Disaster-hit Fukushima town to design reconstruction hub

The town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture, which houses the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and where the majority of residential areas have been designated as „difficult-to-return zones,“ is designing a new sub-town in the form of a reconstruction hub, which will be located in residential zones with comparatively low radiation levels.

It is envisioned that the new zone will encompass a total area of around 40 hectares — around 0.5 percent of the town as a whole — and will house some 3,000 residents.

The Okuma town mayoral race, during which the need for the new residential area should by all accounts be raised as an issue to be questioned, was announced on Nov. 5. There are no likely candidates, however, other than sitting incumbent Toshitsuna Watanabe.

Even Watanabe himself has said, „I had actually hoped to retire and pass along the job to someone younger“ — a statement belying his true feelings, which only goes to show how fraught with difficulties the road ahead truly is.

„I plan to take on the task of implementing local development so that residents can feel their hometown is moving toward recovery one step at a time,“ commented Watanabe, 68, who is seeking a third term in office, in his first campaign speech on the morning of Nov. 5 in the Fukushima prefectural city of Aizuwakamatsu, which is located some 100 kilometers west of Okuma.

A temporary building for the Okuma town government has been set up in Aizuwakamatsu, where around 1,500 Okuma residents are additionally living in temporary housing facilities.

Okuma’s population stood at 10,778 as of the end of October, with 23 percent of the town’s residents having evacuated outside of Fukushima Prefecture — mostly within the Kanto region.

The designated „difficult-to-return zones“ — whose prospects for residents ever being able to go back are unclear — comprise some 62 percent of the town’s total area, and around 96 percent of its residential districts.

In September of last year, the town agreed to be one of the locations to host temporary storage for radioactively contaminated soil and other materials resulting from radiation decontamination work — with the area targeted for the facility covering around one-third of the town’s residential area.

Even so, some residents — the majority of them elderly individuals — insist that they wish to return to Okuma. It was within this context that the town government announced plans in March of this year to construct the new, smaller town in Okuma’s residential Ogawara district, which is designated as a restricted residence area where decontamination work has been carried out for residents to return within a few years.

New facilities are targeted to be built within an agricultural area of around 40 hectares in the new zone, including office buildings and research centers for the nuclear reactor decommissioning projects, as well as disaster recovery public housing for local residents.

The plan envisages around 2,000 reactor decommissioning workers living in the area in three years‘ time, along with some 1,000 Okuma locals, mainly elderly residents, returning to the town.

While the town government had at one time considered constructing a local elderly care facility, this plan was rejected due to the likelihood that not enough employees could be recruited to work there.

In addition, the town has no plans to rebuild elementary or junior high schools, with few parents bringing their children back to live in the town due to fears regarding the effects of radiation.

„Those who return here will likely be elderly individuals living on their own,“ commented a high-ranking town official. „For such people who have the desire to live here, we wanted to give them hope.“

Watanabe began telling others last autumn that he planned to retire as mayor, saying that his „back pain makes it difficult to work.“

Every town assembly member that he approached as a possible successor, however, declined — citing the numerous problems with local administration that made the job appear too daunting. Eventually, Watanabe was convinced to change his mind about retiring.

When he announced his candidacy at the beginning of October, with less than one month left before the deadline to do so, he let slip the comment that „things really aren’t seeming to go my way.“

A man in his 60s who is living in temporary housing in Aizuwakamatsu said, „Plans need to be put into place so that people who wish to return home may do so.“

He added apprehensively, however, „I wonder if a town that has no children and only elderly residents can actually work.“

November 05, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)

No Nuclear Fuel Left, Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Unit 1. Revealed by the remote sensing using a cosmic ray.


Lalaland March 19th, 2015


”No Nuclear Fuel Left, Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Unit 1.
Revealed by the remote sensing using a cosmic ray. ”


Let’s pretend this is fresh news and that no one would have thought that the core reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 had officially and entirely gone AWOL  *”absent without official leave” as I like to imply for this missing Corium

Actually, it took 4 years for authorities to relay such information to the public (us). It went from;  “no meltdown”, to “partially melt down”, to “melt down” and finally “completely melt down”.

Did they just say “complete melt down” ?






unit 1 empty

Back in January 2015, TEPCO was introducing the use of the “muon” detectors for the imaging of cosmic rays coming from outer space as they pass matter like the concrete and steel of Fukushima and absorbed in high-density molecular materials like uranium in an effort to locate the destroyed radioactive reactor cores.  Muon imaging for Units 2 and 3 is still underway.

The x-ray like imagery indicates that the center portion of the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel appears to be missing and that the melted reactor core material has exited and relocated outside of the reactor vessel.

