Day 353 Coming up on the anniversary, the summaries begin

Containing Fukushima: Saving Japan From Itself (Part I)

K.T. Hiraoka | Feb 25, 2012 08:15 AM EST

The disaster at Fukushima last year exposed how entrenched interests among key decision-makers have contaminated Japanese society, endangering the long-term prosperity of Japan. These special interests often do what is right for themselves, as opposed to what is in the best interests of the Japanese people.
In this two-part series, discussion on what has transpired over the past twelve months as a result of decisions made related to the Fukushima disaster (Part I) will lead to a look at decision-making during the crisis in subsequent weeks and months that have passed (Part II). As the current decision-making system in Japan increasingly works to the detriment of Japanese society, what is needed instead is a more transparent, honest, and benevolent decision-making system that listens to the wishes of the people and responds to it.
Deep relationships among public and private sector players are present in all societies around the world. Yet Japan has a unique set of circumstances that make these relationships unlike any other. Looking firstly at this process sets the stage for understanding what has gone wrong in Japan.
Japan’s “Iron Triangle” of power, the traditional post-war decision-making apparatus, is comprised of Administrative Bureaucracy, Organized Business and Party Government. Together these groups create and implement policies and laws. This inter-institutional cooperation establishes the foundation for how society operates.
It is a cozy relationship. Policies are established by bureaucrats, laws are then passed by politicians and implemented by the business sector. The unelected bureaucrats who formulate policies are beholden to no one other than themselves. Long-term bureaucrats have decades to nurture connections. Top officials often “retire” on to private sector Board of Directors or are granted lucrative positions inside organizations that they used to regulate, thereby forming a comfortable intermingling of the public and private sectors. The system perpetuates itself.
To lubricate the system, up to 40% of the annual Japanese national budget is spent on infrastructure projects — many of which are unnecessary. It could easily be argued that a great number of the nuclear power plants built since the Second World War would fall in to this category. That helps explain why even though 90+ percent of all nuclear reactors are currently off-line, no energy shortages or blackouts have occurred to date.
An additional appendage to this triangle of power is the Japanese mafia or “Yakuza” which have historically been able to legally exist in Japan. The Yakuza serve to make sure the system operates smoothly. One example of this is the supplying of labor to the nuclear industry for undesirable jobs and, in particular, to the Tokyo Electric Power nuclear plant after the disaster of March 11, 2011.
Added to this mix of the Iron Triangle and mafia comes a cultural factor not seen in other nations known as ‘nakama‘ or becoming an accepted ‘trusted insider’ among a respective group. This eases the process of consensus-formation. In group-oriented Japan, such strong relationships are seen as the ultimate goal to be achieved as they allow for the maintenance of harmony. Japan is a series of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ groups and nakama relationships built over time and through mutual experience foster deep loyalties in the public and private sector.
Nakama can also become a hindrance in times of crucial decision-making where telling the truth comes head-to-head with loyalty to long-held relations. One well-known example is the case of the Japan Airlines crash in Tokyo Bay in 1982 that killed 133 people. The captain deliberately engaged the number 2 and 3 engines’ thrust-reversers in flight which caused the crash. He was later found to be suffering from mental illness prior to the incident which resulted in a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity. The interesting point about this particular story is that his co-workers and even the company had known he was unstable for a long time, yet he was able to maintain his position, hierarchy and rank. This can be the danger of nakama relations — when some one in a position of power does something he/she should not do, most are reluctant to do anything about it for fear of damaging relations.
Witness the Fukushima disaster. Not only did decision-making take too long in the early hours of the crisis because consensus needed to be formed among too many players, but there was a lack of communication due to inoperable phone systems. On top of this, the Iron Triangle players were protecting their respective turfs. Politicians and regulators protected the nuclear industry and the nuclear industry protected itself. What was best for the people of Japan took a back seat.
