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Apr 29, 2011

Cleaning up after the tsunami

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 29, 2011 01:50 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

April 19, 2011

japan clean up 1I joined the volunteer groups, composed of around 200 people, organised by the Peace Boat last weekend and went to Ishinomaki, around 15 km from Sindai City. What we found there was still the misery sight that should have been gone already, as it has been more than one month since when the earthquake and the tsunami had happened. But the situation still needed more and more support to remove debris and sludge, or the very first-step for revival.

japan clean up 2japan clean up 3One of the main activities we engaged in was to scrape sludge out of the houses affected by tsunami. After being equipped with helmets, dust-proof masks, safety boots, and so on, we left for one shopping arcade in Ishinomaki. They said that the black muddy stream had swallowed up to the height of the 1st floor ceiling in the area only  within 20 minutes after the strong earthquake.

My group helped a coffee shop and a dental office over the weekend. We devoted ourselves to our work, having blessed them to start their work again as a master of the cafe and a dentist as early as possible. After removing the sludge into many sandbags, carrying out the muddy furniture, electrical appliances, and child toys etc., and wiping mud away, we could finally saw the surface of the floor after all two days.

“Arigatou ne (“Thank you very much” in Japanese)!” “Hontou ni Tasukatta yo (“You really helped us a lot” in Japanese)!” said the local people in the shopping arcade to us when we were about to leave there. Tears welled up in my eyes. I strongly believed again that each of us could do something even in a small way, which could piled up and became the big support for the local people to reconstruct their lives and communities.


Apr 26, 2011

Thoughts from a Fukushima resident

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 26, 2011 10:36 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Nuclear power is unwanted and unnecessary.  Life within our means!
We do not need to make life more convenient.  Life without damaging someone!
There's not enough to use energy unlimitedly.  Life that children are not frightened!

The triple blow of the large earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident are now depriving the people of Fukushima, my home town, of foundation for living.  There are villages that decided to evacuate pregnant women, toddlers and babies. Vulnerable people who cannot line up for gasoline at a gas station are being forced to endure difficult living conditions with growing anxiety.

The nuclear accident is a man-made disaster. It is thought that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), pro-nuclear politicians and academics are to blame for the accident, but that is not all.

The fact is that fifty years ago Fukushima Prefecture invited the electric power company to build nuclear power plants in order to promote regional development. The local anti-nuclear energy movement requested countermeasures against tsunamis but this did not happen. This is totally different from what happens in the United States. 

It may be a consequence of our choice and giving our silent approval. We should not only blame TEPCO and the government without understanding the point. It may be said that we made this disaster ourselves as we believed everything the politicians said.

What's the solution?

Providing energy education to learn nuclear power objectively and knowledge and wisdom to protect life is necessary. Reviewing a monopoly system of electric power companies to divide them into a generation company, a transmission company and a distribution company, and establishing a territorially distributed system of electric power supply. 

Let people choose their energy. Using different heat sources for residences. An oil stove is useful in case of disaster. Full electrification is easily affected by power failures. Reviewing electricity payment methods for electric power at peak times.

I feel so sad that the sea and fields in my home town have been contaminated in return for a convenient and gorgeous life in the Tokyo metropolitan area. "I don’t mind darkened stores." "Stores do not have to open 365 days a year. Revive regular holidays."  "Until now, it was too convenient and too bright." I hear those words spoken earnestly.

The nuclear accident triggers us to look into our daily lives and change the structure.  I will take actions praying for the repose of disaster victims in my home town.

Say no to increase in 'safe' levels of radiation for children

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 26, 2011 11:05 AM
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Join Friends of the Earth Japan and other civil society organisations in calling on the Japanese government to reverse a decision to increase the level of 'safe' radiation exposure to children.

On April 19, the Japanese government announced that it would be increasing the level of radiation deemed safe for children to 20 mSv/y. This is comparable to the maximum dose allowed for nuclear power plant workers in Germany.

