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December 31, 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 second series, "The Researcher's Resignation" considers the question, "Who owns information?" The series was written by Takaaki Yorimitsu and Kentaro Uechi. *** 1. 'I'll go first for the measurements' It was the afternoon of March 11. Shinzo Kimura, 44, was at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan (JNIOSH) in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit. Kimura is a researcher and an expert in radiation hygiene. He is involved in studies on the radiation exposure of physicians and nurses, and on-site investigations of the Chernobyl accident. After the major tremor, Kimura ran to the TV, shouting, "What happened to the nuclear power station?" TV reports said it was all right. He was unable to reach his family living in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, until 2 a.m. the next morning. The next day, March 12, was a Saturday. He was able to see his family and went shopping with his 3-year-old son in the afternoon. When he returned home, his wife told him, "There's been an explosion at the nuclear power plant." Kimura flew into action. He changed into a suit and told his son, "Daddy will be gone for a while." He returned to the institute and prepared to enter the accident site. The first thing to do to protect residents from radioactivity is to take measurements. That called for speed. The more time that goes by, the more immeasurable radioactive materials become. While hurriedly getting ready, Kimura sent e-mails to the four researchers he most trusted, Tetsuji Imanaka and Hiroaki Koide, both at Kyoto University; Toshihiro Takatsuji at Nagasaki University; and Satoru Endo at Hiroshima University. "I appealed to them," Kimura said. "I wrote that, if investigations aren't going to be made now, then when? I told them I was going to take samples and asked them to analyze them." He said he chose the best. "All of them told me they were on board. Mr. Koide was the first to respond. He told me that though he couldn't go to the site, he would do everything to help. The responses from the others
came one after another." Figuring he would need a way to publicize the collected data, Kimura also sent that appeal to some old acquaintances--three directors of Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), including Kiyoshi Nanasawa, 54. His cellphone soon rang. It was from Nanasawa, who had been trying to contact all the researchers he knew. "We're considering airing a special program," Nanasawa asked. "Will you help us?" On March 13, they met in Ichikawa. As Kimura was saying goodbye after their meeting, he received a mass e-mail on his cellphone from the institute, which is an independent administrative institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The message stated, "Although there are many actions that can be taken, such as measuring radioactivity and other substances, please abide by the instructions given by this ministry and the institute. Do not take any unauthorized action." Kimura was the only expert on radioactivity at the institute. He was sure the e-mail was meant for him. He understood that it was sent out to stop him from going to the site.
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-1
Previous ArticleNISA puts off Fukui reactor stress test decision ● Next ArticleThe Prometheus Trap/ A new series November 15, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / 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.
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-2: Radiation information did not make it to residents
Prometheus Trap/ A new series ● Next ArticleRadiation-fearing residents take matters into own hands
November 16, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
On March 13, after the 25 people had left the Kanno's home, the majority of evacuees still remained in the Tsushima district. At 5:44 a.m. on March 12, the evacuation order was expanded to cover a radius of 10 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. After the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 nuclear reactor, the evacuation order was widened to 20 km at 6:25 p.m. However, at a news conference on the evening of March 12, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, "There will be no leakage of radioactive material in a large quantity. Persons in areas outside of the 20-km radius will not be affected." The statement effectively meant that the incident was insignificant but that people in the area are urged to take shelter as a precautionary measure. People believed that the Tsushima district, 30 km away, was safe. On March 12 and 13, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees visited the Tsushima branch office in Namie to make a status report. They were not wearing protective clothing, and they did not say the area was dangerous. Their demeanor was quite different from that of the men Mizue Kanno had met. Neither the workers in the town hall nor the head of the district had seen the men in protective clothing that Kanno had seen. However, she had carefully made note of what she had seen and heard. Early on the morning on March 15, following the blast heard at the No. 3 reactor the previous day, a loud boom was heard at the No. 2 reactor, and then the No. 4 reactor building exploded. For the first time, the government requested that people within a 20- to 30-km radius "take refuge indoors." That is when the residents of the Tsushima district evacuated. Mayor Tamotsu Baba found out about the explosion at the No. 3 reactor on March 14 from TV reports and decided to implement voluntary evacuations to the neighboring city, Nihonmatsu, from the next day. On the morning of March 15 at 9 a.m., very high levels of radiation of 11,930 microsieverts per hour were observed at the main gate to the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Despite this, Edano's statements were optimistic. "The concentration of radioactive material at distances exceeding 20 km is considerably weakened. The impact on the human body is small or negligible." "At present, water is steadily being pumped into reactors Nos. 1, 2 and 3, which is having a
cooling effect." It was not until later that the people of Japan were told about the meltdown that had occurred at the nuclear reactors on March 12. On the morning of March 12, police officers in charge of traffic control at Namie were wearing protective clothing. "Why are the police dressed like that?" The residents were apprehensive. The chairman of the Namie town assembly, Kazuhiro Yoshida, 65, went to the Tsushima district police substation and asked that the police refrain from wearing the protective clothing because it was making residents nervous. Yoshida says, "We were the only ones who weren't informed." 'Isn't this murder?' There is a computer simulation system named SPEEDI that the government spent 13 billion yen ($166 million) to create. When factors such as radiation quantity, geography, weather and wind direction are entered, the system immediately determines information that includes the direction in which leaked radioactive materials will flow. On March 12, two hours before the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor, the Nuclear Safety Technology Center (NUSTEC), which is supervised by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, had already run that simulation. Radioactive materials were shown to disperse in the direction of the Tsushima district. However, the government did not inform the residents. Fukushima Prefecture, however, was aware of the SPEEDI results. On the night of March 12, the prefecture had called NUSTEC in Tokyo asking for information and received the results by email. However, that information was not used and at some point the e-mail message was erased, and even the record of receiving the message remains uncertain. The residents who fled the Tsushima district on March 15 were told about the SPEEDI results by the prefecture two months later, on May 20. The issue arose because the facts of the matter were coming under question in the prefectural assembly. On May 20, the department chief from Fukushima Prefecture in charge of the matter visited the Towa branch office in Nihonmatsu, where the functions of Namie town hall had been moved, to offer an explanation. "Isn't this murder?" Mayor Baba voiced his strong disapproval. According to Baba, the prefectural department chief shed tears as he apologized for not communicating the SPEEDI results. The results acquired from SPEEDI were not the only information that was not made known. Fukushima Prefecture began measuring radiation levels at various locations from early in the morning on March 12, the day after the Fukushima nuclear accident. At 9 a.m. on the same day, measurements in the Sakai district in Namie registered 15 microsieverts/h, and 14 microsieverts/h in the Takase district. Compared with other towns, those two areas in Namie showed extremely high readings. It was more than six hours before the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor, and there were many evacuees nearby. These readings were uploaded to the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on June 3. However, the figures were buried among the multitude of other data on the website and their importance was overlooked. In late August, when that data was shown to Kazuo Ueda, the head of the disaster relief headquarters in Namie, he was astounded. "This is the first time I've seen this. Why didn't the national and the prefectural governments tell us?" Kanno said, "Perhaps we were forsaken by the national government?" (The third part will appear on Nov. 21.)
