Monday, August 29, 2011

Fukushima Film Project/100,000 Years

A lot of interesting documentaries right now, one is the film from Finland about their 100,000 year storage project, yet to be finalized, about dealing with highly radioactive waste.

How can we, who have only a history of buildings, like the pyramids, that date back some 5,000 years, even start to consider a time-frame of danger of 100,000 years?

The film is showing in Tokyo in August. Catch it at Tokyo Northern Lights Festival in Shibuya. Schedule (JP):

Tokyo Northern Lights Festival

Our mankind exists 50,000 years. 我々人類誕生から5万年。
The pyramids are 5,000 years. ピラミッドらが5千年。
Nuclear waste is toxic for 100,000 years. 放射性廃棄物の毒性は10万年。
To protect ourselves. それらから我々を守る。
We try to build a storage. 我々は貯蔵施設の建造を試みる。
It must last 100,000 years. 10万年後まで(毒性を)封印する必要がある。
Construction has begun... 建造が始められた...。
Into eternity. 永遠に。

Another film, a Japanese production, is not yet ready, but seems very beautiful.

Totecheeta Chiquitita is a very moving project. Scheduled to be released in march, 2012, to mark the one year anniversary of the earthquake.tsunami.nuclear.disaster, (I'm getting tired of typing it) this could be great.

Tokyo Graph: Fukushima Film Project “Totecheeta Chiquitita” to proceed with filming
The movie will still be shot in Fukushima, reflecting the region’s current conditions and hopefully dispelling the negative images people may have of the area.

The story revolves around Yuriko, a survivor of the Tokyo air raids in 1945 who is now a 70-year-old retired teacher. The family members she lost during the air raids have been reborn into the present with different lives. Her mother is now a bizarre young girl (Jurina), her father is a “slightly depressed high school boy” (Hayama), and her brother is a “middle-aged loser on the verge of bankruptcy” (Toyohara). They all reunite in Fukushima, where Yuriko now lives alone.

“Totecheeta Chiquitita” takes its title from a line in the children’s song “Omocha no Cha Cha Cha” and from the ABBA song “Chiquitita.”

Filming starts on October 8 and is expected to finish in November. The movie is planned to premiere first in Fukushima next March, followed by screenings in independent theaters around the country.

From the official website, Fukushima Film Project

We would like to extend our sincerest condolences and prayers for the loss of precious life due to the Tohoku Great Earthquake on March 11. Our deepest sorrow goes to those victims and their families who are suffering from the damage.

Since the spring of 2008, we started developing the plan of “Totecheeta Chiquitita”, the film set in Fukushima (where the producer was born and raised). We conducted the preparatory location hunting in Date-city and Fukushima-city, and finished writing the script. In February 2011, we confirmed the generous support pledged by the local government, business organizations and individuals in Fukushima prefecture, and we started the casting process and scheduled the filming to be started in August 2011.

But now, we can no longer expect the pledged support from the people and organizations in Fukushima who are suffering tremendously from the damage.

We were about to give up… then, we started to hear many voices from Fukushima…

“I want to see the movie giving Fukushima pride and hope”

“We need the movie to show the world the wonderful people and beautiful places of Fukushima and to get the tourists and business back to Fukushima”

“Fukushima kids who are in the shelter in other cities are alienated because of the harmful rumor. We need the movie which can dispel the negative images about Fukushima”

People of Fukushima believe in the power of the movie.

So, what can film makers do?

It’s simple. We can make a film which can help Fukushima. We should just go back to work.

We have determined that we would start filming in August as the original schedule, do the premier screening in Fukushima before Christmas this year, and donate DVD to the shelters. Part of the profit will be donated to the Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund.

We will greatly appreciate your help to make this happen. No amount is too small. Please click here to see how to help this project.

Tatsuko Kokatsu

Japan Offspring Fund is also working on a documentary about the "Truth About Fukushima 311" or ""Inochi--From Fukushima to Our Future" with a well-known award-winning director, Katsuhiko Hayashi.

Japan Offspring Fund: “The Truth About Fukushima 311”
Deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Fukushima since March 11, 2011, JOF has a mission to change public opinion regarding nuclear energy. We have a long history as an independent NPO that is strongly opposed to nuclear power generation. To complete this mission, JOF believes we should make a film called “The Truth about Fukushima 311” (tentative title), and release this film using the Internet to viewers all over the world.

Fukushima has already changed the energy policies in several other countries. Japan, however, appears to have great difficulties to review or even discuss its heavy dependency on nuclear power generation (there are 55 nuclear power generators in Japan). We do not agree with the current lack of debate in Japan, and we must do something.