We urgently demand the withdrawal of the Japanese Government's inhumane decision to force 20millisieverts per year (mSv/y) radiation exposure onto children
On April 19th, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) notified the Board of Education and related institutions in Fukushima Prefecture the level of 20 millisieverts per
year (mSv/y) as a Radiation Safety Standard for schools in Fukushima Prefecture. This is the standard to be used for school grounds and buildings. The Government has indicated that 20mSv/y is equivalent to
3.8 microSv per hour measured outdoors.
3.8 microSv/h is roughly 6 times [the 0.6 microSv/h] of "Radiation Controlled Areas" (0.6 microSv/h or more). The Labour Standards Act prohibits those under the age of 18 from working under these conditions.
Forcing children to be exposed to such radiation doses is an exceedingly inhumane decision. Therefore, we condemn this in the strongest terms.
20 mSv/y is comparable to the [legally] recognized dose for inducing leukemia in nuclear power plant workers. It is also comparable to the maximum dose allowed for nuclear power plant workers in Germany.
In addition, this 20mSv standard [for Japanese children] does not take into account the fact children have higher sensitivity to radiation than adults, nor does it take into account any internal radiation exposure.
Currently, according to the radiation monitoring conducted at elementary and middle schools within Fukushima Prefecture, more than 75% of these schools have contamination levels comparable to "Radiation Controlled Areas" (0.6 microSv/h or more). Further, roughly 20% of the schools fall within "Individual Exposure Controlled Areas" (2.3 microSv/h or more) and are in an extremely dangerous situation.
The level set by the Japanese Government at this time amounts to coercion of this dangerous situation upon children, and, can interfere with voluntary measures by schools to minimize exposure.
MEXT states that 20mSv/y is based on the recommendation Pub.109 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) as well as on the reference levels in the band of 1 to 20 mSv/y as "Post Emergency Situation" Standards from the ICRP statement released on March 21st. The latter means MEXT has adopted the maximum level.
As of April 21st, there has been no substantive information disclosure by the Japanese Government on the decision-making process for establishing these standards. Moreover, no explanation has been given
concerning why the Government has neither taken the sensitivity of children into consideration nor internal radiation exposure into account. The contents of the consultation held between MEXT and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) are not disclosed, and the situation remains extremely opaque. 
We demand the following of the Japanese Government:
-Retraction of the "20mSv/y" standard for children.
-Disclosure of the names of experts, who deemed "20mSv/y" for children to be safe.


At the governmental negotiation held on April 21st, it became evident that the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) concluded the 20mSv/y standard for children as "Permissible" without undertaking any formal consultation. Moreover, on April 22nd, the Commission reported to the office of Mizuho FUKUSHIMA, member of the Japanese Diet, House of Councillors that no minutes (records) exist of the 5 Nuclear Safety Commission members’ deliberation leading to the 20mSv/year standard.  


Expert comments cited from the articles on the establishment of the 20mSv/y standard ("Fukushima-Katastrophe - Japan legt hohe Strahlengrenzwerte fur Kinder fest" or “Japan's MEXT sets High Exposure
Limits for Children”), Der Spiegel, April 21st, 2011.
(See comparison to German workers.),1518,758410,00.html
Edmund Lengfelder (Otto Hug Radiation Institute), "The cancer risk will visibly rise in the future. By setting these standards, the government will steer clear of any liability legally, however not morally."
This petition is being organized by: Green Action, Greenpeace Japan, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai), Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi, and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants (Mihama-no-Kai), Friends of the Earth Japan

further information  

Green Action
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223
Friends of the Earth Japan
3-30-8-1F Ikebukuro Toshima-ku Tokyo 171-0014, Japan
TEL: +81-3-6907-7217
English translation of Japanese original: FoE Japan / Green Action

Apr 20, 2011

Anti-mining leader from El Salvador wins the Goldman Prize

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 20, 2011 12:00 AM

Francisco Pineda of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, El Salvador has won the 2011 Goldman Prize for Francisco Pineda for his work in stopping a gold mine from destroying El Salvador’s dwindling water resources and the livelihoods of rural communities throughout the country.

