The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.
[...] Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”
[...] Outspoken Upper House Councilor Taro Yamamoto, who is known to be a strong supporter of investigative journalism, minces no words: “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.
While his statement may seem alarmist, even a senior official of the National Police Agency agrees. “I would say this is Abe’s attempt to make sure that his own shady issues aren’t brought to light, and a misuse of legislative power.
China To Engage In ‘Six Inevitable Wars’ Involving U.S., Japan, India And More, According To Pro-Government Chinese Newspaper
China’s announcement last weekend of an Air Defense Identification Zone, which includes disputed areas of the East China Sea, has ratcheted up tensions between China and her neighbors, leading some to believe war is imminent.
The new air defense area includes the airspace above the hotly disputed cluster of tiny islands known as the Diaoyu to China and the Senkaku to the Japanese. International reaction to the ADIZ, particularly from Japan and its ally the U.S., has been uniformly defiant. In addition to official statements from Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Reuters reported Tuesday that two U.S. military aircraft have flown around the disputed islands in direct defiance of China’s ADIZ.
“We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus,” spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, using the Japanese name for the islands. In addition to declaring the zone’s wide boundaries, Chinese military forces announced that all air travel in the designated ADIZ must be reported to avoid “emergency defensive measures in response.” The U.S. did the flyover without addressing the demands made by China. “We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies,” Warren continued.
The new ADIZ has brought added tension to one of China’s several current territorial disputes. As pointed out in Shanghai-based news-blog, The Shanghaiist.com, earlier this summer, a particularly strident pro-government local newspaper, Weweipo, published a war-mongering article describing the “Six Wars China Is Sure to Fight In the Next 50 Years.” The article essentially predicts that most of China’s current border disputes will eventually lead to war.
- Pepe Escobar: B-52s sing ‘pivot to Asia’ song
- Japanese PM Says China’s New Air Defense Zone ‘Can Not Be Accepted’
- South Korea Says They Are Now Considering Expanding Their Airspace
- Japan And South Korea Fly Military Aircraft Through Chinese Air Defense Zone Unannounced
- China Sends Warplanes Into Disputed Islands’ Airspace
- Hagel: U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty covers islands China also claims
- China warns it will take action on disputed air space violations based on ‘threat level’
- Is Shinzo Abe’s ‘new nationalism’ a throwback to Japanese imperialism?
- Why China’s powerful, new national defense posture looks so much like America’s
- China tests first stealth combat drone, ramping up tensions with Japan in disputed waters
- Japan’s Abe Seeks Friends in Asia—but Not China
- Japan and China: A clash of empires?
- Japan, Russia to expand defence ties
In June 2013, construction workers unearthed more than 20 rusty barrels from beneath a soccer pitch in Okinawa City. The land had once been part of Kadena Air Base – the Pentagon’s largest installation in the Pacific region – but was returned to civilian usage in 1987. Tests revealed that the barrels contained two ingredients of military defoliants used in the Vietnam War – the herbicide 2,4,5-T and 2,3,7,8-TCDD dioxin. Levels of the highly toxic TCDD in nearby water measured 280 times safe limits. 
The Pentagon has repeatedly denied the storage of defoliants – including Agent Orange – on Okinawa.  Following the discovery, it distanced itself from the barrels; a spokesperson stated it was investigating if they had been buried after the land’s return in 1987  and a US government-sponsored scientist suggested they may merely have contained kitchen or medical waste.  However, the conclusions of the Japanese and international scientific community were unequivocal: Not only did the barrels disprove Pentagon denials of the presence of military defoliants in Japan, the polluted land posed a threat to the health of local residents and required immediate remediation. 
The Pentagon is the largest polluter on the planet.  Producing more toxic waste than the US’s top three chemical manufacturers combined, in 2008 25,000 of its properties within the US were found to be contaminated. More than 100 of thee were classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as Superfund sites which necessitated urgent clean-up. 