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-3: 'Am I going to die?'
sludge keeps piling up amid radiation concerns ● Next ArticleScreeners demand review of Monju fast breeder reactor
November 21, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
This is the third installment of an eight-part series looking at the fate and experiences of 25 people who evacuated to Mizue Kanno's home in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Each installment is interconnected. *** Where did the 25 people who stayed with Mizue Kanno go after leaving her home? One of them, Misako Yatsuda, 62, is taking shelter in municipal housing in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture. She is a distant relative of Kanno and has a house in the Onoda district in Namie. Yatsuda's house is closer to the sea, approximately 20 kilometers from Kanno's home. It lies within 10 km of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. On the afternoon of March 11, the earthquake struck while Yatsuda was at home. Early the next morning on March 12, her younger daughter rushed to Yatsuda's home from the neighboring town of Futaba where she lived with her family, telling Yatsuda that it was dangerous to stay and they should flee. At 9 a.m., they left her home. National road No. 114, which leads to the Tsushima district and Kanno's home, was already gridlocked. They got on national road No. 6 and headed north toward her oldest daughter's home in the Odaka district of Minami-Soma. There they heard about the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor and everyone set out again toward the Tsushima district of Namie. They reached Kanno's home a little past 6 p.m. when other evacuees had finished eating their dinner of rice balls. Though Yatsuda was tired from driving all day, she participated in the meeting of evacuees. It was Yatsuda who suggested that used toilet paper should be thrown away in the cardboard box next to the toilet. She proposed that rule for communal living based on her experience of traveling in Mexico. However, her relief at reaching shelter was brief. She soon heard from Kanno about the warning given by the men in white protective clothing. Her younger daughter's family of seven, which included a 1-month-old newborn, and her older daughter's family of four fled in the middle of the night. The following evening on March 13, Yatsuda also left. She had no place to go, but she headed for Koriyama, thinking that she should get as far away as possible. At Koriyama, officials were measuring the radioactivity of the people who had come seeking refuge. When the instrument was placed near Yatsuda, the needle jumped. She cried out to the person taking the reading, "Am I going to die?" That night, she slept in her car. On the morning of March 15, she was finally able to reach her 54-year-old husband by cellphone. He had been in Soma at the time of the earthquake. They met up in Aizu-Wakamatsu and made their way via Niigata Prefecture to Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, where her older sister lives, on March 22. It was a 12-day ordeal undertaken without any clear direction from either the national
government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant. "The nuclear power plant is safe." They had heard that said many times before. Their whole life, which had been based on that belief, had crumbled. However, it is a fact that the residents benefited from the nuclear power plant. "We can't say that the nuclear power plant is entirely to blame," Yatsuda said with a sigh. Covered with flies Yatsuda was born and raised in Namie. TEPCO began building the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant when she was a junior high school student. After graduating from high school, she moved to Tokyo to work but returned to Namie a year and a half later. From then on, her life was colored by TEPCO. She married and raised three children while running a yakitori restaurant. Her customers were workers at the nuclear plant. Later, she worked in the TEPCO company dormitory. She worked there for 10 years until summer last year. She made meals and was adored by the young employees, who affectionately called her "Yatsudacchi." Aya Sameshima from the women's soccer team Nadeshiko Japan, was among those who lived in the girls' dormitory. "They were all good girls and sweet." After she had finished raising her own children, she worked and lived in the TEPCO dormitory for managerial staff. She remembers the effort that TEPCO had put in at election time. When there was an election for a mayor or the prefectural assembly, the dormitory dining room became a waiting area for TEPCO executives. When the candidate of choice was elected, the executives would all go out to celebrate. She was struck by the sense that "the power company was firmly entwined with the political circle." Up to that point, more than half her life had involved TEPCO. In spite of that fact, there was absolutely no information forthcoming from TEPCO about the accident. Once they fled to Kasugai, there was even less information available. They had the local paper from Fukushima Prefecture sent to them by mail, and read it inside and out. What will their life be like from now on? What about compensation? They were filled with anxiety. In June, they temporarily returned to their home in Namie. Their refrigerator was overturned, just as it had been after the earthquake, and the rotting food was covered with flies. In late August, they returned once more to Fukushima to retrieve their car. Her husband drove the eight hours by expressway from Kasugai. They changed into protective clothing at the gymnasium in the town of Hirono and boarded the provided bus. When the bus stopped, two dogs wearing collars approached them. Along the way, they saw two cats lying dead on the side of the road. "A single misstep, and perhaps that could have been us." After the accident, Yatsuda's family scattered. Her oldest daughter went to Koriyama and the younger daughter to Niigata. In September, she and her husband applied to live in temporary housing in Fukushima Prefecture. "Fukushima has been my home for decades. I want to go home," said Yatsuda with tears in her eyes. *** Following are URLs for previous installments: Introduction (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516734) First installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516540) Second installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111616820)
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-4: Daughter urged parents to flee to Tokyo
Previous ArticleResearchers say pond plant may help clean Fukushima ● Next ArticleWorkers suspended cooling device November 23, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
at Fukushima plant
This is the fourth installment of an eight-part series looking at the fate and experiences of Mizue Kanno in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, and 25 people who evacuated to her home, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Each installment is interconnected. *** One couple fled from place to place at the urging of their daughter living in Tokyo, who communicated with them by cellphone. Hiroshi Monma, 67, and his wife, Shoko, 68, had sought shelter at Mizue Kanno's home. Their house is located in the Gongendo district of Namie, which lies within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. On the morning of March 12, the community wireless station for disaster prevention announced that residents should evacuate to the Tsushima district. They fled by car to the home of their acquaintance Kanno's home. They arrived at her home before noon. Shoko helped Kanno prepare dinner, making rice balls. After dinner, the 25 evacuees introduced themselves. There were several people they knew among them. When they heard Kanno's story about the men wearing white protective clothing, the couple was slow to leave and was left behind. However, the next morning on March 13, they were urged once again by Kanno to flee and left her home before lunchtime. They had decided to head north and set out for Minami-Soma. The convenience stores and other shops were closed. They found a restaurant and ate a meal of natto (fermented soybeans). They finally found lodging after being turned away at three hotels. The night of March 14, they boarded a plane at Fukushima Airport and met up with their oldest daughter Mariko, 36, in Tokyo on March 15. After the earthquake, Mariko had repeatedly tried to call her parents on their cellphones. Immediately following the earthquake on March 11, she was only able to make contact once. Since then, she could only communicate with them via e-mail. However, at 8:43 a.m. on March 12 her e-mail messages went unanswered. Mariko frantically searched for any new information about the nuclear accident on TV and the Internet, and continued sending e-mail messages to her parents: "I'm praying to God that you are both safe." At 9 p.m. on March 12, the day when the hydrogen explosion occurred at the No. 1 reactor, Mariko saw an expert on TV saying everything was all right. She sent the message, "It's been determined that the explosion only occurred at the outer walls and there was no radioactive leak." It was a terrible mistake. On March 13 when her parents sought refuge in Minami-Soma, she sent them an e-mail message. "The radioactivity has reached as far as Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture. It's not safe there either. Come to Tokyo." Then at noon on March 14: "The No. 3 reactor exploded at 11:30 a.m. Come quickly to Tokyo." Her father answered, "It's not necessary to go that far, is it?" Mariko chided him saying, "Just
come quickly!" Not one of the people in a position of responsibility tried to help her parents. That feeling of distrust still plagues Mariko. They can't sing 'Furusato' Hiroshi Monma, who had evacuated to Kanno's home, is a retired high school teacher. His involvement in the anti-nuclear power movement began 40 years earlier when the Fukushima No. 1 plant was built. The movement began when three residents gathered at the public housing complex in the town of Naraha where he lived at the time. They repeatedly argued against the dangers with the prefectural governor, the town mayor and others. For several years they had held talks with Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) once a month, and another discussion had been scheduled for March 22. Monma, joined a group of 404 that brought a lawsuit against the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, but the group lost. He still clearly remembers the words spoken at that time by the presiding judge of the Sendai High Court. "You need to stop your constant protests and calmly consider the matter, because nuclear power generation cannot be halted." That was 21 years ago. The illusion that nuclear power plants are safe has been abruptly shattered. "TEPCO's presumptions were naive. How much harm has been done to all these people because of that? How do they plan on taking responsibility for it?" Yet, there is a similar unease with the notion of the Namie town government calling this accident "an act of murder" and railing against the nation and TEPCO. There is a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Namie. The plan was initially proposed by Tohoku Electric Power Co. 40 years ago in response to the town assembly, which had tried to lure one. Last year during a gathering of the neighborhood association, a town assembly member looked at Monma and said, "The nuclear power plant will create a bright future for Namie, although you might be against this." When they temporarily returned to their house in July, they took a radioactive reading. Near their home, it was 4 microsieverts per hour. There is a large persimmon tree in the field, which was planted when their oldest daughter was born. In some years, it produced more than 300 persimmons. "We can no longer eat the fruit. It's contaminated now." About 30 years ago, they borrowed a town gymnasium and asked a theatrical troupe from Tokyo to perform a play about an accidental radioactive leak. The story was about the residents trying to escape after a nuclear accident. That story became reality, and the couple has been forced to settle into a housing complex in Tokyo's Kita Ward. The 135,000-yen ($1,740) rent is expensive, but they decided to live there since it is close to their daughter's home. They are paying the rent with the temporary payment of 1 million yen they received from TEPCO. Hiroshi has been fond of singing in a chorus since living in Fukushima. He discovered a choir event in July in Kita Ward and joined it with his wife. They sang the well-known song "Furusato" (My hometown). "The mountain where I chased rabbits …" Hiroshi and Shoko, overwhelmed, could not finish the song. *** Following are URLs for previous installments: Introduction (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516734) First installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516540) Second installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111616820) Third installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011112117045a)