The exact location of the destroyed reactor cores for Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, Unit 2 and 3 remain unknown.  TEPCO is attempting to probe beneath the wreckage for missing reactor core material with advanced robotics.



It is more than likely, authorities at hand will have to re evaluate “one more time” the inventory of isotopes that spewed out of Daiichi (keep on spewing) since 311. We all know that Dr Yamashita and the rest of the clowns at the FMU had it wrong a few times and it is unlikely they will get it right anytime soon.


So while PM Shinzo Abe and the rest of the Nuclear Mafia keeps on telling the entire world that Fukushima is safe, I can’t stop shaking my head in disbelief, knowing that thousands of innocent souls are being rushed back to contaminated areas … not so far from 3 MISSING totally melted down reactor cores. Consequently this will also call for re assessing inventories of isotopes from Unit 2 and 3 as well.


高エネルギー加速器研究機構などのグループは、先月から、さまざまな物質を通り抜ける性質がある「ミューオン」と呼ばれる素粒子をとらえる特殊な装置でレ ントゲン写真のように原子炉建屋を透視し、核燃料のありかを突き止めようという調査を進めてきました。その結果、1号機では、使用済み燃料プールにある核 燃料は確認できましたが、原子炉の中には核燃料が見あたらないことがわかりました。









Jan. 30, 2015

New Findings on Fallout

Nearly 4 years have passed since the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. But even as work proceeds on decommissioning the reactors, experts are still trying to grasp all the details of the disaster. They have made new discoveries about the radioactive substances released from the reactors. In this installment of Nuclear Watch, we tell you what they’ve found.

On March 13th, 2011, a US aircraft carrier deployed off northeastern Japan detected an increase in the level of radiation in the atmosphere. The crew kept a running record of the data.

NHK created this chart with help from a researcher who’s been analyzing the information.

Up until now, people looking into the accident had focused on the 4 days immediately after the disaster. That’s because they thought the bulk of radioactive substances was released from the plant during that period.

However, the data analyzed by the researchers suggest something different. Only a quarter of the radioactive substances drifted away from the plant during the first 4 days. The remaining 75 percent spread over the next 2 weeks.

An analysis reveals why this happened. When the disaster hit, the nuclear plant lost its external power. That made electric pumps that inject water into the reactors useless.

So workers used fire engines to spray water into the reactors in an effort to keep them from melting down.

The fire engines pumped out 30,000 liters of water every hour. But an in-house investigation by the plant’s operator shows only about 1,000 liters per hour reached the targets.

We conducted an experiment to see if this may have contributed to the massive release of radioactive fallout.

Nuclear fuel is covered with a metal called zirconium. We heated the metal to a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius, the estimated temperature inside the reactors when the accident happened. We then poured traces of vapor onto the metal to simulate water from the fire engines.

Instead of dropping, the temperature of the metal quickly began to climb. In 2 minutes, it surged by 78 degrees. Experts suspect this is why large amounts of radioactive substances escaped over an extended time.

NHK asked experts to gather for analysis.

„Fuel keeps melting slowly, as zirconium generates a relatively large amount of heat,“ explains Masanori Naitoh, Director of the Institute of Applied Energy. „The metal remained hot for some time. This means radioactive materials will be released for a longer time.“

The experiment showed that water that was meant to prevent the meltdowns may have actually sustained them. Naitoh says the result shows that radioactive substances kept leaking out and spreading into the atmosphere.

NHK WORLD’s Kenichiro Okamoto has been following the story, and tells us what he’s learned.

Why wasn’t the fallout discovered until now?

Several independent panels investigated the accident. Some were appointed by the government… others by the Diet, or private groups.

The members tried to figure out why no one was able to control the situation. They focused on the 4 to 5 days after the disaster, when TEPCO failed to prevent the reactors from melting down.

Are the investigations ongoing?

Radiation levels around the Fukushima Daiichi reactors remain extremely high.

And no one has been able to get close enough to determine what’s happening inside. And it’s possible there may still be more data to analyze about radioactive substances released from the plant.

This explains why experts believe it will take several decades to get a complete picture of what happened. In the meantime, everyone needs to keep in mind that no nuclear plant is perfectly safe.

And members of the media need to keep watching the situation, and report on future developments as they happen.