Although Okinawa Island hosts more than 30 US bases – taking up 20% of its land – there has never been a concerted attempt to investigate levels of contamination within them. Unlike other nations with US bases such as South Korea and Germany, the Japanese government has no effective powers to conduct environmental checks, nor does the Pentagon have a duty to disclose to the public any contamination that it knows to exist. 
To date, most incidents of pollution have only become known when individual service members divulge details to the media or, as in the case of the barrels uncovered in Okinawa City, the Japanese authorities conduct tests following the return of military land.
Despite their limited scope, such disclosures offer a disturbing window into the contamination of Okinawa. Over the past seven decades, the island’s sea, land and air have been contaminated with toxins including arsenic, depleted uranium, nerve gas and carcinogenic hexavalent chromium. These substances have poisoned Okinawan civilians and US troops alike – and it is highly probable that they are damaging the health of those living on the island today. But, regardless of these risks, the Pentagon continues to do everything it can to evade responsibility for the damage its bases cause.
Japan’s lower house has passed a heavy-handed state secrets act despite fears that it will have severe repercussions for state freedoms. Officials will now face a maximum punishment of ten years in prison if they are found to have leaked to the press.
Japan’s Diet (parliament) passed the bill, which is aimed at expanding the definition of a state secret and place increasing penalties upon anyone deemed a leaker. The move will apparently prevent media accessing information on four sensitive areas: defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.
The information will be further divided into 23 types. Top officials from all departments would have the power to declare issues ‘secret’. The ‘secrets’ could then be kept classified for up to 60 years.
Journalists and other private sector parties could also receive up to five years imprisonment if they are found to be using ‘grossly inappropriate’ means to acquire information.
Such restrictions could spill over into the nuclear industry. The topic is particularly sensitive in the face of March 2011’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, which drove over 160,000 residents from their homes.
Japan took a major step back Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made its previous target unattainable. The unexpected announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a global pact to address the threats of a changing climate.
Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world’s top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases by 2020 compared to levels in 1990. Japan’s previous government had promised before the Fukushima crisis to cut greenhouse emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, expecting that it could rely on nuclear power to achieve that goal.
Since the 2011 disaster, Japan’s nuclear power program, which provided about 30 percent of the country’s electricity, has ground to a halt amid public jitters over safety. The current government is pushing to restart reactors, but it remains unclear when that might happen.
“We’re down to zero nuclear; anyone doing the math will find that target impossible now,” Nobuteru Ishihara, the environment minister, said in Tokyo after announcing the new target. He said the original goal was “unrealistic in the first place.”
“The current government seeks economic growth while doing our best to meet emissions targets,” he added.
The operators of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have postponed the extremely complicated and difficult task of removing damaged atomic rods.
New video footage from a robot has revealed new leaks within the damaged reactors meaning the rods now can’t be taken out as planned.
One of the fuel assemblies was damaged as far back as 1982 when it was mishandled during a transfer and is bent out of shape.
Kazuaki Matsui, the executive director of Japan’s Institute of Applied Energy said: “It’s very difficult to remove a spent rod because parts of the wall and the bottom of the reactor are all melted. We’ve never had to deal with this before so that adds to the complication.”
- In Unprecedented Move, Spent Fuel Rods To Be Removed from Fukushima Reactors
- Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters
- Panel Finds TEPCO Should Be Stripped Of Responsibility For Shutting Down Fukushima
- Governor: TEPCO can’t yet be trusted to restart world’s biggest nuclear plant
- Japan’s Most Hated Outfit, TEPCO, Reports Fat Profit (From Taxpayer Bailout Money)
- Meet Japan’s ‘liquidators,’ the depressed, radiated workers who make $60 a day to dismantle Fukushima
- Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear: ’Fukushima beyond tragic, it’s a crime’
- Dr Helen Caldicott: ‘Any country with a nuclear plant is a bomb factory’
- David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning Is Dire And Scary
- Fukushima’s Radiation Gusher
- TEPCO, US to cooperate in Japan nuke plant cleanup
- Tepco refuses to fund outside cleanup
- Fukushima Politics
- Osaka Police Target Anti-Nuclear Protesters
- More than two years on, many in Japan still uncertain about food from around Fukushima
- Japan launches anti-radiation underwear after Fukushima crisis
- Fukushima is here: Californians to spell it out for the world to see
Texas-sized floating island containing one million tonnes of junk from Japan tsunami drifting towards US
An enormous floating island of debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami is drifting towards the coast of America, bringing with it over one million tonnes of junk that would cover an area the size of Texas.