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
The Prometheus Trap/ Men in Protective Clothing-5: 'I couldn't tell you then'
● Previous ArticleTEPCO: Radioactive substances belong to landowners, not us ● Next ArticleThe Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-6: Policeman forbidden from telling the truth
November 24, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
This is the fifth installment of an eight-part series looking at the fate and experiences of Mizue Kanno in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, and 25 people who evacuated to her home, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Each installment is interconnected. *** As a bride from the neighboring village of Iitate, Yasuko Sanpei came 55 years ago to live in the Akogi district of Namie. She knows Mizue Kanno as they are in a folk song group at the community center. Until early August, Sanpei, 77, lived alone in a house at the top of a narrow mountain road. Right after the March 11 earthquake, she fled with her oldest daughter and grandson who lived in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, to her granddaughter's one-room apartment in Kanagawa Prefecture. However, she could even hear noises from next door when the neighbors ate meals and felt she had to be careful of others. "At my age, living in a big city is uncomfortable," she said. She also worried about her dog and cat, so she returned to Akogi in the end of April. Around that time, there were still a few families remaining in the district, but after a while first one, then two, and finally all the other families left. When the police began restricting traffic near the 30-kilometer border from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, cars stopped driving by. It was lonely. Nights were pitch black. Even when she tried not to think about anything, her hands would shake, and she would have trouble swallowing her food. To distract herself, she would go for a drive, but the houses along the road were dark. Those drives became scary when she thought that no one would come to her rescue if she were to drive off the mountain road. On Sundays, men wearing work clothes with the logo "Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology" on the back came to the district to measure radiation levels. Sanpei would leave the house to meet their car and ask them, "What's the reading today?" "15 microsieverts (per hour)," one of them would casually said. "Will you measure my home, too?" On a different day, the man took measurements around her house. The reading outside the house was at 10 microsieverts/h, and was 5.5 microsieverts/h in the living room. The levels were much higher than normal. The man wrote the numbers down on a piece of paper and handed it to Sanpei. One Sunday in early June, out of the blue, the man said, "I can finally tell you this, but the radiation level at first exceeded 100 microsieverts/h in this area. I couldn't tell you then. I'm sorry."
After that, the man gave Sanpei a map of different districts that noted radioactive levels "for her reference." Still, Sanpei remained in Akogi until early August. "You can't see radioactivity, and even when told the readings, I couldn't understand what they meant." In the beginning of August, Sanpei left Akogi after she was selected to live in temporary housing in Nihonmatsu in the prefecture. However, she still travels the approximately 25 km by car to her home every two days to feed her dog and cat. *** Following are URLs for previous installments: Introduction (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516734) First installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516540) Second installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111616820) Third installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011112117045a) Fourth installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201111230063)
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
The Prometheus Trap / Men in Protective Clothing-6: Policeman forbidden from telling the truth
Prometheus Trap/ Men in Protective Clothing-5: 'I couldn't tell you then' Next ArticleCesium levels hit tens of billions of becquerels at river mouth
November 25, 2011 By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
This is the sixth installment of an eight-part series looking at the fate and experiences of Mizue Kanno in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, and 25 people who evacuated to her home, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Each installment is interconnected. *** On March 14, Kazuyo Sekiba, 52, fled to her relative's home in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. She had lived in the Minami-Tsushima district of Namie, near Mizue Kanno's home. Since no instructions for evacuation were given, she returned home on April 2, for the time being. After a few days, a Self-Defense Forces (SDF) jeep stopped in front of her house and an SDF serviceman got out. He said he had come to check on her safety. Around that time, it had been reported that the radiation levels in Namie were high. Concerned about the reports, she asked nervously, "How high are the readings around here?" The SDF man smiled and told her the area was fine. "We're wearing a dosimeter, so we know how much radiation we're exposed to each day." Sekiba felt relieved after hearing that. She stopped hiding in her house and went out into the neighborhood. On April 17 when she stood on a bridge near her home, a man walked toward her. It was Naomi Toyoda, 55, a freelance journalist. Sekiba asked him to measure the radiation levels at her home, and he began taking measurements around her yard. When he measured the area under the rain gutter in her entranceway, he stood up and exclaimed, "Wow. This is too bad." Sensing his hesitance, Sekiba asked Toyoda to tell her the truth. He told her, "In two hours, you would absorb 1 millisievert."
According to Toyoda, at that time the radiation level exceeded 500 microsieverts per hour. In just two hours a person would exceed the annual permissible exposure of 1 millisievert. Upon hearing a specific number for the first time, Sekiba at last realized just how serious it was. She hurriedly prepared to leave and fled her home, seen off by Toyoda. A few days later, when she returned home to get her cat, a patrol car of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department drove up. She said to the policeman, apparently in his 30s, "This area had a high level of radiation, didn't it?" "Yes, it was high. But I was forbidden to tell people by the government," he answered. Sekiba was shocked. What about what the SDF man in the jeep had told her? "If I had been his own family, could he have said the same thing? Wouldn't he immediately tell us to get away? Is it just someone else's problem?" In July, it was revealed that evidence had been hidden in the high-speed train accident in China. The Japanese media sharply criticized the Chinese government's responses. Sekiba said she is angry. "The situation in Japan is almost the same as in China." *** Following are URLs for previous installments: Introduction (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516734) First installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111516540) Second installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011111616820) Third installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011112117045a) Fourth installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011112317049a) Fifth installment (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2011112417236)
By MOTOYUKI MAEDA / Staff Writer
Prometheus Men in Protective Clothing Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant
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2. Saying nothing to family Kimura thought back to the criticality accident in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture, that occurred in 1999. At the time, Kimura was working at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) in Chiba city. He immediately tried to investigate with his colleagues, but did not receive permission. On his day off, he voluntarily investigated the vicinity and began laying the groundwork for a full-fledged investigation, but was admonished by his supervisor who told him not to go off on his own. "I looked at that e-mail on March 13 and thought it was the same as when I was at NIRS. If I repeated history, then I would regret it until the day I die--no, even after they put me in my coffin." He came to the conclusion that he would resign from the JNIOSH. "Without saying anything to my family, I immediately went to the institute and laid my letter of resignation on the desk of the director of general affairs." It was not a decision made lightly. After leaving NIRS when his five-year term was up, he became a painter after being a stay-at-home dad. Except for rainy days, he worked even on weekends. "I would sometimes get days off, saying 'I have to write a thesis paper in Tsukuba tomorrow,' or 'I am conducting an experiment at Kyoto University.' I was constantly checking the want ads for researchers." A year and a half later, he saw that NIRS was looking for an asbestos researcher. "Asbestosinduced mesothelioma is similar to symptoms caused by plutonium. I told them I don't know
about asbestos, but I'm knowledgeable about radioactivity. They hired me." He was 40 years old, and it was the first time that he had become a regular staff member. It was not a bad place to work, although he became upset when told to stop working on a Chernobyl research project because it was unrelated to occupational health. Kimura e-mailed his friends saying, "The project is scrapped, but I'll continue the research even if I have to pay for it myself." That was just before the nuclear accident. He was well aware of how difficult it is to find work. He couldn't bring himself to tell his wife that he had quit his job. He finally got up his courage to do so at the end of March. His wife's response was, "That's just like you." Junro Omori, 53, director of the ETV special program at NHK Education TV, was considering creating a show about the nuclear accident just after it occurred. He concluded he should seek help from Nanasawa, who was knowledgeable in nuclear power plants. Nanasawa had quit working on-site, to become a researcher at NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute. On March 14, he spoke with the producer, Hideki Masuda, 48, who gave the green light to immediately invite him. That evening, Nanasawa and Kimura showed up on the 6th floor at NHK in Tokyo's Shibuya district. Kimura had with him a lot of measuring equipment and protective gear. He asserted that he was going to the site the next day.