How to donate (JP):

口座記号番号 00120-7-512611
口座名 特定非営利活動法人食品と暮らしの安全基金

店番 〇一九(019)店  当座 0512611
口座名 トクヒ)ショクヒントクラシノアンゼンキキン

The first disaster documentary may be Mujo Sobyo, by director Koichi Omiya. The title translates as "The Sketch of Mujo" or a first glimpse of impermanence.

Director Koichi Omiya says that he had wanted to complete and deliver the film as soon as possible. "In a way, I was driven by a need to keep the memory of the disaster intact," he says. "Which is strange, because the landscape is so devastated you'd think the visual memory would haunt the mind forever. On the other hand, there was a part of me that thought, or rather knew, that unless I got everything down on film, it would get distorted, or huge chunks of memory would fade away."
A truly epic film, made with very little funding. Worth seeing.

Mujō is a Buddhist concept, meaning "transience" or "impermanence." From time immemorial, the Japanese have deployed it to explain tragedies great and small, to alleviate the sadness of separation and death and to remind themselves that after all, this world is but a stepping stone on the path to achieving nirvana.

"This is a country of disasters," says Omiya. "We go through such rapid cycles of change and destruction, and I suppose that in the process, the Japanese wound up with a short memory span. It's not possible to remember everything, because so much is happening all the time. Forgetting is a way of self-protection. How else are we to cope?

"But in the case of the 3/11 disaster, I wanted to extend that memory, for six months at least. That's why I rushed the film to a theater opening as soon as I could."

The release of "Mujo Sobyo" coincides with the 100th day since the disaster; according to Buddhist rites, this is the day when the living may let go of sorrow, pick up the pieces and carry on.
The Japan Times: First Tohoku documentary captures tsunami aftermath

Meanwhile, outgoing prime minister Naoto Kan told Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato to host "temporary" sites for the nuclear waste. Well, where else to put it? And for how long...? 100,000 years? Now, we can only sense the "mujo" and carry on, except we know that generation after generation will judge us, and wonder how we made those decisions. And ask, why didn't we pay more attention to the concerns. 100,000 years later, will such questions not be raised?

From Asahi Japan Watch: Kan urges Fukushima to host dumps for nuclear waste
August 29, 2011
Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised the governor of Fukushima Prefecture over the weekend that the central government will build final dumping sites for radioactive waste outside the prefecture, while at the same time asking Governor Yuhei Sato to host temporary sites for the waste.

However, it remains unclear if the promise made by the outgoing leader will be honored under the new administration.

Despite the pledge, the government has no specific locations for the final resting ground in mind, sources said.

Kan urged Sato on Aug. 27 to host temporary storage sites for a huge amount of radioactive soil and wreckage left in the prefecture from the tsunami and nuclear disaster resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Kan's request came before he promised to build facilities outside the prefecture as the final disposal sites.

"We request that you host temporary storage sites in the prefecture," Kan told Sato. "We are not thinking about turning those into the final sites."

But Sato was clearly dismayed.

"The proposal for constructing the interim sites came out of nowhere," he said. "I am deeply confounded."

Kan also gave Sato a government assessment that some communities in the "no-entry zone," a 20-kilometer radius surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, will be uninhabitable for years due to exposure to high levels of radioactivity.

"We cannot deny the possibility that some areas will be uninhabitable for a long period of time," he said. "We are very sorry."

But Kan did not go into details as to where those areas would be.

Toshitsuna Watanabe, mayor of Okuma, home to the embattled plant, was adamantly opposed to possible construction of interim storage sites in his town when he met Goshi Hosono, a state minister in charge of handling the nuclear accident, on Aug. 28.

Hosono went to Aizuwakamatsu, where the town hall has been temporarily moved, to explain to Watanabe the government's policy after the meeting between Kan and Sato a day earlier.

He also told Watanabe that the government has yet to determine specific sites to store nuclear waste.

"I can never allow such sites," Watanabe said.

Hosono told reporters afterward that the government will have to move the planned storage project forward because progress in decontamination work depends on it.

Nevertheless, he added that "the government will not force its way without gaining the understanding of local governments and communities."

Watanabe said that he called for the decontamination of areas surrounding the nuclear plant and assistance to evacuees as top priority during the meeting with Hosono.

In the meantime, Hosono gave a central government estimate for the outlook of contaminated areas in a meeting with local leaders on Aug. 27.

He said areas exposed to accumulated radioactivity of 100 millisieverts a year would be uninhabitable for 10 years without decontamination work.

For areas measuring 200 millisieverts, it will be more than 20 years, he added.