POINT OF VIEW/ Yuko Endo: 4 years from nuclear disaster, Fukushima needs to reverse depopulation

Interview mit dem Bürgermeister von Kawauchimura, Herrn Yuko Endo

March 19, 2015

Mayor Yuko Endo listens to proposals for post-quake reconstruction from elementary school pupils in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, in November. (Susumu Okamoto)

Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo during a recent interview (Susumu Okamoto)

Mayor Yuko Endo listens to proposals for post-quake reconstruction from elementary school pupils in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, in November. (Susumu Okamoto)

Mayor Yuko Endo listens to proposals for post-quake reconstruction from elementary school pupils in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, in November. (Susumu Okamoto)


The village of Kawauchi, where I serve as mayor, is located 20 to 30 kilometers southwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Radiation levels remained relatively low, so it was quite obvious what we had to do to allow residents to return. We attracted firms to secure workplaces, and we expanded the lineup of departments at our clinic so residents could live with peace of mind once they returned.

We also plan to open an intensive care home for the elderly and a shopping complex by year-end.

Of the 3,000 or so people who lived in Kawauchi before the nuclear disaster, some 1,600 have so far returned. Only 20 percent of those aged 40 or under are back in Kawauchi.

Families are no longer the same as before. As they have had to live in evacuation, such as in temporary housing, the number of households has increased from the pre-disaster figures of 1,100 to 1,500.

Young villagers have landed jobs in urban areas, where they took shelter. Children have also gotten used to schools to which they were transferred. Those people are building new lives for themselves, although we call them “evacuees.”

They have come to think of returning to their own homes as something like a “resettlement” because a return to Kawauchi would require them to once again drastically alter their living environment.

I think it is no longer possible to restore the village to what it was. There is nothing wrong with people’s decisions to settle elsewhere in a forward-looking mindset, instead of returning to Kawauchi. In fact, continuing on with an “all-temporary” life–a temporary job and a temporary school–would be akin to wasting precious time in your life.

The central government has set aside 25 trillion yen ($208 billion) to spend on rebuilding efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster during a five-year “intensive reconstruction period.” That period will expire at the end of fiscal 2015.

The central government intends to show the world how Fukushima has been rebuilt, hopefully when the Summer Olympics are held in Tokyo in 2020.

I think it is, of course, essential to designate a deadline in setting a goal, but I don’t want it to be forgotten that it takes a long time to rebuild a disaster-hit area.

Forests, which account for 87 percent of Kawauchi’s landmass, have yet to be decontaminated. All we can do is wait for the natural decay of radioactive substances while taking care of the forests, but that will probably take us something like 40 years, the same time frame for having the nuclear reactors decommissioned.

I am concerned that when the “deadline” has passed, the central government could reduce its assistance in the name of efficiency across the entire area of Futaba county (a broader administrative district that includes Kawauchi), which hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Rebuilding measures are, of course, essential, but rather, how to cope with an ongoing depopulation is, in fact, presenting an extremely crucial issue. Kawauchi’s current population of 1,600 had initially been projected for some time around 2030. But the nuclear disaster has abruptly turned that projection into a reality.

Other constituent towns and villages of Futaba county, where a return of residents will get under way from now on, will also have to face the same challenge. Without young people, it remains difficult to manage a local government and envisage a future for a local community, no matter how magnificent the infrastructure to be built under reconstruction measures.

I realize that exactly represents the serious nature of the nuclear disaster.

While it is never easy to try to stop depopulation, an anxiety about not knowing how we could cope with the drastic change we are now facing is giving the villagers a sense of loss and helplessness, which is working against their return.

I want the central government to offer tax incentives and other measures so people will feel they would be better off working in the countryside than doing so in an urban area.

If the central government says it cares about provincial communities and wants to revitalize their economies, why not decentralize the organizations and human resources of the national government, which are centered in Tokyo, to rural areas? Young people will never join depopulated communities from the outside unless there are policy incentives such as those.

Unlike in natural disasters, it is obvious to see who are responsible for and who were victimized by the nuclear disaster. That situation, in my view, is preventing disaster-hit communities from standing on their own feet and is making them unhappy in the end.

Damage should be repaired properly, but thinking of yourself forever as a victim will probably not allow you to proceed to the next stage of the rebuilding process, whereby you should build a new community on your own.

The rice-planting area in Kawauchi rebounded to about 160 hectares last year, half as large as pre-disaster levels. That is because so many farmers find joy and take pride in farming in the village. In the part of Kawauchi where evacuation orders were lifted in October, young farmers are trying to grow gentians, which they hope to turn into a new special product.

I feel so reassured to learn that some of our residents are showing their mettle at a time when the overall population is increasingly relying on administrative services.

It is not cash but human resources that have the potential to change a local community.