3. Raincoats and rain boots On March 15, Kimura, Nanasawa and Omori, both from NHK, drove to Fukushima in a van for an on-location shoot. Along the way, they bought rubber raincoats and knee-high rain boots, thinking it would be strange to show up in a residential area wearing protective clothing. They put on the boots, covering the upper part of them and the upper part of the legs with plastic bags and carefully sealing the gap between the bags and their raincoats with adhesive tape. Kimura instructed them to dress this way. He also brought five-layer masks containing activated carbon. They headed in the direction of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, while taking measurements of radiation dosage and soil samples for testing. The contamination was patchy. There were spots where the instruments that could read up to 300 microsieverts per hour were off the charts, but there were also places that measured rather low radioactivity considering their proximity to the nuclear plant. They stayed at an inn in the town of Miharu that was open for business and inspected the vicinity of the nuclear plant over a period of three days. The ETV special program producer, Masuda, joined them later, and they continued intermittent on-site inspections until March 29. Their objective was to create a map of the radioactive contamination for a show scheduled to air on April 3. The race to get the program on air was not a smooth one. The plan for the program was rejected at a station meeting held on March 22. Masuda panicked. A slot had opened up for the ETV special program to air on April 3, but he did not want to do a show unrelated to the disaster. After discussions with Nanasawa and the others, he decided to broadcast a dialogue between the nonfiction writer Shinobu Yoshioka and the writer Sokyu Genyu, who lives in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture. That was March 24. However, he had not given up on creating a show around the map of radioactive contamination. On March 25, Masuda contacted Omori. "We can enter an area within 30 kilometers." NHK had a self-imposed restriction of a 30-km area. Masuda mistakenly believed they were free to enter that area and later was forced to write a letter of apology. Omori rented a car in Koriyama, and the two drove around Namie, Katsurao, and Minami-Soma.
While creating a show called "Haisen to radio" (Defeat in war and the radio) the previous summer, Omori came to realize there had been danger lurking in the announcements given by the Imperial Headquarters. Why was it that during World War II the media could publicize announcements only from the Imperial Headquarters? Omori felt that the Imperial Headquarters' pronouncements about winning the war were similar to the government's current assurances that everything was fine. When announcements were made reminiscent of the Imperial Headquarters' pronouncements, he felt it was right to question them. Later reflection would lead to nothing. Even if there were high doses of radioactivity, wasn't it important to broadcast the true measurements? Those thoughts drove his actions.
4. These people have been abandoned' It was March 27. Nanasawa and Omori from NHK drove to the mountainous area of Namie in the rental car. In the western area outside of Hirusone Tunnel, the reading on an instrument that could measure up to 20 microsieverts/h went as high as it could go. They were certain no one would be around, but when they approached a house they found people at home. Surprised, Nanasawa asked why they were still there. The answer was, "There haven't been any instructions from the town." Masakatsu Amano, 70, a former Japanese cuisine chef, lived outside of the 20 km and believed the area to be safe. He had heart problems and did not think he could go to an evacuation shelter. He lived with his wife and dog. His phone was not working, so he was unable to contact anyone. He asked them to call his relatives when they reached an area where they could use cellphones. Amano told them that there were about 10 people who sought shelter in the nearby Akougi community hall. It was already nightfall. The men found 12 evacuees living at the meeting hall. Evacuees were skeptical. Nanasawa quoted them as saying, "Are you really from NHK? You haven't come to chase us out, have you?" The dosimeters that the two men had were showing higher and higher readings. Though they told the 12 evacuees that the radiation levels were high at that location, they refused to believe them. Each of them had different circumstances to deal with. There were those who could not evacuate to a shelter because they had pets. At the gymnasium next door, there was a couple living in a space blocked off with cardboard. The wife had trouble with her legs and could only use a portable toilet, so they could not live with the others. The husband had run out of heart medication. Omori murmured, "These people have been abandoned." These 12 people had nowhere to go, and had to find food for themselves because it was not an official shelter. That night, they told Kimura about the evacuees. Kimura, who had been busy elsewhere, said, "Let's temporarily stop our investigations. I'll persuade them to evacuate. I can't work unless I convince them to leave." The following day on March 28, Kimura measured radioactivity in the parking lot of Akougi community hall and found it to be 80 microsieverts per hour. He was taken aback. That level of
radioactivity was not safe. He entered the hall, removed his mask and explained the danger. The radioactivity inside was also high, measuring 25-30 microsieverts. "I showed them the measurements, and for the first time everyone understood. Police and staff from the town hall had told them it was dangerous, but had not shown them actual measurements. They understood when I showed them the figures, and it helped a lot that I'm an expert."
5. 'Get out of the car' Why doesn't information reach the outlying areas? The residents of Nagadoro district in Iitate village next to Akougi were wondering just that. After the accident at the nuclear power plant, evacuees from Minami-Soma city gathered in Iitate, adjoining the mountainous area of Namie. The people who came seeking shelter would need food. The village of Iitate began mobilizing to provide help. Yoshitomo Shigihara, 60, the district mayor of Nagadoro in Iitate, also began making the rounds, asking every household in the district to supply approximately two liters of rice. The people of Nagadoro cooked the rice, made rice balls, and handed them out to the evacuees. On March 15 they handed out 600 rice balls, and on March 16 and 17, they made 300. "Radioactivity? We didn't think about that at all. We didn't receive any subsidies in connection with the nuclear plant, but the radioactivity won't reach us either. That's what we believed." Nagadoro is located at the southern end of the village and is home to a scattering of approximately 70 homes in the plateau country. It lies 33 km from the crippled nuclear plant and was thought to be far removed from the radioactivity. However … To the southeast of Nagadoro is Akougi district in Namie, and Hirusone lies next door. Hirusone, Akougi and Nagadoro spread out northwest from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The airborne radioactive materials fell over those residential areas in a northwestern direction. "Look at the data from March 17. It was 95 microsieverts per hour. At that time, we were making rice balls." The people of Nagadoro did not know about the 95 microsieverts reading, nor did they understand the meaning of that number. Not only that, but Mayor Shigihara has an exasperating memory deeply etched into his mind. The memory is of a few days before March 20. He saw a white van parked in the middle of the district. "It was there about two hours, at first. It was sitting there, with rods sticking out of the car. The passengers were wearing white protective clothing and gas masks." They sometimes got out of the car, but immediately climbed back in. "I told them to come out and talk with us. I didn't have any protective gear. I didn't even wear masks."
The area 30 km out was suppose to be entirely safe, but men in gas masks and protective clothing showed up and took measurements with rods sticking out without getting out of the van. It was a strange sight. "They didn't answer even when I asked them about the situation. They didn't tell me the radioactive readings, either. I asked them what was going on, and they just smoked their cigarettes. I thought they were playing games with me, and I questioned them. I asked them if they were from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and they said no. Why were they in that van? When I asked them if they weren't from the science ministry, they answered no." Finally an argument ensued. "In the argument, it came out that they were subcontractors. Subcontractors of subcontractors. They would have to ask their superiors."
6. No information, no instruments Mayor Shigihara is living the life of an evacuee in Fukushima city. He thinks back to a few days before March 20, in Nagadoro. The discussion with the men in protective clothing in the white van. "Each of the men in the van had two dosimeters, so I asked if they wouldn't lend me one. They had two, including an integrating meter. "When I asked if they were using the dosimeters, they said no, but wouldn't lend me one. I told them to lend one to Nagadoro district and I'd report the readings to others. "I said, OK. If you won't lend us one, then report the readings on the notice board. They still wouldn't do it right away. It took about a week for them to do it." Because of Shigihara's request, the readings were put up on the district's notice board-probably retroactively. On March 17, the reading was 95.1 microsieverts per hour, 52 microsieverts on March 18, 59.2 microsieverts on March 19, 60 microsieverts on March 20, 45 microsieverts on March 21, 40 microsieverts on March 22, 35 microsieverts on March 23, 30 microsieverts on March 24 and 27 microsieverts on March 25. … As the radioactivity levels declined, the men's appearance changed. The gas masks and protective clothing were eventually replaced with regular masks, and the protective clothing at some point became ordinary work clothes. Those men who came into a residential area wearing protective clothing did not provide any information on readings even when asked. Neither did they lend any dosimeters when requested because the district wanted to take measurements. Meanwhile, the government continued to assert that it was safe. On the morning of March 18, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano held a news conference. "There are some areas in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant that show high readings, but overall there have been no large readings that present a danger of impact to humans. Although there are some sites that have somewhat high readings, they are not values that would have immediate effects on the human body."