Francisco Pineda - goldman prize winnerCESTA / Friends of the Earth El Salvador has worked closely with Francisco and the Environmental Committee of Cabañas.


Ricardo Navarro, the Director of CESTA, expressed his joy at Francisco's achievement and said that such recognition will strengthen the community and organisations' struggle to prevent mining exploitation in El Salvador. 


Find out more about Francisco Pineda


Apr 19, 2011

We really appreciate your big support

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 19, 2011 05:08 PM

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Thanks to the people who made donations to Friends of the Earth's International's appeal, we have been able to forward 600,000 yen to the Japan Chernobyl Foundation (JCF).  The group are providing medical support to people in Minami Souma City, Fukushima Prefecture, who are suffering in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.


Below is the message by Ms. Sadako Kamiya of JCF, translated and edited by FoE Japan


We really appreciate your big support

japan evacuation centreThe Situation of Minami Souma City is changing very quickly. Since the beginning of April, many people who had moved to other prefectures (regions) are now coming back.


Some people have come back because they were exhausted by life as evacuee, some feel uncertainty about the future and are concerned about employment. And others have come back because they expected the schools to be open and daily life to have resumed.


The original shelters have become crowded with the new returnees and so new shelters have opened. There are many elders in the shelters. Some walk around in the night confused, so medical team and JCF staff watch over them. Staff at JCF listen carefully to them and prescribe medicines. As the weeks have passed life in the shelters has become tougher as people realise they have to stay longer than they initially thought.


While a part of Minami Souma City has been declared as the 'planned evacuation area' by the government last week, JCF continues to support the people who are staying in the city by providing physical check-ups.


Since the situation is not expected to improve any time soon, we will also call on people to evacuate to Nagano Prefecture (where JCF is located). We try to talk to the mayor, the head of the education and emergency measure centre but the city

officials were all very busy. So we will plan to make a guide informing people who will be accepted as residents.


We really hope that the situation of nuclear power plant will be stabilised as soon as possible.

Apr 15, 2011

"STOP Nuclear Power Plants!" say 15,000 Tokyo demonstrators

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 15, 2011 11:40 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Shouting, singing, and dancing, the participants expressed their own opinion about the nuclear power plants in various passionate ways. Last Sunday, April 10, I joined one anti-nuclear power action at Kouenji, one of the towns in Tokyo. Around 15,000 people gathered for this, the biggest demonstration against nuclear power plants in Japan after the triple-disaster of March 11.


Most of the participants in the action were in their 20’s and 30’s, including some parents with their children. There were also many people who were taking part in their first demonstration.   


"When could we change this situation, if not now?” "We don’t want to leave

this kind of big risk and burden behind for our children." These were the thoughts that moved more and more people to join in the demonstration. Many people found out about it through Twitter and the internet.


There were anti-nuclear actions in other Japanese cities on that day. I have a feeling the demonstrations will spread across the country.


Coverage of the demonstrations

“STOP Nuclear Power”  Action @ Kouenji on April 10, 2011-part 2


“STOP Nuclear Power”  Action @ Kouenji on April 10, 2011-part 1



Apr 14, 2011

Messages from Japanese citizens to the world

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 14, 2011 10:27 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Smile a cheerful smile !
Let today and again tomorrow be filled with your beaming smiles !!

Tell us about something wonderful you met today.
Tell us about something happy you got today.
Let your smiles be spread all over the world again today.

Your smile will surely put new life into all of us !!



I just happened to be at my cousin's home with my daughter when the first

strong earthquake hit North-west Japan. We felt quite a strong quake and I held the kids tightly until the quake stopped.


All the kids started to cry "Scary!!"


Calming down the kids, we couldn't stop watching TV... it was just like a

fiction disaster movie but it was all real. Also one of my best friends was

in Ishinomaki for a business trip, where had fatal tsunami hit. He came back

five days after the disaster by luck.