The most concentrated stretch – dubbed the “toxic monster” by Fox News – is currently around 1,700 miles off the coast, sitting between Hawaii and California, but several million tonnes of additional debris remains scattered across the Pacific.
If the rubbish were to continue to fuse, the combined area of the floating junkyard would be greater than that of the United States, and could theoretically weigh up to five million tonnes.
Tokyo may be a safe option—putting aside the risk of natural disaster and further issues with the Fukushima nuclear power plant, whose operators fear may be leaking contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
But there’s a real safety concern for Japan’s fiscal stability. And though the economic stimulus that comes with hosting an Olympic Games could be positive, game preparations are also highly likely to exacerbate Japan’s already massive debt problems.
The Tokyo government projects that the Games will generate $30 billion in economic benefits for Japan—and that, it said, is a conservative estimate since it calculates only direct spending on the Olympics. One of the notions is that it will boost domestic consumption, helping wrest the country from a couple decades of debilitating deflation.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years.
Japan’s harsh state secrecy regime before and during World War Two has long made such legislation taboo, but the new law looks certain to be enacted since Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc has a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament and the opposition has been in disarray since he came to power last December.
Critics see parallels between the new law and Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights, part of a conservative agenda that includes a stronger military and recasting Japan’s wartime history with a less apologetic tone.
Asia-Pacific currently undergoing ‘one of the biggest military build-ups in history’ (and more Asia Pivot news)
- The Real Reason Behind China’s Military Expansion (Oil Price)
- China warns U.S., Japan, Australia not to gang up in sea disputes (Reuters)
- Sino-Japanese Territorial Disputes Could Pull the US into War in Asia (Antiwar)
- Japan PM vows more active security role (Asia One)
- The U.S. Rebalance to Asia-Pacific and the U.S.-Japan-Taiwan alliance (China Policy Institute)
- China warns Japan over reported plan to shoot down drones (Global Clarity)
- US stages show of naval force in the South China Sea (WSWS)
- Amid Territorial Disputes, China’s Naval Drills Grow Larger (Epoch Times)
- China nuclear subs ‘gallop to depths of ocean’ (Global Geopolitics)
- South Korea Anxious Over US–Japan Security Moves (Epoch Times)
- North Korea Warns US of ‘Disastrous Consequences’ for Naval Buildup (Antiwar)
- Manila expects early U.N. ruling on sea dispute with Beijing (Reuters)
- China criticizes U.S. for giving tacit backing to Philippines in sea dispute (Reuters)
- ‘Credible’ threats of attacks in Philippines, US warns (Daily Times)
- Tony Abbott warns of conflict risk in South China Sea (Brisbane Times)
- Australians invest millions to upgrade military facilities for Marines (Marine Times)
- From 2011: Obama boosts U.S. military in Australia, reassures China (Reuters)
- Brunei is America’s East Pacific Cash Cow and Military Base (Strategic Culture Foundation)
The US National Security Agency (NSA) is reported to have asked Japan to tap fibre-optic cables in the Asia Pacific region, with a view to monitoring Chinese data traffic.
However, Tokyo is said to have turned down the request, citing lack of resources and legal issues.
According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, top intelligence officials in Tokyo have admitted that the US made the request of Japan, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, in 2011.