On the afternoon of March 23, he said, "In some areas outside of the 30-km radius there have been some instances of an exposure dose of over 100 millisieverts per year, but at this point the situation is not viewed as requiring immediate evacuation or shelter to be taken indoors." The citizens had no reason not to believe that it was safe, and to continue living there. Shigihara says, "When the men in protective clothing came, there were also children there. My grandkids were there, too. About 10 or 20 children."
7. The document called a 'gag order' The men in protective clothing indicated they were subcontractors from the science ministry. Why were they so secretive? There is a single piece of writing. The former Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (currently, Japan Atomic Energy Agency) published the paper in October 1999. The single sheet of paper notes the rules for publicizing predicted impact of radioactivity and data on radioactivity levels. If there is an external request to provide data, the individual fielding the request will ask his or her supervisor's opinion, who will in turn ask the department head, who will ask the director, who will ask the vice chairman. If the vice chairman assents to the request, that will be passed down the line and the information will be provided through the office of safety management. An attached comment says "it should be confirmed that the information is academically sound." In essence, data will not be provided to outsiders unless an extremely involved process is undertaken. "We called this paper the 'gag order,'" explains Takashi Iwai, 54, who has worked for many years as the chairperson of the agency's labor union, the Genken labor union. The agency has another labor union for the former Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. "The information we knew about was officially a secret, even if it could help citizens. We weren't allowed to share it." The paper was written just after the criticality accident in Tokai village on Sept. 30 in the same year. In other words, the paper was composed to prevent leaking various data involving the criticality accident. Thus, it is called a "gag order." "Back then, our colleagues went out to take measurements, but the government was hesitant to release the data. It wouldn't release data, even though it contained information indicating concern over exposure to residents." If an individual took it upon himself to release it on his own, punishment would result. In that case, wouldn't it be better for the union to gather the data? With that in mind, the union shared what information it thought necessary with the public. The same action was to be repeated 12 years later. "The JAEA has people whose job is to monitor and measure the environment. Those people couldn't take action. That wouldn't do. Even if the radioactivity was measured, the data wouldn't be released. When they asked why it wouldn't be released, they were told by their superiors that even if the agency takes measurements, they can't publicize them because the government manages the information."
That upsets Iwai, who thinks it is a mistake not to share data. "The government doesn't share information that should be released. That's why people don't trust what the government says." "We're even told that we have to destroy memos that note radioactivity levels because it would be problematic if the information gets out." Iwai ruminates that nothing has changed from when that single sheet of paper was produced.
8. Recruited by a gang Currently, the science ministry determines fixed monitoring points for measuring levels of radioactivity, and JAEA researchers take the measurements. "The researchers have become simple workers," says Iwai. "The measurements taken at the fixed points have meaning, but there is undoubtedly a need to also walk around and search for sites with high readings. In that sense, I think the researchers are feeling frustrated." Kimura overcame that frustration by quitting his job. He resigned from the JNIOSH and was free to take measurements of radioactivity in various areas. At times, he showed the data to residents and explained the danger. He went as far as resigning from a job he had worked hard to find so that he could take onsite measurements. Underlying his decisive action was a rebellious spirit and an unusual background. Kimura was born in the town of Hiromi (presently, Kihoku) in the southwestern part of Ehime Prefecture where tributaries branch off of the Shimantogawa river. His father, a disabled exserviceman, was a civil servant and a disciplinarian. His mother heads a nursery school. He spent his elementary school and high school years in his hometown. The truth is, he was quite the rebel. "When I was in the third and fourth grades of elementary school, I defended a girl who was being bullied and ended up being terribly bullied myself. When I got to junior high school I thought, I can crush these guys if I'm tougher than they are." He skipped classes and smoked cigarettes in the gymnasium loft. He got into fights, too. Nothing changed when he went to Kitauwa High School. He constantly worked out so he could win fights. He stood at a bulky 177 cm, and there was a time when he even thought about becoming a professional wrestler. Just before graduation, he was spotted by a gang. "You're smart, so come with us. Our associate has an office in Matsuyama. Stay there for a month and then join us. The only people who sought me out were the gang members." His father told him to "go die for his country." He ordered him to join the Self-Defense Forces. At that time, Kimura wondered if there wasn't something he'd forgotten to do. In fact, he had neglected to study. He wanted to go to a university. He had always wanted to be an astronomer, and even after losing his way, he had continued observing the skies. He wanted to study physics. His father was angry and told him it would be of no use for him to study, but his mother told him she would pay for it.
9. Communication is the way to help
The story of the unique researcher, Kimura, and his past continues. He had decided to go on to a university, but lacked academic skills. After leaving the mountainous area in Ehime Prefecture, he went to Kochi city. He moved into a preparatory school dorm at the edge of the city and commuted to school by bicycle. "I had made up my mind to study. My deviation score for English went from 29 up to 60. I was especially good at interpreting long passages." His friend told him Tokyo University of Science would set up a junior college in Yamaguchi Prefecture and he could go on to the university from there. He followed his friend's advice and entered college. But his behavior was bad. "In an interview after summer break in my first year, I said I wanted to continue with my studies but was told there was no place for me to go. That's when I resolved to study hard all over again. An assistant professor told me to chart out a plan for revising my lifestyle, so I did, and I studied extremely hard. I reacted when an acquaintance with lower scores than I had was admitted to Tokyo University of Science, and decided to go to a national university. I decided on the Kyushu Institute of Technology." A professor who wrote a recommendation for him said, "Go to night school and find out how hard it is to work." He passed the entrance exam and transferred to the night school at Kyushu Institute of Technology. His eyes were opened when he saw how hard people studied while juggling a job. "I thought there's no excuse for me not to study." He majored in metals and learned about both physics and chemistry. He found a job as a technical assistant at school and during the day created computer programs for analyzing molecular structures. As graduation loomed, he considered whether to become a teacher at a technical high school or go on to graduate school. Then he got a call from the professor in Yamaguchi who wrote his recommendation. "From next week you'll be an assistant at our university. The faculty council has already made the decision." In the end, he returned to Yamaguchi and worked as an assistant. After one year, his determination to go on to graduate school grew, and he entered the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Ishikawa Prefecture. He studied drug delivery in the body and completed his master's degree in two years. He went on to a doctorate program at Hokkaido University and received a doctorate while studying the mechanism for Parkinson's disease. His wife's family comes from the Aizu region in Fukushima Prefecture, so from March Kimura will be half residing in Fukushima, researching internal exposure to radiation and creating a map of contamination. He believes that the fruits of research belong to the people. Even if readings are dire, he thinks that the way to help people is by sharing them with residents and explaining what they mean. However, his way of thinking is not shared by the majority. For example, on March 18 the Meteorological Society of Japan asked its members to refrain from publicizing research outcomes because "the foundation of disaster measures is action based on single information that can be trusted."