Rebuilding Kawauchi could also help assist those who have left our village. They do need a home community to which they could return whenever they wish to. That would require persevering efforts, but we cannot afford to give up on them.

* * *

Born in 1955, Yuko Endo, mayor of Kawauchi since 2004, previously served on the village assembly there. While almost all residents of Kawauchi evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, Endo issued a message to them in January 2012, in which he called on those who could to return to the village.

(This article is based on an interview by Susumu Okamoto.)

Fixes for temporary housing expected to cost ¥78 billion

Fixes for temporary housing expected to cost ¥78 billion

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe total accumulated cost of repairing and refurbishing temporary houses for disaster victims will likely reach ¥78.03 billion through the end of this fiscal year, according to the governments of the seven prefectures where they were built after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Prefabricated temporary housing units originally designed to last for up to two years have now been used for more than three years. Numerous problems have emerged as a result, including leaking roofs.

An expert panel from the Cabinet Office will begin reexamining the period of use and other aspects of the temporary houses to prepare for future disasters, including a huge earthquake predicted along the Nankai Trough off the Pacific Ocean.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, local governments in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba built the temporary houses based on the Disaster Relief Law. Temporary houses were also built in Nagano Prefecture for victims of another quake in the northern part of the prefecture, which occurred just after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A total of 53,194 temporary housing units were built in the seven prefectures at initial construction costs totaling about ¥290 billion. The units in Chiba, Tochigi and Nagano prefectures were dismantled as of the end of May this year. Currently, 93,017 people live in 42,590 temporary housing units in the remaining four prefectures.

The law stipulates that temporary houses will be usable for two years and have a per-unit acreage of about 30 square meters. The assumed construction cost per unit was about ¥2.39 million at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Many of the temporary houses have similar structures to the prefabricated offices at construction sites. They are zinc-roofed and their walls are thin.

Measures to cope with cold weather were especially insufficient. After construction was completed, additional work was done at the request of residents to reinforce heat insulating materials in the walls and double-layer windows.

Total costs from fiscal 2011 to 2013 in the seven prefectures stood at about ¥73.18 billion. In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the initial construction costs and the additional work as of January 2013 reached a combined average of ¥6.79 million per unit.

Temporary housing residents are expected to relocate to publicly run housing units for disaster victims. But only 8 percent of the necessary units have been completed, meaning the temporary houses will be used for the foreseeable future. This could present a problem, since some temporary housing units have started to tilt because of weak soil, and residents are increasingly complaining of such problems as leaking roofs and mold.

The prefectural governments of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima allocated a total of about ¥4.86 billion for repairs and other additional work in their fiscal budgets this year, and extended the period people can live in temporary housing to five years. These measures mean necessary repair costs will likely continue increasing.

To extend the durability of the temporary houses, their foundations must be rebuilt using ferro-concrete. But this alone will cost ¥300,000 to ¥400,000 per unit.

If a Nankai Trough quake occurs, about 400,000 temporary housing units will be necessary in the eight prefectures that presented forecast figures, according a The Yomiuri Shimbun survey in December last year.

Consequently, the Cabinet Office panel, which handles how the central government should assist disaster victims, is set to submit proposals about temporary housing for disaster victims.


POINT OF VIEW: Don’t let disaster-stricken Tohoku region remain as Tokyo’s ‘colony’

By YUZURU TSUBOI/ Staff Writer

March 11 marked the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered Japan’s worst nuclear accident.

One question sums up the frustration felt by residents of the stricken Tohoku region of northeastern Japan: “Does the Tohoku region still remain a colony?”

The question was in an essay written by Norio Akasaka, director of the prefectural Fukushima Museum and folklorist, and carried by The Asahi Shimbun on Jan. 29. Akasaka was a member of the Reconstruction Design Council, an advisory panel established by the central government.

In his essay, Akasaka posed critical questions.

He asked why Fukushima Prefecture was obsessively devoted to providing electricity, generated by two nuclear power plants, to Tokyo as if it were a vassal state paying tribute to the capital.

Akasaka also asked why the intentions of local people were ignored in the name of reconstruction that focused on large-scale public works projects.

After raising these questions, he went on to point out that the 2011 triple disaster exposed a bleak reality that the Tohoku region has faced for far too long.

His view is not so far from the truth in three respects.

One is that localities stricken by the nuclear accident have been effectively abandoned.

Even today, newspapers dated March 12, 2011, remain piled up at a distribution store in Namie, a town close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Residents separated from their families and communities by radioactive fallout cannot even get close to the point where they can contemplate restructuring their lives.

Secondly, there has been little progress in what is termed as “creative rebuilding,” a vision that was drawn up for the depopulated region which serves as an epitome of any rural area in the future.