I couldn't sleep at all that night, I just prayed things would not get worse in

the midst of the frequent aftershocks.


If I were out for work on that day as usual and left my 22-month old

daughter at the child day care....? If something worst happened at the

Fukushima nuclear plant...?


Such thoughts kept giving me a shudder and I couldn't let my child away from

me even after the day care restarted.


It was extremely difficult to sort out the information for the first week

(it is still difficult though, and maybe getting worse), however,  I decided to follow my instinct as a mother and evacuate to my hometown in the south-west region!


So far, I'm satisfied with my decision to leave Tokyo for a while.

The biggest reason is now I'm free from the extraordinary tension in Tokyo.

I didn't notice that I was under such way-out stress until I left there.


Here I've got a sense of self-composure to join and organise some charity events. I just came back from the kids' English lesson and now I've become keenly aware that the smile of children always gives adults the right direction.


Last but not least at all, I truly appreciate so much for care and prayers from all over the world. Also, let me apologise for radioactive pollution from Fukushima. A lot of ordinary Japanese citizens feel that we shoulder part of the responsibility as we've neglected its danger in order to enjoy a semblance of quality of life. Nuclear is not a necessary evil any more but an absolute evil!




One Day in Fukushima City

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 14, 2011 03:33 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

one day in fukushimaOn April 11, I visited Fukushima City with two activists from Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai). We met four members from Fukushima Citizen’s Conference for Reconstruction from Nuclear Disaster, a citizen’s group established immediately after the events of March 3. 


We spoke about how we can convey their voices to the Parliament and Government of Japan and the possibility of further collaboration. As they spoke under the stress, the sense of duty for immediate actions and the stress and the ongoing fear of radioactive contamination / exposure, each and every word weighed heavily. 


During the meeting, there was a very strong earthquake. We interrupted our meeting as the TV reported that Fukushima Daiichi had lost its power sources. Several strong earthquakes were felt afterwards, but people didn’t seem to care, they just continued talking. I think they have become accustomed to the quakes.


Fukushima Citizen’s Conference for Reconstruction from Nuclear Disaster have been monitoring the amount of radiation at several schools and kindergartens in Fukushima and the southern part of Miyagi. As a result, some high values were monitored in some playgrounds. They aim to request and pressure the local government to monitor thoroughly and conduct necessary actions by presenting the data monitored by the citizens. Their intention was partly realised, as Fukushima Prefecture began the radiation monitoring at more than a thousand schools. Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai) have collaborated by providing the Geiger counters and utilising the monitoring of results at a national level.


During our meeting, the activists stressed the following:


- People in Fukushima have accepted Nuclear Power Plants, which meant that we put priority on money over life and safety. This disaster is a direct consequence of it. It is the time to reverse the order. We have been struggling to change our society, which does not want to move under severe pressure and stress. But we must change.  We would like to build a foundation of the future society for our children.


- We feel a sense of urgency when we see children playing in the rain without umbrellas.


- The government should evacuate the children from all schools where high amounts of radiation have been recorded. The governmental support is indispensable, thus, it must provide for the coordination of host communities and financial support”


- Independent monitoring by citizen's group is very important, but we do not have a sufficient number of Geiger counters and any measurement instruments for food and soil contamination. We need international support to continue our activism.


Further information

Apr 12, 2011

'Civil Power' is tested in Japan

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 12, 2011 03:23 PM

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Serious radiation leaks still continue due to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Overseas organizations have provided predictions of radiation dispersion, while nothing has been announced officially by the Japanese government.


Furthermore entrance and opening ceremonies at elementary schools have commenced regardless of locally high radiation levels in the surrounding areas, causing a potential threat to children.

Rapid response to minimize damage from nuclear accidents is required, and in the meantime unified civil society plays an important role in the abandonment of nuclear power and also a shift in energy policy in Japan.


Friends of the Earth Japan is involved in the development of non governmental organisational networks (NGO) in Japan, as well as lobby government policies. Presented below are Japanese NGO activities concerning nuclear power plants in Japan.