10. Precise instructions Radiation hygiene researcher Kimura and his team entered Fukushima on March 15, the day the No. 2 reactor at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was destroyed a little past 6 a.m. due to a hydrogen explosion and released vast amounts of radioactive materials. On the night of March 11, the government had established an off-site center for nuclear emergency response on a site five kilometers from the nuclear plant. However, on the night
of March 14, there were concerns over the situation at the No. 2 reactor and the decision was made to withdraw from that site. That same night the withdrawal began, and by the afternoon on March 15 the officials had drawn back to the Fukushima prefectural government office, some 60 km from the nuclear plant. A member of the group that retreated, Makio Watanabe, 57, received instructions on the night of March 15 after relocating to the prefectural office. "The situation is becoming serious. Go take measurements." Watanabe had come to help from the Ibaraki office of nuclear and industrial safety, run under the science ministry. He was told to go to three sites in the mountainous area of Namie. They were pinpoint sites. He headed to the sites in a car provided by the Kanagawakita atomic energy office and took measurements around 9 p.m. He was shocked when he saw the readings. All three sites had high levels of radioactivity. Akougi was particularly high at 330 microsieverts per hour. Looking back, Watanabe says, "I really couldn't believe it." He immediately tried to relay his readings, but his cellphone couldn't pick up a signal. It was rainy, so he was unable to use his satellite cellphone, either. He hastily returned to Yamakiya in the town of Kawamata and reported from a public phone. On his way back, he saw houses here and there with their lights on. Many people still remained in the area. "I didn't want the residents to be exposed. I reported the high doses, and asked that it be quickly disclosed." In fact, at that time Watanabe was not wearing any protective clothing. The retreat to the prefectural office was hurried, and the protective clothing had been left behind at the off-site response center. "Strangely, I didn't think about myself. I thought, it's times like this that I need to take action." The readings he was desperate to report were not used to evacuate residents. Although science ministry publicized those readings on March 16, it did not reveal the name of the district. Neither was Namie told about the readings. The town was unaware of the danger and there was no collective communication to the residents who were still remaining. At the news conference, the chief Cabinet secretary emphasized above else that "they are not readings that would have immediate effects on the human body." The question remained, why did the off-site response center know precisely which sites would have high doses? Watanabe says, "I still don't know who determined which sites I was to measure." Tracing backwards, the instructions came from science ministry and were based on SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information). The ministry had a general idea of the contamination. ● Prometheus
11. Sudden evacuations in concentric circles Why was it possible to indicate sites that measured 330 microsieverts per hour with pinpoint accuracy on March 15? The answer is the science ministry in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Itaru Watanabe, 53, deputy director of the Science and Technology Policy Bureau explains, at times interjecting his speech with gestures. "The truth is, we used SPEEDI in an emissions unit method." SPEEDI is a system that predicts the impact of radioactivity. How will the released radioactive materials spread? The program calculates wind direction, wind speed and geography to predict the dispersal area.
Radioactive materials do not spread out in concentric circles, but rather the contaminated area forms several spikes. That area is predicted using SPEEDI to quickly evacuate residents. That is the very basic of basics when it comes to nuclear emergency preparedness. Predictions are founded on information about the emission source from the nuclear plant. However, that information was unobtainable during this accident. Even in such cases, however, predictions can be made by plugging in provisional numbers. Calculations are made using the emissions unit method, which assumes that one becquerel will be released per hour. Watanabe was able to accurately discover which sites would have high contamination using that method. He did not use a special method. The policy stipulated by the Nuclear Safety Commission states that calculations are to be made using either emissions unit or previously established values, since it is difficult to accurately grasp the release immediately after an accident. Based on estimated figures calculated in this manner, directions and areas deserving greater observation are computed. "Sharing information using the emissions unit method was by the book. When the output is unknown, the manual says to hand out data obtained through the method." According to the manual, the information should be shared with certain government ministries and agencies, the Nuclear Safety Commission, Fukushima Prefecture, and the local off-site center. "The science ministry is not aware of whether SPEEDI was used when the evacuation zone was actually determined. It was not the science ministry that determined the evacuation zone, but the nuclear emergency response headquarters. In this instance, the primary usage was not utilized. Instead, evacuation instructions forming zones of concentric circles were suddenly issued." According to the manual, the science ministry only provides information, and it is the nuclear emergency response headquarters that uses that information to issue evacuation orders. In other words, it's the prime minister's official residence. However, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, industry minister Banri Kaieda and Edano insist that they were not aware of SPEEDI. Kaieda and Edano in particular stated during Diet proceedings that they knew nothing about it until after March 20. ● Prometheus
12. 167 pages not sent What was going on? How were the SPEEDI predictions released? At 7:03 p.m. on March 11, approximately four hours after the earthquake, the government issued a declaration of a nuclear emergency situation. The prime minister's official residence became the nuclear emergency response headquarters. While the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of the industry ministry served as a secretariat for the response headquarters, an Emergency Response Center (ERC) was established in the same ministry on the third floor of a separate building. Officials from other government agencies also gathered. SPEEDI predictions are supposed to be calculated every hour by the science ministry through the Nuclear Safety Technology Center (NUSTEC). Hazard maps are also sent to NISA, but NISA tried to release its own predictions, as well. With that objective, on the night of the same day, operators from NUSTEC joined ERC. The first SPEEDI predictions that NISA conducted on its own were released at 9:12 p.m. It predicted how radioactive substances would disperse if at 3:30 a.m. on March 12 ventilation
were to be carried out at the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Results showed that radioactive materials would blow out to the Pacific Ocean in the southeast. The second prediction was calculated at 1:12 a.m. on March 12. This time it calculated what would happen if ventilation took place at the same time at the No. 1 reactor. Results also indicated dispersal out to sea. NISA spit out 173 pages of its own predictions for 45 scenarios calculated up to March 16. NISA predictions were notable because they were based on estimated emissions of radioactive materials. Compared with the predictions made by the science ministry that assumed emissions of one becquerel, the precision of the predictions was higher. The basement of the Prime Minister's Official Residence houses an operation room for operating forces from various ministries. NISA sent officials under the level of assistant division chief there, and also prepared a dedicated terminal to receive hazard maps. On the fifth floor of the Prime Minister's Official Residence, Kan and others formed the mainstay of the nuclear emergency response headquarters. It is this group that determined the evacuation zones. Such a decision was supposed to be made after taking SPEEDI information into account. This means that the hazard maps had to be carried from the dedicated terminal to the fifth floor. However … The only hazard maps sent to the dedicated terminal in the operation room were the first and second predictions. Of the SPEEDI predictions conducted by NISA alone, 43 predictions filling 167 pages got no further than the ERC. What is more, only the printout of the second predictions was handed to Cabinet Secretariat officials. That hazard map consisted of three A4-sized papers, but NISA has not confirmed how many of those papers were handed over, or what happened to them after they were handed over. ● Prometheus
13. Two evacuation plans The NISA regulates and oversees nuclear reactors for commercial use. The actions of NISA were central to this accident, as well. On several occasions, The Asahi Shimbun frequently asked the senior officials familiar with the accident and staff that were on site to tell about their experiences. Of course, reporters have gone to NISA and spoken with them. The Asahi Shimbun also sent many letters to individuals involved, and at times reporters even went to their front door. Public relations at NISA requested that reporters "refrain from interviewing individual staff members," but certain matters cannot be understood without asking the persons involved. NISA stressed that "relevant departments would answer questions," but those answers were always off point. NISA has even suppressed coverage of retired senior officials who are now private citizens, arguing that "relevant departments will answer all questions about what took place at the time of the accident." While gathering fragments of the truth, The Asahi Shimbun attempted to discover the sequence of events concerning SPEEDI, and clarified some matters under the promise of anonymity. Below is the information gathered to date that is believed to be the closest depiction of what actually transpired. It is past 7 p.m. on March 11. When the nuclear emergency response headquarters was set up at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, an off-site center for nuclear emergency response was established five kilometers from the nuclear plant. According to the nuclear emergency preparedness manual, the off-site center serves as the center of countermeasures. It was also