The rebuilding projects, which were cobbled together with little coordination among central government ministries, do not offer a new platform that will allow residents to rebuild their communities based on a plan that factors in continued population decline.

The projects do not make it any easier to take on a new model for fishing and agricultural operations, either.

On top of this, preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are accelerating the drain of manpower and materials, which are essential to the rebuilding process.

Thirdly, searing memories of the devastation are fading with the passage of time. The fact that about 100,000 people are still forced to live in prefabricated temporary housing does not make headlines any more.

Last month, an article in The Asahi Shimbun noted that local government chiefs felt a huge gulf between the affected region and Tokyo after seeing a poster celebrating Tokyo’s hosting of the Summer Olympics. It was displayed in the Reconstruction Agency, which they were visiting to lobby for rebuilding. I find the episode a painful reminder of the perception gap.

Admittedly, smiles are returning to the faces of many people in the stricken region.

That said, the Tohoku region still seems to be regarded as a convenient “colony” of Tokyo, the nation’s center of affluence.

This is a reality of Japan that has not changed even after the unprecedented adversity.

I propose that everybody contemplate this third anniversary by asking some key questions.

What kind of a community are we aiming to build? Rebuilding efforts are still in the first chapter and a review of the plans is possible. We should also ask whether investments from government coffers are being spent for a meaningful purpose and are sustainable.

A picture of the stricken region five years from now or 10 years from now must be nothing but a reflection of our own in the future.




According to the National Police Agency, 15,884 people died and the whereabouts of 2,633 others remained unknown as of March 10 due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

In addition, 2,973 people died of causes related to the disaster, such as deteriorating health resulting from the evacuation and suicide, in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the three worst-affected prefectures in the Tohoku region.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the number of deaths resulting from evacuation after the nuclear accident exceeded that of the earthquake and tsunami.

About 267,000 people nationwide are still displaced due to the 2011 disaster.

About 104,000 households live in temporary housing.

The occupancy rate of prefabricated temporary housing is about 84 percent in the three prefectures.

The figure compared with less than 60 percent reported three years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of Jan. 17, 1995, which claimed more than 6,400 lives in the Kansai region.

According to the Reconstruction Agency, 2,347 units of public housing for victims will be completed in the three prefectures by the end of this month. But the figure is only 9 percent of a total planned.

The circumstances surrounding schools, a key part of efforts to rebuild communities, are bleak.

Many children are continuing their education in makeshift schools or “renting” rooms in other schools.

The affected localities are faced with an array of challenges. These include a population drain, scant progress in rebuilding and a need to provide mental health care services.



Yuzuru Tsuboi is chief of The Asahi Shimbun’s Sendai Bureau and head of its team covering the recovery of the Tohoku region.

By YUZURU TSUBOI/ Staff Writer


Drei Jahre sind vergangen

Vor genau drei Jahren, am 11.3.2011 ist Japan um 14:46 Uhr von einem Erdbeben der Stärke 9,0 erschüttert worden. Der darauf folgende Tsunami, der Höhen von 40 Metern erreichte, hat ca. 500 km der Küstenregion in Tohoku überrollt, 15 884 Menschen getötet und mehrere 100 000 Häuser und Wohnungen zerstört. Noch immer sind 2 363 Menschen vermisst und über 3 000 Menschen sind in Folge des Unglücks gestorben. Die Explosionen im Kernkraftwerk Daiichi haben weitere 150 000 Menschen heimatlos gemacht und weite Landstriche von Fukushima wurden verstrahlt. Zusätzlich ist das Wasser der Flüsse, das Grundwasser und das Meer stark belastet. Aufgrund der Wohnverhältnisse sind viele Familien getrennt, Misshandlungen der traumatisierten Kinder nehmen zu.

Lasst uns die Katastrophe nicht vergessen und sie als Chance sehen, den Kontakt mit den Menschen in Tohuku zu vertiefen und ein Zeichen Deutsch Japanischer Freundschaft zu setzen. Unterstützen Sie die 2. Deutsch Japanische Summer School „Sanriku Fukkou“ im September 2014.


Tohoku population 2010: 9,335,636
Tohoku population 2013: 9,109,167

Total killed = 15,884
Total missing = 2,363
Total injured = 6,147

died because of 3.11.= 3,046

Collapsed buildings = 127,290
Half collapsed = 272,788
Partially damaged = 747,989

Estimated damages = ¥25 trillion ($300 billion)
Debris Swept off shore = 5 million tons

(As of February 10, 2014 by National Police Agency of Japan)