Radiation monitoring project in elementary schools

The Fukushima Conference for Recovery from the Nuclear-Earthquake Disaster, which was urgently set up by a group of citizens in Fukushima Prefecture and the adjacent southern part of Miyagi Prefecture, has conducted a study of radioactive contamination in elementary schoolyards.


The result of the study indicates that an uneven pattern in dispersion of contamination is likely to create areas of particularly high radiation in some parts of schoolyards, called hot spots.


The Fukushima Conference called on the governor of Fukushima Prefecture to conduct further investigation based on the study. Other organisations such as Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai) supporting this activity, encourage the government and municipalities to act, while proceeding with citizen-run radiation monitoring projects.

Further information:

Petition the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Organisations such as Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants (Mihama-no-Kai), Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre and GREEN ACTION are calling on the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to revise evacuation zones, repeal the upward revision of the maximum permissible radiation dose, measure and publicise the radiation monitoring, investigate radiation exposure and health status among residents and provide for their long-term health care. They are also gathering signatures for a petition.


Further information:

No more nuclear disaster! Build a no-nuke society! 4.24 meeting and demonstration

Stop nuclear power plants! Tokyo network (consisted of Do NOT Want Plutonium! Tokyo, Diahchi wo Mamoru Kai, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre) will perform demonstrations on April 24, in Tokyo and march through the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry building, Chubu Electric Power Company, and head office of Tokyo Electric Power Company. Pavel Vdovichenko, one of the founders of Russian NGO Radimichi to the Children of Chernobyl, will talk at the meeting.

From "unplanned power outage" to "strategic energy shift"

Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) examined capacity for power supply in the Kanto region as well as its past demand, and proposes public policies in short, mid, and long terms.


Further information:

Radiation monitoring

Greenpeace set up an investigation team including radiation experts to protect citizens’ health and the surrounding environment by providing highly transparent information and analysis. Greenpeace’s statements are as below, based on their results of the first investigation: The data provided by the government is reliable, but their action in accordance with the data is not appropriate. The government must stop political action such as ‘within 30km’, and must act immediately to determine evacuation zones based on scientific data. In such case, actions with a priority for children and pregnant women, who are susceptible to radioactive materials, are necessary.


Further information:

Apr 08, 2011

Distributing hot meals in Ishinomaki city

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 08, 2011 01:22 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Thanks to the support of people who donated to Friends of the Earth International's appeal, we've passed on 600,000 Yen (around 5000 euros) to Peace Boat, who are conducting emergency relief efforts for those who are suffering.


Peace Boat is now located in Ishinomaki city in Miyagi prefecture. For the last two weeks they have been carrying out the following:


  • Coordinating requests from evacuation centres;
  • Cooperating with other organisations willing to help provide assistance in Ishinomaki;
  • Preparing and distributing at least 500 daily hot meals to survivors outside the evacuation centres, with an immediate goal of 2000 meals per day;
  • Helping cater to affected areas that the authorities have yet to reach;
  • Participating in efforts to clean the evacuation centres, clear debris and mud, and make the roads functional.


Despite our efforts, the area is still facing a serious shortage of food. Since March 25, Peace Boat has been rotating teams of 50 volunteers and will be coordinating more of them in the coming weeks.


The money that Friends of the Earth transferred will provide around 1000 hot meals. A member of Friends of the Earth Japan will be volunteering on April 16 and 17. She will report back here on the experience!


More information, in English, on Peace Boat's work can be found on their website and Facebook page. 


Peace Boat Website

Peace Boat Facebook page.



Apr 06, 2011

Home of respected Colombian Professor raided

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 06, 2011 04:36 PM
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Friends of the Earth International is greatly concerned by the news of a raid, by the Colombian army, on the house of Mario Mejia Gutierrez, a well-known Professor of Latin American Agroecology. We have been informed that a group of 70 Colombian military personnel participated in the raid. They caused severe damage to the property.