Observing what happened in the early hours of the crisis is to see how forming a consensus on what to do to protect the populace was a futile effort, indeed. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, to his credit, trusted neither the bureaucrats advising him nor the Tokyo Electric Power Company (which was worried about protecting its assets). Even the plant manager did not trust his superiors who had instructed him to stop pouring sea water on the reactors to keep them cool. His decision to defy that order likely prevented the disaster from becoming worse than it was. “At the drama’s heart was an outsider prime minister who saw the need for quick action but whose well-founded mistrust of a system of alliances between powerful plant operators, compliant bureaucrats and sympathetic politicians deprived Prime Minister Kan of resources he could have used to make better-informed decisions,” reported the New York Times.
How much of what went wrong was actually due to sheer incompetence or lack of adequate preparation as opposed to an attempt to hide the truth is unclear. But the New York Times ran an incredible piece on this “culture of collusion” early in the crisis. And it took an outsider (who used to be an insider) to reveal the truth — that “nuclear power’s main players are more interested in protecting their interests than increasing safety”. My point exactly. The safety of the people of Japan was not the top priority which further shows that the decision-making system is not working.
Just ask the people of Namie, a city located just north of the doomed Tokyo Electric Power nuclear plant. Lacking clear guidance on what to do or where to go from decision-makers in Tokyo, town leaders thought it would be safe to head north to escape the dangers caused by explosions at the plant. Computer calculations, known to officials in Tokyo, had predicted winds would carry radioactive clouds north — not south — as Namie town officials had thought. But no one bothered to tell them and they were exposed to high levels of radiation for three days and nights. As reported in anotherNew York Times exposé, “The forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism… Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry”.
And to further prove the point about the failings of the Iron Triangle and how members sought to protect their turf, bureaucrats initially withheld vital information even from politicians, part of their own inner circle. As the aforementioned article notes, “Some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination were so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results”.
Added to this story were revelations the in the crucial days during and after two reactors blew up, Potassium Iodide (which blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid gland) was not dispersed to people in need in the areas near the plant.Why? “Government disaster manuals require communities to wait for the central government to give the order before distributing the pills. Though Japan’s nuclear-safety experts recommended dispensing pills immediately, Tokyo didn’t order pills be given out until five days after the March 11 accident”. Once again, the people of Japan were not the top priority.
Here is yet another example — days after the earthquake and tsunami, on March 15th and 21st, clouds of radiation drifted over Tokyo due to changing wind conditions. The people of Tokyo were not encouraged to either stay indoors (thereby somewhat limiting exposure) or leave the city. It was not that the authorities didn’t know the clouds were coming — they did. Even the U.S. military knew they were on their way due to a computer simulation known as SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information). SPEEDI was designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal should an accident occur. SPEEDI information was shared with the U.S. military, but not with the people of Japan. Decision-makers withheld the information, most likely so as to avoid a panic.
So there was a choice in a “worst-case scenario”, evacuate Tokyo (which might have led to the collapse of the Japanese economy) or risk collateral damage among the populace. All of which raises a fundamental question — What gives unelected bureaucrats the right to decide what the public is told (or not told), particularly when issues of health are at stake?
Just as with the tale of the boy who cried wolf, many people in Japan no longer trust what they are told. It is now to the point where even if the truth is told, few believe it.
(Tomorrow, in Part II, we look at more evidence of how nakama decision-making hurts Japan.)
K.T. Hiraoka is a pseudonym for the writer whose name was changed to allow for honest and open expression in order to better decipher the puzzle surrounding decision-making related to the Fukushima disaster.