- 19 Chinese satellites scanning Indian waters (Times of India)
- China invests billions in Asia energy deals (New Zealand Herald)
- China confirms new gas pipeline through Tajikistan (AFP)
- China seals over US$3b in energy credits with Kyrgyzstan (AFP)
- Taiwan major held on China spying claims (Sino Daily)
An earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck early Saturday off Japan’s east coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said, triggering small tsunamis but causing no apparent damage.
Japan’s meteorological agency said the quake was an aftershock of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the same area in 2011, killing about 19,000 people and devastating the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.
Tsunamis of up to 40 centimetres were reported Saturday at four areas along the coast, but a tsunami advisory was lifted less than two hours after the quake.
It wasn’t a refrigeration company’s decision to use a cartoon egg with wings, of indeterminate gender and with “a strong sense of justice” as its corporate mascot that got Japan-based internet users giggling. It was, simply, the character’s name.
Fukuppy has become an unlikely online star after someone spotted his unintentionally hilarious name on the firm’s website.
This led to inaccurate reports that Fukuppy was being used to promote the regeneration of Fukushima Prefecture – given the long list of problems to have hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, some thought the name would have been inadvertently fitting.
“I’m Fukuppy. Nice to meet you,” the mascot says on the company’s website.
The origins of Fukuppy, whose name combines the Japanese word for good fortune with letters from the English word “happy”, are far more mundane.
Typhoon Wipha appeared set to make a close approach to Tokyo Wednesday morning (Tuesday evening EDT), potentially bringing a storm surge, heavy rain, and flooding to the massive metropolitan area of more than 35 million. It is also likely to impact the still-damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor 130 miles northeast of Tokyo, already leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated water into the ocean daily as of August.
Wipha is the strongest typhoon to approach eastern Japan since Tokage struck in October 2004, killing nearly 100 and forcing thousands to evacuate due to mudslides and flooding.
Fukushima’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Corporation is already cancelling all offshore work and considering halting onshore work depending on the storm’s path. While Tokyo Electric plans to pump rainwater into holding tanks, check it for radioactivity, and release it only if uncontaminated, the fact that they haven’t been able to contain leaks raises concerns over the further escape of radioactive water.
While forecasts say Wipha is more likely to take a path that wouldn’t produce a storm surge, five or more inches of rain would likely fall on Fukushima and Tokyo.
And with Fukushima under a storm surge advisory as of Tuesday morning (EDT), the plant’s problems could go beyond accumulating rainfall. Worst-case scenarios could see huge storm surges and flooding in both Fukushima and Tokyo.
More than two and a half years have passed since the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, wrecking the Fukushima nuclear plant and claiming nearly 16,000 lives. When it became clear that nuclear contamination was widespread, the government evacuated about 160,000 people living near the plant and established a 20-km compulsory exclusion zone, which remains in place today. Today, Tokyo Electric Power Company is still struggling to contain contaminated water at the destroyed plant. Former residents are allowed to return up to once a month, but they’re forbidden to stay overnight. Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj recently joined one of these trips, capturing images of a haunting landscape and lives torn apart by disaster.
[...] Tourists will be able to check into hotels that have been constructed to protect guests from elevated levels of radiation that are still to be found in pockets in the area. The village will also have restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a museum dedicated to the impact the disaster has had on local people.
Research facilities will also be set up to look into renewable energy resources, while a highlight of any visitor’s trip will be tours to “ground zero” within the nuclear plant’s perimeter fence.
Dressed in protective suits and wearing respirators, tourists will be able to take photos of the shattered reactor buildings and the workers who are still trying to render the reactors safe.