Mario Mejia GutierrezMario Mejía has become a leader of the Latin American agroecology and environmental movement because of his contributions in developing an agroecological way that respects environmental and cultural heritage. His publications are read by many.

In his home in San Antonio, Valle del Cauca, Professor Mario Mejia has developed the important work of protecting the water springs that provide drinking water to nearly 35 families. In addition he's been involved in reforestation work, a rural school, and workshops for peasant groups. Thousands of people have visited his house in order to learn environmentally friendly practices.

With his own resources he's built lodgings, dry toilets and wooden stoves which were seriously damaged by the raid.

We demand the Colombian authorities investigate these incidents and guarantee the human rights of the Professor, and those he works with, and that he is compensated for the damage caused to his property.

international petition on radiological impact of Fukushima disaster

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 06, 2011 03:04 PM

Japanese NGOs and citizens are calling on the international community to sign a petition, that will be presented to the Japanese government, calling for greater measures to protect and compensate people from the radiological impact of the Fukushima disaster

The petition is available to sign on the Green Action Japan website, one of the NGOs Friends of the Earth Japan is working with.

Sign the petition now!

The petition calls for the Japanese government to:

  1. Immediately issue a directive to evacuate and enlarge the evacuation zone.
  2. Calculate and publicise the total cumulative radiation dose local residents are receiving.
  3. Repeal the upward revision of the maximum permissible radiation dose (250 milliSieverts) for emergency-response workers at the Fukushima plant.
  4. Expand the scope of radiation monitoring and publicise the results.
  5. Undertake immediately a comprehensive survey of the radiation exposure and current state of health of local residents and provide for their long-term health care.
  6. Do not relax the provisional standards governing the maximum permissible levels of radionuclides in food.
  7. Provide compensation for damages to farm and dairy producers and to people who have been forced to relocate.
  8. Generally, take all measures necessary to ensure that members of the public do not receive radiation doses greater than 1 milliSievert per annum.


Apr 05, 2011

Life in a city, 40 km from Fukushima

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 05, 2011 12:09 PM

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

I would like to introduce an essay from one of our friends, who lives in Iwaki City, 40 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

japan earthquake tsunami 2Two weeks after the hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant building, we've returned to Iwaki City at last. Iwaki is 40 km away from the Fukushima plant and is neither within the 20 km evacuation zone nor within the 30 km safety zone.


However, immediately after the nuclear explosion following the earthquakes and tsunamis, we were not able to determine the degree of risks involved and evacuated to Ibaraki Prefecture, 160 km from Iwaki city.


My wife works at a high school, 34 km from the Fukushima plant. Two days after the evacuation, she insisted on returning to Iwaki City. I was against this. At the time, there'd been a second hydrogen explosion. Upon hearing about this, my wife still persisted with her plans to return and we began to quarrel. One hour after the second explosion, the school finally got in contact with her with an official notice to stay on stand-by and not to return, my wife conceded.


I was relieved to settle this matter. We then began to worry about our cat that was left behind. This cat, being semi-wild, lies idly during the day in the neighboring field and returns home at night. We were certain that she would take refuge in the field and was not likely to starve, thus the problem was her radiation exposure.


The radiation monitoring began in Iwaki City and was reported to be about 1 micro sieverts per hour (Sv/h) in the atmosphere above normal levels. The soil contamination too appears relatively serious. As our cat lives in the field, she must be covered with the dirt. I wonder how much she has been exposed to.


Two weeks later as we returned to Iwaki city, our cat was fortunately alive and well. I wondered what she had been eating. We brought her into the bathroom immediately and washed her with some cat-shampoo. So as not to bring the radioactive material into the house, we had initially decided to wash her outside. However, the joy of finding her alive left us with no such reason.


The hardest part came afterwards. The cat naturally wants to go outside; she kept crying so that we could not keep her indoors any longer. As we told her, "outside you will be exposed to radiation", she would not listen and began rolling around in the field again.