Independent Investigation Commission on Fukushima Accident: Confusion from Interference by PM Kan and His Ministers Made the Situation Much Worse

The Independent Investigation Commission set up by a private foundation called Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation has issued the report of its findings of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

Unlike the investigation commissions set up by the administration and the Diet, the RJIF Commission has collected and studied information from the general public as well as from the experts.

The Commission will hold a press conference at 3PM on February 28, 2012 and discuss the findings, but Jiji Tsushin has a preview of the topics.

From Jiji Tsushin (2/28/2012):


Confusion caused by the interference by the Prime Minister’s Office, chain reaction of “doubts begot doubts”, a private investigation commission on Fukushima Nuclear Plant accident says


The private “Independent Investigation Commission on Fukushima I Nuclear Plant Accident” (Chairman Koichi Kitazawa, former head of the Japan Science and Technology Agency) has compiled the report on the accident. In the report, the Commission points out that “the Prime Minister’s Office meddling in the response at the scene of the accident caused confusion”.


The private Commission was set up last September, and has heard from about 300 people including then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and other top government officials. The Commission investigated the response at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, information disclosure practice, and how the “safety myth” arose, which contributed to the accident.


The report points to the direct interference of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence into the response at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, causing confusion. For example, the report says Prime Minister Kan personally checked the size of the batteries to be brought to the plant. On the other hand, the Commission gives some credit to Kan, as he didn’t allow TEPCO to pull out completely from the plant and prevented the “worst-case scenario” where an uncontrolled nuclear accident would occur one after another at the plant.


The Commission says it asked the TEPCO officials including then-President Masataka Shimizu and then-Plant Manager Masao Yoshida to speak in front of the Commission but the request was declined by TEPCO.

In my rare defense of TEPCO, it is a lie propagated by Naoto Kan himself that TEPCO wanted to completely withdraw from the plant. TEPCO’s president wanted to protect workers who were not directly involved in nuclear emergency response by evacuating them from the plant, when the radiation level at the plant spiked to extremely dangerous levels. In the early days of the crisis, the radiation levels at the plant were sometimes hundreds of millisieverts per hour in certain locations.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he knew all about nuclear power plants because he got his BS degree in applied physics (more like engineering). According to the investigation committee set up by the Diet, Kan insisted he be the one to tell TEPCO when to conduct the vent of Reactor 1.

He insisted he visit the plant on the morning of March 12 when everyone at the plant was scrambling to figure out what was happening (or figure out what to do about the meltdown that was happening). When he arrived, he went shouting and screaming at the plant management and workers.

I hear that the BBC documentary on Fukushima paints Kan as “decisive leader who made tough decisions”. Unbelievable.

He, Edano, and Kaieda should have been the ones who carried hoses in the darkness in 100 millisieverts/hour radiation on the plant, not the Tokyo Metropolitan firefighters, as you see in the clip from the BBC documentary “Inside the Meltdown”:




Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant at One Year: Back in the Disaster Zone

David McNeill

David McNeill revisits Japan’s northeast and the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant a year after it was battered by the triple disaster of March 11 and finds a region still struggling to emerge from its huge shadow.

“The world is heavy on us,” says Sakurai Katsunobu, recalling the day that its weight almost crushed the life out of his city. On the morning of March 11 last year, Minamisoma and its mayor were struggling with the same mundane problems as many other small rural cities across Japan: a declining, greying population, creaking public services and a faltering local economy. By nightfall, an existential disaster had engulfed Mayor Sakurai’s office, one from which it has yet to reemerge.

It began with the huge quake that struck off the coast of the city of 71,000 at 2:46pm. Less than an hour later, Sakurai was on the roof of the city office, squinting toward the sea about six miles away.  “We could see this huge cloud of dust rising into the air from the Pacific. I asked someone, ‘is that a fire?’ Then we realized it was the tsunami.” Even as he spoke, the deluge was inundating hundreds of homes, drowning old people and children; sometimes whole families.  By evening, corpses were being brought to a makeshift morgue in a local college.

The March 11 quake and tsunami took 630 lives in Minamisoma, including 100 children. For days, Sakurai wondered if his elderly parents were among the casualties.  But instead of looking for them he was dealing with the crisis that would define his city. On March 12, an explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1 at the Daiichi nuclear plant, 23km south of his office. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) and the central government were silent on what was happening. Public television said there was no need for panic. Minamisoma’s citizens made up their own minds and began to flee from rumours of radiation.

Essay continues at:




jpg on “Surviving a Nuclear Holocaust”




Schools Reopen in Former “Evacuation-Ready” Zone in Minami Soma City

This photo from Asahi Shinbun (2/28/2012) shows a giant radiation monitoring and display device on the school yard which looks like it has been “decontaminated”. 0.227 microsievert/hour (most likely measuring only gamma rays), children, feel free to run around and kick up dust in the new and improved school yard…

(To recap, this is how they “decontaminate” in Minami Soma.)