- 5.0 earthquake strikes not far from Fukushima (RT)
- UN Nuclear Agency to Monitor Fukushima Reactor (Epoch Times)
- For “zombie” Fukushima operator, fresh financing masks long-term woes (Reuters)
- Tepco’s Claim Radiation Leaks Confined to Coast Called ‘Silly’ (Bloomberg)
- Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps, backup kicks in (Guardian)
- Second breach at Fukushima nuclear plant leaks toxic water into sea (Guardian)
- Fukushima’s food plugged in London (Japan Times)
- Fukushima Unit 4 Has Shown Signs of Collapsing (Disinfo)
- Nuclear Engineer: Japan’s PM “Lying to the Japanese People” About Safety of Fukushima (TRNN)
- Memo: Japan balked at steps to control Fukushima water in 2011 (Reuters)
- Japan nuclear regulator berates Fukushima operator (AFP)
- Japan to Cooperate with IAEA on Public Communication (WSJ)
- Tokyo Olympics Bid was Fixed by the International Olympic Committee’s Nuclear Lobby (Yoichi Shimatsu)
- Japan’s Abe orders surviving Fukushima reactors scrapped, pledges safe Olympics (Reuters)
- French Cartoon With Fukushima Multi-Limbed Sumo Wrestlers Has Japanese Mad (Disinfo)
- Fukushima Could Spew Out More Than 15,000 Times as Much Radiation as Hiroshima Bombing (Truthout)
- Thousands in Japan reported to be suffering massive and recurring nosebleeds in recent days (ENE)
- Popular fast-food chain to grow food 60 miles from Fukushima plant (NBC)
- FDA Import Alert: U.S. bans agricultural and fishery products from 14 prefectures in Japan (ENE)
- Charges dropped against Japan ex-PM, TEPCO on Fukushima (AFP)
- Fukushima residents question radiation cleanup effort (CTV)
- Ex-US nuke safety chief says Fukushima water leak deteriorated while Japan waited too long (AP)
- New spill at No. 1 laid to typhoon miscalculation (JapanTimes)
- China seize radioactive scrap metal from Japan (Osaka News)
- Magnitude-5.3 earthquake hits Japan’s Fukushima (USA Today)
When, in 1851, Scotsman Sir David Brewster invented a photographic device called the Lenticular Stereoscope, the way people saw the world changed forever. After presenting it to Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition in London, Victorians went crazy for the new machine. Photographers were sent far and wide to record famous sights and events in stereo. “See the world from your parlour!” was just one of the many advertising slogans used to promote the fabulous new medium to knowledge thirsty Victorians. These incredible 3D images are just a fraction of the tens of thousands produced.
Former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Says Every Single Reactor in the U.S. Should Be Shut Down
[...] Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko declared in April that he believes every single nuclear power plant operating in the nation should be shut down, starting with the riskiest.
This isn’t completely far-fetched. So far this year, power companies have announced plans to close five reactors. Most recently, Entergy relented on its mission to keep its creaky Yankee nuclear plant in Vermont operational over the state government’s clear objections.
At least 37 more reactor closures could follow, according to Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment.
Japan is to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a frozen wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant to stop leaks of radioactive water.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said an estimated 47bn yen ($473m, £304m) would be allocated.
The leaks were getting worse and the government “felt it was essential to become involved to the greatest extent possible”, Mr Suga said.
The plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down.
Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors, but storing the resultant large quantities of radioactive water has proved a challenge for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).
OTHER FUKUSHIMA NEWS:
- Fukushima radiation levels ’18 times higher’ than thought (BBC)
- TEPCO Using Wrong Equipment To Test For Radiation? (BBC)
- Japanese Government Trying To Quiet Fears About Radiation Leaks (BBC)
- TEPCO Is Trying To Reassure People It’s All Under Control (CCTV)
- “Tepco Has Lost Control” – What Is Really Happening At Fukushima In Four Charts (Zero Hedge)
- Fukushima radioactive plume to hit the U.S. by early 2014 (Clean Technica)
- FLASHBACK: Nearly 50 U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Are Leaking Radioactive Tritium (Gizmodo)
- Russia Offers Fukushima Cleanup Help as Tepco Reaches Out (Bloomberg)
- Governor: N-crisis shouldn’t affect Tokyo Olympic bid (Press TV)
- Mr. Yamashita: ’If you are smiling, you will not have any radiation effect’
- Fukushima operator reveals leak of 300 tonnes of highly contaminated water (Guardian)
- Emergency Level At Fukushima Raised From 1 To 3 (CNN)
- TEPCO Apologizes For Radioactive Water Leaking Into The Pacific (NHK)
- Scientists Call For More Radiation Testing Of Fish Caught Off U.S. West Coast (KONG TV)
- Japan’s nuclear crisis deepens, China expresses ‘shock’ (Reuters)
- Vast Amounts Of Radioactive Water Creeping Towards Sea (TPM)
Japan’s eye-watering national debt has topped one quadrillion yen, official data showed Friday, a record figure that underlines Tokyo’s struggle to curb its huge borrowing.