Like many cats, our cat too dislikes getting wet; therefore we cannot wash her every day. We ourselves are wearing masks when outside and we take our clothes off in the entrance hall so as not to bring the radiation material into our bedroom. But is it any good at all if the cat comes in full of dirt?


Thus far when we brought her inside our home, we used disposable body-towels. However, since these towels are relatively expensive, and do not come in large amounts, we opted to use baby-wipes. We soak them very lightly and wipe her three times and needless to say they are then discarded.


We are well aware of the radiation risks and have some knowledge. Yet as we restart our lives, we end up not thinking of this risks as everyday needs and emotional needs take over. People living outside the immediate danger are far more sensitive to such risks. In fact, prior to our return to Iwaki City, our family members and friends living outside Fukushima Prefecture were very concerned and strongly opposed our return.


Despite this, my wife decided to return out of her sense of duty and out of her guilt for left behind. While I, with my affection for our cat, selfishly reasoned that "the plant will not explode immediately," "we can secure the gasoline if needed," "1 micro Sv/h does not present a high risk," and so on.


Upon returning, we found the shelves of the supermarket empty and about 100 cars lined up at the gas station. Yet here the sky is blue, and so ordinary is our everyday it makes it difficult to believe that only 40 km from here are the damaged nuclear plants.


Whether our cat is exposed to radiation is still unknown, and recently we nicknamed her Sievert. More accurately, as the cat is treated as a nuclear material, Becquerel is appropriate. Therefore, we thought of calling her Becky, however, my wife thought Sievert prettier and there was no use in arguing.


By continuing this life, the risk of radiation will be forgotten unless the situation worsens at the plants or until the onset of cancer emerges. I wonder for those who have settled here for good, this may well be a happier life.


Even if her life ends prematurely, our cat might be content to roll around in the field as usual. I too am defeated by my own emotion and no longer troubled by the thought of letting our cat into our home even if this means shortening my life a little.


Photo credit: DigitalGlobe

Apr 04, 2011

Constructing temporary houses in Japan

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 04, 2011 03:00 PM
Filed Under:

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Building new homes in japanIt has been three weeks since the earthquake and tsunami hit Touhoku and Kanto area. In Miyagi prefecture, the construction of temporary houses
has started for people whose homes were completely destroyed or washed away.

In Iwanuma City, the first 100 houses are under construction and another 58 will be added. In Miyagi Prefecture 10,000 houses will be constructed and, as of April 1, 2300 houses are already in the process of being built.

In Yamamoto town, consultations for residents were held, but information is said to be insufficient. For example, it's not known whether there's an option to move into temporary housing into other prefectures (districts). It will be a long way from fully satisfying people's needs. But at the same time, local officials are working so hard for the people.

japan earthquake tsunami notice boardIwanuma City Hall

In Iwanuma City Hall, since the earthquake and tsunami occurred, a disaster centre has been established under the Mayor's initiative. When I visited the centre the staff seemed to be busy with recovering the bodies. They have been sleeping in the City Hall since the disaster to deal with huge loss and damage that has been gradually unfolding. The health condition of the workers is a serious concern. 




Top photo: Construction begins in Iwanuma City. Bottom: A message board in Iwanuma City

Apr 01, 2011

Assessing needs in Iwanuma city

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 01, 2011 11:50 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

On March 31, one of our staff members went to Iwanuma city, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas most affected by the tsunami to grasp the needs on the ground.


Those needs are still being assessed, but here are some photos of the devastation in Iwanuma City.

Iwanuma City, Japan, post tsunami 1
The remains of a road.

Iwanuma City, Japan, post tsunami 4

Paddy fields remain strewn with rubble and salt damage could harm future rice production.

Iwanuma City, Japan, post tsunami 3

These trees used to form a disaster-prevention forest, but were felled by
the tsunami.

Three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami happened, Sendai Airport (in Miyagi Prefecture) has reopened. We hope this will facilitate relief work and put forward the reconstruction.