Hosono told the local leaders that the government will submit a special bill in the next Diet session intended to help displaced residents.

The government will consider lifting the ban on entry into the 20-km zone this fall and after January, when Tokyo Electric Power Co. is expected to bring the troubled reactors to cold shutdown.

But observers say it is inevitable that the government will exclude some areas from the lifting of the ban due to high radiation levels.

Local officials demanded that the government present prospects for final dumping sites as soon as possible.

(Top image from Fukushima Film Project)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Japan's Huge Energy Crunch

With fewer and fewer nuclear power plants up and running, Japan has just barely made it through summer without power outages or black-outs. Thanks to millions of people reducing their electricity consumption, the worst case scenario has been avoided. The energy crunch is far from over, though.

There is virtually no hope of "renewable" energy making up for the huge loss as 39 nuclear reactors are off-line, with huge doubts if they can be restarted at all in the cases where they were not destroyed. It is worth noting that Tokyo and the entire Kanto region will not be back to "normal" again, ever.

As we take stock of events since March 11, 2011 there is now also news that oil and coal plants, (also known as "thermal" power plants) are suffering glitches and trouble. While such issues can be resolved much more easily than the emergencies due to the earthquake and tsunami, they still make for a tense energy environment. Add to that the upheavals in the Middle East and difficulties related to oil imports...

The recent series of suspensions occurred mainly as a result of extended hours of operation of the power generators to help offset an anticipated power shortage following the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The recent string of troubles at thermal power plants has raised new concern about the nation's electricity supply. As of Friday, power generators at four thermal power plants nationwide were suspended due to various troubles. Nuclear reactors generate a continuous output once they are activated, while thermal power generators are relatively easier to turn on and off. For this reason, many thermal power generators are turned on during the day to offset shortfalls in output from nuclear reactors when electricity demand is higher, and turned off at night and on weekends when power demand is lower.

Currently, however, with 39 of 54 nuclear reactors idled for regular inspections or shut down for other reasons, electric power utilities have extended operating hours of the thermal power generators, leading to malfunctions. One industry source said, "If thermal power generators are operated at a high output capacity for extended hours, the probability of trouble increases."

From Yomiuri: Thermal power plants strained / 8 suspensions in 2 months due to extended use amid shortages

Image from Pink Tentacle. 節電 (setsuden) is the Japanese word for reducing electricity use, a very common term these days!

Graph from The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, showing Japan's huge reliance on crude oil imported from the Middle East. According to FEPC data, nuclear power production has decreased year-on-year by 50.2% while thermal (oil and coal) has increased 14.6%, a huge shift. Renewable ("New") energy has increased by 12.5% but at just 220,603 MWh it is still negligable. PDF:

Power Generated and Purchased (July, 2011) 82,954,295 MWh

Hydro 6,849,757 MWh
Thermal (Oil, Coal) 49,430,280 MWh
Nuclear 12,348,499
"New" etc. 220,603 MWh

It is also worth noting that the overall energy consumption has gone down, as the economy is down-sizing - (hrm, hrm) we are in a recession.

Hat tip to Pandabonium for the link to the important article in The Yomiuri... It is easy to miss such news when so much is going on right now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baseball Banter: Giants vs Carps

My brother was visiting briefly this week before a conference in Hong Kong. What to do on a very hot day in mid August? Tom, frequent commenter and old friend from London, suggested - baseball! I would rather have gone sailing with Pandabonium, but as I checked out the game, it all made sense. 45,000 fans at Tokyo Dome, for a fun event (I watched the Carps beat the Giants in Hiroshima in May) so I got the tickets.

What a good call that turned out to be.

Baseball fans in Japan are the best, with brass bands, drums, and good manners. When the home team is batting, only the home team fans will cheer. Then, when the away team bats, their fans get to lift the roof. Johan, an avid Malmö FF football fan, noted that there was no hatred, no firecrackers, no violence. Check one for team sports, Made in Japan. We have a lot to learn in Europe.

He also liked how they serve beers and while not cheap (800 Yen) it is the Real Deal, no imitations. A big cheer for the young ladies running up and down the stairs serving the stuff. We also noted that so many of the fans brought their young kids and everyone had a good time. Fun for all generations, from 5 to 85.

As for the game, Tom noted,

Its a DISGRACE! Not only did the Carp have the bases loaded with just ONE out on one occasion they did it TWICE!?!?? Two opportunities for Grand Slam home runs at best, just get any runs on any hits at least but, no, literally no-one stepped up to the plate. Grand Slam home run = 4 runs, so obv the three on base plus batter.