The figure supplied by the finance ministry of 1.008 quadrillion yen by the end of June amounts to about $10.42 trillion at current exchange rates.
A quadrillion is one thousand trillion.
Tokyo has the dubious distinction of having, proportionately, the biggest debt pile among industrialised nations, more than twice the size of its economy.
The lion’s share of that debt is from long- and short-term Japanese government bonds, as well as other borrowing.
The rate at which contaminated water has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean from the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant is worse than thought before, an Industry Ministry official said as PM Shinzo Abe pledged to step up efforts to halt the crisis.
“We think that the volume of water is about 300 tons a day,” said Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which regulates Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
Abe put the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in charge of the situation, while demanding that the plant’s operator, TEPCO take the necessary steps to deal with the cleanup, which is anticipated to take more than 40 years at a cost of US$11 billion.
On Wednesday TEPCO confirmed the leak but refused to confirm the quantity being emitted from the plant.
“We are not currently able to say clearly how much groundwater is actually flowing into the ocean,” Tokyo Electric Power spokesman Noriyuki Imaizumi told Reuters when asked for an estimate.
- Japanese Govt Admits Several Hundred Tons Of Radioactive Water Leaking Into The Ocean Everyday (NHK)
- Experts Say It’s Now Clear TEPCO Can’t Handle The Clean Up Of Fukushima and Govt Must Take Over (BBC)
- Tepco Plan Could Cause Fukushima Reactor Buildings to “Topple” (Washington’s Blog)
- Falsified Reports After Fukushima Fan Anti-Nuclear Korea (Bloomberg)
- Taiwan says nuclear plant may have leaked toxic water (Reuters)
- American doctors’ group wants US seafood tested for radiation (Beyond Nuclear)
Japan marked the 68th anniversary Tuesday of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima with a somber ceremony to honor the dead and pledges to seek to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Some 50,000 people stood for a minute of silence in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the early morning blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed tens of thousands more, prompting Japan’s surrender to the World War II Allies.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, among many dignitaries attending the event, said that as the sole country to face nuclear attack, Japan has the duty to seek to wipe out nuclear weapons. He made no mention of the dilemma this resource-scarce country is facing over nuclear energy, nor of the tens of thousands of people displaced by risks from radioactivity from a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, in its northeast.
Most of Japan’s nuclear power plants were taken offline after the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 damaged reactors at a plant in Fukushima, causing meltdowns. Abe favors restarting plants under new safety guidelines, while many Japanese oppose such restarts.
There are over 200,000 “hibakusha,” surviving victims from the atomic bombings, with an average age of nearly 79. Many gathered in Hiroshima to burn incense, bowing in prayer.
Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an “emergency” that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country’s nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.
Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co are only a temporary solution, he said.
Tepco’s “sense of crisis is weak,” Kinjo said. “This is why you can’t just leave it up to Tepco alone” to grapple with the ongoing disaster.
“Right now, we have an emergency,” he said.
Tepco has been widely castigated for its failure to prepare for the massive 2011 tsunami and earthquake that devastated its Fukushima plant and lambasted for its inept response to the reactor meltdowns. It has also been accused of covering up shortcomings.