This monitoring and display device was made by Fuji Electric. Alpha Tsushin (telecom), the company who was initially contracted by the government to build and install radiation monitoring and display devices throughout Fukushima Prefecture, was suddenly dropped from the contract in November last year because the reading of their device was “inaccurate” – meaning it was “too high” for the government.

The schools that re-opened in Minami Soma City are located in Haramachi District of Minami Soma City where the “black dust” on the road surfaces was found with 1 million becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium.

There are some very strange things going on over the “black dust” in Minami Soma, and I can’t really quite get the whole picture yet. I’ll report when I have a better understanding.




Report takes former PM Kan to task over Fukushima nuke disaster handling

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaks to the nation after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. (Mainichi)

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaks to the nation after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. (Mainichi)

The office of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan came in for scathing criticism in a Feb. 27 report on the handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis’ opening days, with the document accusing the PM’s office of “grandstanding” and causing “useless confusion.”

The report, put together by the private Fukushima nuclear disaster independent investigative committee, concludes that the Prime Minister’s Office’s first response to the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant “increased the risk of worsening the situation through stress and useless confusion.” Furthermore, “grandstanding led to badly muddled crisis management measures” which did little or nothing to help prevent a worsening of the disaster. The report also rebuked the highest levels of government for meddling in emergency response measures.

Article continues at:




TEPCO to pay 600,000 yen to pregnant woman who voluntarily evacuated

TOKYO, Feb. 28, Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has decided to pay 600,000 yen each to pregnant women and children aged 18 or under who have voluntarily evacuated their homes because of the nuclear meltdown at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant, sources close to the company said Tuesday.

The sum will be paid, starting next month, as compensation money through last December for residents of 23 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture located outside the government-designated evacuation zones around the plant in the northeastern Japan prefecture.

Many people who have voluntarily evacuated had been hoping the plant operator would pay the actual costs involved, but Tokyo Electric has decided that to do so would entail a laborious application process and delay compensation payments, the sources said.




Cesium pollen full swing

Posted by Mochizuki on February 27th, 2012

Following up this article ..Cesium pollen started attacking Tokyo

A private weather forecasting company, weather news announced the amount of pollen in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Shizuoka have gotten into the peak.

On 2/27/2012, Kanto area was sunny, dry and windy, which is the best condition for pollen to fly. More amount of pollen flew toward the evening. As it gets warmer in March, the pollen amount will increase more.



最新の花粉飛散情報は、同社の PC 向けサイト、携帯サイトおよびスマートフォンサイトの「花粉Ch.」で確認できる。





METI to introduce equipment to remove most radioactive materials at Fukushima plant

Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant stand around the radioactive water decontamination system

Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant stand around the radioactive water decontamination system “Sally” in this photo provided by TEPCO.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said on Feb. 27 that it would introduce equipment in the first half of next fiscal year that is capable of removing almost all kinds of radioactive substances from contaminated water piled up or stored on the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

METI made the decision when it held a meeting to discuss medium- and long-term measures toward the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station.

Article continues at:




Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis

TOKYO — In the darkest moments of last year’s nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.

The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offers one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan’s response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that shut down the plant’s cooling systems.

Article continues at:




Yomiuri Jet Flyover: Walls of ‘other structures’ at Fukushima plant were also blown away

Title: Photos from jet show devastated N-plant
Source: The Daily Yomiuri
Author: Tatsuo Nakajima / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Date: Feb. 28, 2012

The heavily damaged upper framework of the buildings housing the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were photographed from a Yomiuri Shimbun jet Sunday […]Once the aircraft turned to view the No. 2 reactor building from the coast, a big opening in the wall was visible despite the fact that the building had not exploded […]

Walls of some other structures located on the sea coast were also blown away. […]

The sight of the plant from the air has seared into our memory the cruel accident, which destroyed the livelihoods of more than 110,000 local residents.

Read the report here



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