Hiroshima Carps led 0-2, then it was 3-2 and suddenly 6-2, Yomiuri Giants won the day. 3 hours of great fun, my first real baseball game in Japan. Johan got a proper Giants's shirt and I wish him the very best in Hong Kong. Lycka till!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Children Visiting Tsunami-struck Miyagi Prefecture

I really think this is an excellent idea. School kids are given an opportunity to visit the coastal areas of Miyagi prefecture, that were devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on march 11, 2011. I hope more kids get a chance to participate. Asahi has more:

This summer, tours of the areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake are bringing students from other prefectures to observe first-hand the damage done by the quake and tsunami.

Although some adults had concerns about whether the reality would be too shocking, the children who have visited appear to have taken something back with them.

The Chikyu Genki Mura (Global energetic village), a nonprofit organization based in Saitama, began a three-day bus tour of the disaster-stricken areas from July dubbed "Gareki no gakko" (School of rubble).

The participants in the first tour were 10 children from Tokyo, Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures, along with eight parents.

One participant, Yuki Abe, 13, said he was not that enthusiastic about joining the tour when he disembarked the bus in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

"I said I saw what was happening in the disaster areas on TV so that was enough," Abe said. "But, my parents said, 'Something may change if you go,' so I came to see what I would find."

He rode an overnight bus that left Tokyo's Shinjuku area so he was still sleepy when he reached Miyagi.

When the group moved to a hamlet that had been damaged, Abe began peppering his father with questions.

"How will they handle the rubble still left in the ocean?" Abe asked in a whisper. "Did landslides also occur here?"

Other children also began asking questions of nearby adults. Faced with the scale of the disaster before them, the children talked in barely audible whispers.

"I never had any doubts when I saw it on TV," Abe said. "But, the reality hits me hard when I see the actual situation."

While he realized the tsunami that struck the area were huge, he only understood how frightening it must have been when he looked up to the branches of a certain tree that a guide said was where the waves had reached.

The children were especially shocked when they saw what happened to a local school, which is something they could all easily associate with.

Togura Elementary School in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, is a three-story structure that stands isolated in a wide barren area. Next to the school building is the remains of a steel framework. (...) School kids get firsthand look at quake-ravaged areas

Chikyu Genki Mura (Japanese only) website

(Image from their School of rubble website)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Trying To Land Your Jumbo Jet In Japan On March 11, 2011

Global Voices writer Takashi Ota has pieced together an account of a Delta Jumbo Jet trying to land in Japan on March 11, 2011. Clearly this was a difficult call. Around 3PM, just after the large earthquake, there was massive turbulence and problems at a number of airports at Narita, Ibaragi, Fukushima, Sendai, which would affect air traffic everywhere else in the Japanese airspace.

On March 11, 2011, a Delta airplane pilot approaching Narita airport described his experience of an emergency landing. It was a vivid description that his record rapidly spread across the blogosphere. This particular jet was able to land at Chitose in Hokkaido:
Suddenly ATC comes up and gives us a vector to a fix well short of Chitose and tells us to standby for holding instructions. Nightmare realized. Situation rapidly deteriorating. After initially holding near Tokyo, starting a divert to Nagoya, reversing course back to Tokyo then to re-diverting north toward Misawa, all that happy fuel reserve that I had was vaporizing fast. My subsequent conversation, paraphrased of course…., went something like this:

“Sapporo Control - Delta XX requesting immediate clearance direct to Chitose, minimum fuel, unable hold.”
“Negative Ghost-Rider, the Pattern is full” < << top gun quote <<<
“Sapporo Control - make that - Delta XX declaring emergency, low fuel, proceeding direct Chitose”
“Roger Delta XX, understood, you are cleared direct to Chitose, contact Chitose approach….etc….”
Glad I was not on that jet, everyone who was has my full sympathies.

Glad the pilot and the tower could bring everyone back home, safely.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Coastal Area In Tohoku Still Needs Lots & Lots Of Help Part 3: A Town That Was Just Swept Away

I just got back from my third trip to disaster-struck areas in Miyagi prefecture. I saw amazing efforts to clean up the huge amount of debris. I saw green fields, some farmed, some just filled with strong weed, with potential. Most of Minami Sanriku is still a mess. There is no re-building in the hard-hit towns, and perhaps it will be impossible. There are new gasoline stands, with very friendly staff, the first signs of civilisation. Huge respect. We had run out of petrol on our long drive from Hanno, Saitama and were delighted that the stuff was available.

