をキーワード に連帯活動をしていく。 絶望の中でも何事もあきらめずに粘り強くやれば、その壁はやがて破れ、希望の光が差し てくるのです」【宍戸護】 ＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝
email@example.com ファクス０３・３２１２・０２７９ ＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝＝ ■人物略歴
１９１５年、秋田県六郷町（現美郷町）生まれ。本名・武野武治。４８年に週刊新聞 「たいまつ」を発行し、主幹を務める。現在は休刊中。著書に「詞集たいまつ」「いのち 守りつなぐ世へ」など。 毎日新聞 2011 年 10 月 28 日 東京夕刊
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東京電力：汚泥焼却灰の保管費用補償へ 関東甲信自治体に 安達太良山：錦秋の絶景 福島・二本松 大飯原発：３号機の安全評価結果を提出、定検中で初めて 記者の目：日本初「原子の灯」東海村の挑戦＝大久保陽一 放射線基準：個別規制値、より厳しく 厚労省で本格議論へ
Noda says Japan may not join TPP talks if national interests damaged
APEC leaders (L-R) South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Mexican Economy Secretary Bruno Ferrari, U.S. President Barack Obama, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Philippines President Benigo Aquino III, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and Taiwanese Special Envoy Dr. Lien Chan wave after a group photo during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Kapolei, Hawaii on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda indicated Tuesday he may decide not to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks if he deems Japan's entry into the negotiations would hurt the national interest. Noda's remark was apparently aimed at fending off concerns that Japan's planned participation in the TPP talks could raise the risk of damaging the protected farm sector at home and bring drastic changes to the country's health insurance system. "We don't have to join the (TPP) negotiations at the price of hurting the national interest," Noda said during a parliamentary session, emphasizing Tokyo will not reach a final decision in a hasty manner. The prime minister announced Friday that Japan will begin consultations with TPP members toward participation in the negotiations, stressing the necessity to boost high-level free trade agreements to prop up the nation's flagging economy. Noda was quoted in a U.S. government statement as saying during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Honolulu on Saturday that he "would put all goods, as well as services, on the
negotiating table for trade liberalization." "It's not true and the U.S. side has admitted it. I never said such a thing," Noda said, repeatedly arguing that he was misquoted by Washington. Shrugging off fears the TPP rule-making discussions could be dominated by the United States, Noda added, "We're never in a circumstance where we will be forced to obey U.S. rules." As for whether Japan will seek to set an exception to removing the tariff on rice in the TPP talks, Noda said the government will "respond in a common-sense manner," acknowledging he believes rice is "a sensitive item." Noda also pledged to protect the nation's long-maintained public health insurance system, saying Japan would reject any request for fundamental changes to its health insurance system.
Holding placards reading, "Protect Japanese land and food," farmers from tsunami-hit Miyagi Prefecture shout slogans against the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone (TPP) on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) "We will stand firm to protect our country's system in negotiations," he said. Denying the view that the TPP is intended to form a coalition against China, Noda said, "I don't have any intention of making a preventive move against China, and our basic stance is to promote a high-level economic partnership with China as well." Noda added that Japan's starting discussions as a step toward joining the TPP talks could "accelerate (economic partnerships) between Japan, China and South Korea." He also expressed hope the TPP could lead to stability in terms of security in the Asia-Pacific region. The TPP, originally an agreement between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, is among the various undertakings seen in the region to realize economic integration. Negotiations to expand the agreement have been under way with five countries -- major agricultural exporters the United States and Australia, and also Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam. In Japan, many lawmakers remain skeptical about whether the nation should join the talks, which pursue a high level of trade liberalization such as by requiring member economies in principle to scrap all tariffs. (Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
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