responsible for using SPEEDI to create planned evacuation zones for residents. However, tremors disrupted communication lines at the off-site center, and many of the key members had failed to show up. It was not possible to figure out evacuation zones. In the event that the off-site center is not functional, what group has the task of creating evacuation zones? Although the answer was unclear, NISA and the prime minister's office made some consequential assumptions. In Tokyo's Kasumigaseki, the ERC established on the third floor of a separate building belonging to the industry ministry, believed it was the only entity that could create a plan for evacuation zones. NISA was serving as secretariat of the emergency response headquarters in the prime minister's office, and the nucleus of that was the ERC. The group handling radioactivity took charge of creating evacuation zones and ordered NUSTEC to calculate a hazard map using SPEEDI. Understanding the dispersion of radioactive materials is essential to evacuating residents. The group members worked with a sense of urgency. Meanwhile, the mainstay of the nuclear emergency response headquarters, operating on the fifth floor of the prime minister's office, had different ideas, believing that since the off-site center was not functioning, it was the only entity to determine evacuation zones. The nerve center at the prime minister's residence was desperate and confused, being unaware of the existence of the ERC. The time was around 9 p.m. on March 11. The ERC and the nuclear emergency response headquarters at the Prime Minister's Official Residence each went about creating evacuation plans. ● Prometheus
14. An arbitrary decision by the prime minister's office The story of what is believed to be the closest depiction of what really occurred continues. At 9:12 p.m. on March 11, the ERC of NISA, located in an annex of the industry ministry, received the first SPEEDI hazard map that it had ordered on its own. SPEEDI can make predictions about the dispersal of radioactive materials up to 79 hours in the future. It had to be fully utilized to estimate the future dispersal area to evacuate residents from dangerous regions. The released radioactive substances are carried away by the winds, so it is common knowledge that they do not disperse in concentric circles. How far will the contamination spread a few hours from now? ERC continued to get predictions from SPEEDI in an attempt to discover areas subject to contamination. However … A short time later at 9:23 p.m., the head of the nuclear emergency response headquarters, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, issued evacuation orders in the form of concentric circles. Residents living within three kilometers of the nuclear plant were to evacuate, while those within 10 km were to seek shelter indoors. NISA was in charge of the office of the emergency response headquarters, and the heart of its operation was the ERC. The decision had been made without any communication with the ERC. It was the sole decision of the prime minister's office. What happened while the evacuation zones were being drawn up? The ERC was taken by surprise and the room was in tumult. Since the prime minister's office had decided on the evacuation zones, the ERC no longer had a role to play. With that quick decision, the ERC ceased drawing up evacuation zones. At 5:44 a.m. on March 12, the evacuation orders issued by the prime minister's office were
amended to include a wider area of 10 km from the nuclear plant, and expanded to 20 km at 6:25 p.m. the same day. Both evacuation orders indicated areas extending in concentric circles from the nuclear plant. The ERC repeatedly made calculations using SPEEDI on 45 occasions up to March 16, not to determine evacuation zones, but to verify the evacuation zones determined by the prime minister's office. Although it is common knowledge that in a nuclear accident, radioactive materials do not spread out in concentric circles, evacuation orders were drawn up in concentric circles. The ERC recognized the absurdity but confirmed it nonetheless. Since it had no authority to refute the issued evacuation orders, it thought to validate the confirmation. Later, the government stressed that the SPEEDI predictions were not helpful to begin with since it was unclear how much radioactivity had been released. The fact that the ERC tried to create evacuation zones with SPEEDI was withheld. The greatest incongruity created by the evacuation order area drawn in concentric circles was the fact that high radiation doses were observed outside of the 20-km zone. The predictions calculated by SPEEDI showed that regions with high levels of radioactivity extended well outside the 20-km range in a northwest direction. ● Prometheus
15. 'He was standing right in front of me' On the evening of Oct. 31 at the Diet Member's Building in Nagata-cho in Tokyo, Kan, 65, stressed that, "A top official from NISA was standing right in front of me." Kan was angry about the assertion by NISA's ERC that the determination of evacuation zones on the evening of March 11 by the prime minister's office was sudden. The former prime minister disputes this, contending that the ERC could not have been in the dark since the NISA director was present at the nuclear emergency response headquarters. It becomes clear that important communications did not occur between the head of the nuclear emergency response headquarters, Kan, and Nobuaki Terasaka, 58, the directorgeneral of NISA who also serves as the secretary-general of the nuclear emergency response headquarters. Kan reveals that he did not know that ERC was attempting to draw up evacuation zones, nor did Terasaka tell him about SPEEDI. Terasaka did not respond to an interview request. Although he has retired, NISA is keeping a tight reign on interviews with Terasaka. At the time, the chairperson of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), Haruki Madarame, 63 was also with Kan. After 6 p.m. on March 11, the science ministry began bringing hazard maps each hour from the SPEEDI terminal belonging to the NSC secretariat in the Cabinet Office. The NSC secretariat thought that the same hazard maps were being sent from the science ministry to the prime minister's office. Thus, steps were not taken to bring them to Madarame. However, in actuality the science ministry did not have a route to send the hazard maps to the prime minister's office. Consequently, the science ministry simply issued predictions, but the NSC did not give them to the prime minister's office. NISA brought between zero and three pages of hazard maps to the prime minister's office. Although NISA tried to use SPEEDI to create evacuation zones, that attempt failed. SPEEDI was not utilized to draw up evacuation zones, nor were its predictions shared. The prime minister's office maintains core members did not even know of SPEEDI's existence until around March 20. The people most impacted as a result were those residing in the region stretching from the
mountainous area of Namie to the vicinity of Nagadoro in Iitate village, where the radioactivity was high. When the radioactivity levels were at their highest, the people of Nagadoro district were busy cooking rice--not for themselves, but to help evacuees from Minami-Soma. A large number of people also came to Tsushima district in Namie seeking shelter. There were so many that the rice balls became smaller, but everyone made do with one rice ball a day. Most of the town hall staff did not even eat that much. Firefighters dug a hole in the ground for a toilet. Though they had survived the nightmare of the tsunami and ran from radioactivity, the people remained organized and chaos never prevailed. ● Prometheus
16. Government officials who never came There are other questions in addition to SPEEDI. An off-site center for nuclear emergency response was set up near Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and five hours later around midnight on March 12, the senior vice minister of the industry ministry, Motohisa Ikeda, 70, who also served as chief of the center, reached the site by Self-Defense Force's helicopter. The off-site center staff had previously been determined, and included seven people from the Nuclear Emergency Assistance & Training Center located in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture. They set out for the off-site center at 1:30 a.m. on March 12. The center's director, Hiromi Katagiri, 59, reflects on the experience. "Route 6 was gridlocked. Normally, it would have taken one hour to get to the SDF Hyakuri Air Base, but it took two, and then we got on the helicopter at around 4:30 a.m." The helicopter landed at a military post atop a mountain, then the passengers drove in an SDF vehicle to the off-site center. "I remember that it was tough to carry the equipment, because there was still snow. We arrived at the off-site center between 6 and 6:30 a.m." Communications at the headquarters were nearly wiped out. Only two satellite phones were usable and one was constantly in contact with the NISA in Tokyo. Katagiri first monitored radiation measurements. The SPEEDI hazard maps were crucial to finding the highly contaminated areas that needed to be measured, but with the lines down the data was unavailable. With no other alternative, an anemometer found at a nearby building was used to estimate the direction of the radioactivity. There was almost nothing to eat and no place to sleep. Most people slept on their desks. Their fatigue grew. Katagiri and the others held out, but very few of the officials from government ministries and agencies that were expected to arrive came. There should have been 45 individuals from 13 ministries and agencies that gathered at the off-site center. The NISA deputy director-general serves as secretariat chief, and four Cabinet councilors serve as vice directors. The remaining 40 divide into seven groups that include management, radiation, and citizen safety, to lead the members of each group. This can be called the core of the off-site center. The government was also to prepare means of transport. However, only 26 individuals from five ministries and agencies gathered. Why did so many fail to show up? Takeshi Matsuoka, 45, chief of the NISA nuclear emergency preparedness division, says that he heard "they were busy dealing with the disaster." The explanation is the officials were too occupied with handling the earthquake and tsunami to be able to make it to the off-site center for the nuclear accident. The following is a conversation with assistant division chief Yoshihito Nakajima, 39. "The explanation that they were too busy to go to the off-site center is nonsense," the Asahi Shimbun reporter said.