The people in Miyagi have ambition. This is such a beautiful area with so much to gain from investments and help. It is like remote coastal Oregon or Washington state, or Scotland or even more to the point, Yorkshire & the Humber. But, what can you do? It has to be said, if you just lost half of your family, or all of them, the thought of "rebuilding" is remote or not even there. March 11 not only killed some 30,000 people but made more than 120,000 people homeless in a part of Japan that consider "home" and "family" as crucial. Another half a million or maybe 1.2 are still wondering how to get on with it, about 1% of Japan.

Except for the gasoline stand, nothing works in Minami Sanriku. There is no Post Office, no City Hall, everything is in temporary baracks in new locations. There are no places to go to if you have a tooth ache, no medical doctors. The wrecked drugstore where I took photographs in June is now completely demolished. It is a town that was just swept away.

Update: This is a really good article in The Japan Times about Minami Sanriku
Devastated towns stuck in limbo

More about Minami Sanriku:
Coastal Area In Tohoku Still Needs Lots & Lots Of Help Part 2
AKB48 (And Me) In Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture
Israelis, Please Consider Helping Minami Sanriku Town: Listen To The Voice Of Endo Miki
Coastal Area In Tohoku Still Needs Lots & Lots Of Help Part 1

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Good Life

Food and energy, energy and food. And some humour. Then we're happy, basically. Here is an episode from the UK comedy show The Good Life, in which Tom and Barbara deal with self sufficiency by turning pig manure into methane gas, that can be used to produce elctricity. From their basement. Using a very dodgy machine. But it works. Happy 1970s when this kind of show could be made for the masses.

If we don't get food and energy (and humour)? Well, people tend to protest, complain, suffer. We really are rather spoiled. I think I prefer trying to do something about my situation, rather than blaming others. Not easy, but infinitely more fun.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

No Radiation Found In Shizuoka Rice

Rice harvesting is starting in Japan, and there is concern that some regions in Tohoku may be contaminated. The government has ordered 14 prefectures to test rice, according to NHK World:

If the amount of cesium in the post-harvest test exceeds the government-set safety level of 500 becquerels per kilogram, shipments of rice from that area will be banned.

Farmers will be obligated to dispose of the banned rice. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is to pay compensation to the farmers.

The government says 14 prefectures from northeastern through central Japan will be subject to the inspections.

Tests will also be carried out in areas where more than 1,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram in the soil or more than 0.1 microsieverts of atmospheric radiation have been detected.

Other municipalities will be asked to refer to the government guidelines when carrying out tests on a voluntary basis.

In Shizuoka prefecture, south west of Tokyo, an early variety of rice called Natsushizuka was harvested and independent testing showed no traces of radioactive substances, according to this story on NHK (in Japanese only). The farmer, Kenji Oishi in Kikugawa City is quoted as saying how glad and releived he is.

I haven't followed the beef issue here so much but I find it curious that cattle farmers are promised ample compensation, while a lot of others who have lost income or been out of work due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami (and nuclear disaster) get no help at all. As for general food safety issues, I wrote a paper that was published over at Japan Focus, trying to discuss what we actually know so far, trying to avoid any speculation or scare-mongering:

Food Safety: Addressing Radiation in Japan’s Northeast after 3.11

My main conclusions?

We can only express our deepest sympathies to everyone involved in the rebuilding of the Tohoku region. It is important to note that vegetables or other foods that are being measured outside of the most contaminated region in Fukushima prefecture show very low levels or do not show any detectable levels of radioactive substances three to four months after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. In most parts of the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan, there is zero or almost no detectable nuclear contamination. In the rest of Japan, consumers can rest assured that there is no radioactive material on their dinner tables.

Based on the official data as published by Japan’s Ministry of Health, it emerges that three to four months after March 11, with the exception of food from certain areas in Fukushima prefecture (and possibly tea that was grown outdoors on tea shrubs since March), Japan’s farmed food supply and its products can be generally regarded as safe. Japan has 1.9 million farms producing food from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, and will by all accounts continue to make every effort to feed its population with domestic vegetables, fruit, grains, and so on.

Thinking ahead, the issue of soil contamination and accumulation needs to be addressed and carefully monitored, as it will affect rice production, especially in parts of Fukushima prefecture. Pollution problems such as asbestos, dioxin and PCB, due to post-March 11 fires and indiscriminate burning of debris and garbage, will add to the health risk. There are also worries about small or large radioactive hotspots in areas with higher levels of contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. More precise maps of the contamination must be prepared by reliable methods.

Much needs to be done to limit long-term contamination and protect consumers in addition to generally help regain the trust and confidence in Japanese food. Producers also require support. Farmers, fishermen and food producers need to be compensated and areas devastated by earthquake, tsunami and meltdown need to be restored with due attention to radiation risk. The stakes for Japan in doing so are high.