"I heard that the actual situation was such that they couldn't go." "Maybe they were too afraid to go?" "Well. That's something you'll have to ask them yourself." ● Prometheus
17. The forgotten file Early on the morning of March 12, Katagiri and others who reached the off-site center situated five kilometers from the nuclear plant, borrowed a van from the Fukushima prefectural office and measured radiation in the vicinity. On the afternoon of March 12, they encountered the hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor. "Those who were out taking readings were relatively close to the nuclear plant and immediately came back," Katagiri said. "They reported that there had been a huge explosion." On the morning of March 14, the sound of the explosion at the No. 3 reactor reverberated even at the off-site center. "We heard that sound. White smoke billowed out. It was a pretty shocking sound." Those out taking measurements gathered data on radioactivity while fearing exposure. The SPEEDI values were estimates, but this was real. More than anything, the readings were needed to evacuate residents. They had to find where the radioactivity was high and evacuate the residents living there as quickly as possible. However, the off-site center was isolated. While they gathered important data, they had no way to get it to the nuclear emergency response headquarters in Tokyo. "In the end, it proved crucial that we had no means of communication." There was another unfortunate matter for Katagiri. "This kind of data was made public in June. The data around March 12 and 13 wasn't successfully passed on to the new location, the prefectural office." The off-site center withdrew to the Fukushima prefectural office on March 15. During the move, the file containing the data was left behind. It was May 28 when it was recovered. The majority of data on radioactivity immediately after the accident was not released until June 3. The data that was released was extremely difficult to understand. On the night of March 15, Makio Watanabe, from the Ibaraki office of nuclear and industrial safety of the science ministry, took readings in Akougi district in Namie that measured 330 microsieverts per hour. That reading was uploaded on the agency's website the following day. However, the key measuring points were simply circled on a map that indicated very few location names. Even the staff members from town halls were unable to recognize the locations. Many pointed out that it was undecipherable, but no improvements were made. Deputy Director Itaru Watanabe from the Science and Technology Policy Bureau of the science ministry states, "When inquiries came in by phone, we tried to explain it." The fact that publications were only made available on the website also came under criticism. Namie's town hall moved several times along with its residents as the evacuation continued. Even though the data was available on the Internet, they were unable to access it. Important data did not make it to the end users. It was as if officials were unwilling to share information.
December 31, 2011
18. 'Cover yourself with a futon!'
Even after the existence of SPEEDI was recognized, the prime minister's office did not make the hazard maps public, and during a news conference on May 2, Goshi Hosono, 40, then special advisor to the prime minister, explained that, "There was concern that citizens would panic." Very likely that concern was behind the fact that residents found it difficult to get information, but in actuality it was the government that was in turmoil and close to panic. That is true for the dissonance between NISA and the prime minister's office over the determination of evacuation zones, and also for leaving behind the data at the off-site center during the withdrawal. At that time, all NISA inspectors temporarily withdrew from the nuclear plant. The inspectors were the only government officials that could oversee the situation inside the nuclear plant. There were five assigned to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and at least one was always at the power station. However, at noon on March 15 when the off-site center withdrew to Fukushima prefectural office, all five went to the prefectural office. It is a matter of dispute whether around that time Tokyo Electric Power Co. did or did not tell the government that it wanted to evacuate all its employees from the nuclear plant. The withdrawal was also hurried. Matsuoka of the NISA stresses, "We confirmed that no residents remained in the 20-km area before withdrawing." There were, however, residents still there. Jiro Hara, 75, and his wife, Yoshiko, 76, lived 4 km from Namie town hall and 10 km northwest of the nuclear plant. On the afternoon of March 17 they were rescued by two police cars that happened to visit the area. The couple could not evacuate because they had no gasoline. They tried siphoning the gas from their weed cutter, but it was only a liter's worth. With nothing else to do, they cooked for themselves and stayed in their home. There was no electricity, but they could use propane gas. They drew water from a well. Neither their home phone or cellphones worked. At 2:30 p.m. on March 14, they heard an explosive sound like a lightning strike. Hara said to Yoshiko, "The nuclear plant exploded. Cover yourself with a futon." For an hour, the two stayed under a futon. Looking out from underneath, they could see flashes of sparks in the direction of the nuclear plant. That continued for five minutes. The explosion at the No. 3 reactor was at 11 a.m., but they say, "What we saw happened at 2:30 in the afternoon." The four policemen who rescued them were wearing gas masks and protective clothing. They angrily yelled, "What are you doing!" The couple apologized and were told, "Explanations don't matter. Hurry up and get in the car!" Each of them climbed into a different police car. The day after they evacuated, a different resident was rescued. "There was nothing we could do," Yoshiko said. "There was no gas and no one in the neighborhood. We decided to go as far as we could in our small truck. We were making rice balls, and then the police cars arrived."
December 31, 2011
19. 'The first in the world' Kimura, the researcher who tendered his resignation and immediately went to the accident site, is now fostering citizen scientists. He believes that people should not rely only on information from government, but should obtain information about their area on their own. They should use that information and think for themselves about how to deal with radiation. Though it seems blunt, the truth is, that kind of thinking is what is most needed. He thinks that it will benefit the local residents. Kimura focuses almost exclusively on Shidamyo and Ogi districts in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, where 140 people in 44 homes live in the mountains located near the northern edge
of the city. He knew that this area had a high level of radioactivity, and decided to work with the residents to come up with countermeasures. He gave the residents measuring instruments and taught them how to take readings. The residents said they would like to investigate the entire agricultural area. While he knew it would be a demanding job, the residents carefully took measurements at one meter and 10 cm above ground level at all 658 spots in the agricultural land. Of course, each home was also measured and a detailed map of radioactivity was created. During the presentation of the map that took place on Sept. 28, Kimura told the residents, "This is the first detailed map of radioactive contamination in the world. It is also the first time in the world that citizens have created such a map for themselves." At the presentation, the residents affirmed that they would build a facility to store contaminated soil and weeds. Kimura also encouraged them. "Rice paddies and fields are indispensable to the community. Let's decontaminate the farmland. Let's bring back the rice paddies and fields." Chuhei Sakai, 62, chairman of the association for restoration, reported the differences between the soil investigations they carried out themselves and the investigations conducted by the prefecture. "We carried out inspections of areas with a 5-cm grid and up to 30 cm deep in the ground." Results show the contamination was concentrated in the surface up to 5 cm. "On the other hand, the prefecture took samples up to 15 cm deep, mixed the samples and examined them, so the contamination levels appeared to be only one-third of the five-centimeter top layer that we measured." When a male resident asked, "We're drinking mountain stream water, but is it safe?" Several others also said they are drinking water from mountain streams. Surprised, Kimura instructed them to put that water in a plastic bottle and take it to the chairman's home. Then he said, "Nagasaki University is quite busy analyzing your samples, so let's ask Hiroshima University. I'll ask Professor Satoru Endo." Sakai says, "We wanted to know the truth about the contamination." Now that they know, "We are thinking up strategies for stripping away the top layer of soil in the farmland." At the Sakai home, they are growing spinach and Japanese radish on an experimental basis. After harvest, they plan to conduct inspections to find out how much of the radioactive materials in the soil are transferred to the crops.
December 31, 2011
20. Planting rice someday In mid-September, the tractor owned by Masato Takahashi, 74 was humming. He lives in the mountain area of Nagadoro in Iitate village. "It was around 1965, maybe. The government told us to increase rice production. We bulldozed this mountain for three months to turn it into a rice paddy. There are a lot of memories in this land." He drives the tractor into a rice paddy empty of rice plants and begins cutting down weeds. "Once the rice paddy was finally completed and we thought we could steadily produce delicious rice, the next thing, you know, there was too much rice and we were told to reduce our production." Takahashi says it was a lousy situation. After continuously being at the mercy of government
policies, now he has to deal with the sudden damage inflicted by the radioactivity. "I'm angry. If I could, I'd give them a piece of my mind." He cuts down the weeds so that someday he can plant rice, but the radioactivity levels throughout are still high. There is no end in sight to his living at the temporary housing in Fukushima city. On April 22, Iitate village was officially designated an evacuation area. The residents left their homes by June, but lived in Iitate until then. Many feel that if the radioactive levels were high, they should have been evacuated earlier. On April 6, experts were dispatched to Nagadoro and explained that living there posed no problem. It was immediately afterward that the government announced the village was in the evacuation zone. The residents were confused about what information was the truth. Kimura, who quit his job as a researcher immediately after the disaster to search for factual information, was asked to become an associate professor at Dokkyo Medical University in August, and became head of the Fukushima branch office of the international epidemiology laboratory, completed in Nihonmatsu in November. With a base to work from, he can settle into studying internal exposure to radiation and fostering citizen scientists. The ETV special program "Network de Tsukuru Hoshano Osen Chizu" (A network-based map of radioactive contamination), which Kimura helped plan, received the grand prix from the Japan Congress of Journalists and the journalism award from Waseda University. It was recognized because it reported the plain truth about the state of the vicinity around the nuclear plant. After the earthquake, important information never reached those who ran from the nuclear plant. The government claims it was from fear of causing a panic, but for those who believed that the government would take care of them, that explanation falls short. ● Prometheus
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