TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) announced a profit of ¥43.2 billion ($4.3 billion) for the 2013 fiscal year. It is the first time the company moved into the black since an earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors, leading to a nuclear meltdown in March of 2011.
Despite a drop in electricity sales due to higher than usual winter temperatures, overall sales increased 11 percent from the previous fiscal year due to a rate increase and fuel cost adjustments. Out of ten electric companies, TEPCO was one of the four that posted a profit. The remaining six, which includes power companies in Kansai and Kyushu, recorded a deficit due to relying on fossil fuels to offset the shut down nuclear plants, according to Asahi Shimbun.
Last September, the Abe administration announced that it would give ¥47 billion of taxpayer money to prevent further contaminated water from leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. That amount is far greater than the profits that TEPCO posted on April 30th, meaning that if the government had not given them any money last year, the company would have announced another year of losses.
The company has not made it clear what the profits will be used for and whether any of the money will be used to support supplement the taxpayer funds allocated to clean up the disaster or compensate those who in Fukushima whose homes fell under the evacuation zone. However, TEPCO’s stockholders, which include LDP politicians such as Masahiro Imamura and LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba have a cause to celebrate. Both hold 6000 and 4813 shares in the company respectively.
As nuclear waste continues to leak into the ocean surrounding Fukushima Prefecture, pro-nuclear advocate Shigeru Ishiba who resembles the Japanese anime hero, Anpanman, seems less like a hero, and more like the arch-villain of the series, Baikinman (Germ Man.) Or maybe in the eyes of the LDP, the general public, 80% of which oppose nuclear power are just like “germs.” In any event, for the large number of ruling party members with stock shares in TEPCO, the profits are good news; the losers are everyone else.
Fukushima Industries Corporation (福島工業), a freezer/refrigerator maker located in Osaka, may have made an unintentional f*ck-up, with the creation of their new mascot, Fukuppy. Fukuppy is a merry little figure, that appears to be a winged egg with bright red shoes. In Japanese, the mascot’s name has no particular meaning but when written in English or pronounced as English, it sounds an awful lot like “fuck-uppy” of “fucked puppy.”
The text above the illustration of Fukuppy, announces that he was born as a corporate character for Fukushima Industries. He introduces himself as “Fukuppy” and says the Japanese equivalent of pleased to meet you, “よろしく（yoroshiku)”. The meaning for “yorishiku” could also be taken as “please be nice to me”. Unfortunately, that request has fallen on deaf ears in the Western world.
For those of you who can’t get enough of Fukuppy and especially for those who could care less, here’s everything you never wanted to know and didn’t ask.
I’m still an egg, but I call my self “Boku”. (Editor’s note: which usually is the word for “I” for young boys.)
Fukuppy, what’s your personality like?
I love to eat and I’m very curious. I’m gentle but with a strong sense of justice. Some people say I’m a little spacey and absent-minded. But I always am polishing myself to shine bright.
Fukuppy, what’s your job and your skills set? What do you bring to the table?
I fly around patrolling the freezers in Supermarkets and showcases with my special wings! I’m proud of them. I can talk to vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and see if they’re healthy. In addition, in order to bring happiness to the world, I have the important job of continuing to give birth to new exciting products–one after another.
We tried to contact Fukushima Industries today to get their take on their new mascot and their views on the silliness of his/her name, but unfortunately since it was Physical Education Day (体育の日）in Japan, we weren’t able to get an answer. So we went to the gym and worked out for a few hours. We hope Fukuppy got the day off , too. Accept for the unfortunate reporting mistaking him as a symbol of Fukushima Prefecture, he’s already worked very hard this week to provide merriment to the English speaking world. It will be interesting to see whether Fukushima Industries views the name of their mascot as a “f*ck-up” or tells the western world to go fukuppy themselves.
Over the past weekend, the Japanese government conducted its first major nuclear disaster drill ever since the 3/11 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triple meltdowns. It was a two-day drill that was conducted as if an earthquake had caused an accident releasing radioactive substances from the reactors of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, which brought together about 3,300 participants, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The local residents living within the plant’s 5 to 30 km radius had to realistically exercise an evacuation based on the assumption that a level of radiation that requires evacuation had been detected.
During Japan’s greatest nuclear crisis in March 2011, the government kept changing the perimeters of the evacuation zone, and delayed instructing the residents about taking iodine pills, which could have helped prevent thyroid cancer.
In the spring of this year, the 20km no-go zone has reopened partially, which allowed some of the 83,000 evacuees to visit their homes with a special permission. Visitors can visit the zone for a limited amount of time during daytime.
While the drills were going on, 40,000 participants reportedly rallied in Tokyo on Sunday, lead by the now famous Japanese anti nuclear activist, Misao Redwolf to protest against Japan’s nuclear policy and the restarting of the nuclear reactors. The coverage of this even was sparse.
JSRC visited Namie (ghost) Town and its seaside, only 4 to 5 km from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, where its 21,000 residents are still unable to return, but for a limited amount of time. The streets of Namie Town were indeed empty from any form of life, except for the crows flying over the houses, curious about human activities which are mostly drivers moving 30 km/h and police patrols occasionally getting out to get a closer glance at improbable sights. Electronic goods, such as refrigerators, TVs, radios, or microwaves have been systematically stored on sidewalks, probably to avoid fires or electric joint dislocations inside a deserted zone. ATMs at shopping malls showed signs of vandalism, broken glasses clearly undue to the 3/11 earthquake. The town in general looks like the time had stopped since March 11, 2011.
The seaside fields, where the tsunami hit mostly seems untouched. Fishing boats lay forgotten. The tidal wave brought them on the coast when it intruded the land.
IAEA to work with Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on Fukushima nuclear disaster monitoring
After a meeting held in Tokyo with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, and the Chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Shunichi Tanaka on Thursday last week, it was decided that experts from the U.N. atomic energy agency will start helping Japan to monitor the radioactive water leaks around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by November.
Earlier last week, the chairman of the NRA admitted that another “careless” accident resulted in the leak of 7 tons of highly radioactive water from a pipe mistakenly disconnected by a worker at the crippled facility for a period of more than an hour. Reportedly 6 among 11 workers were affected by the incident. They were wearing waterproof jackets, protective gears and full-face masks and it was reportedly “highly unlikely” that they suffered from internal exposure, the plant’s operator said. The facility reported 300 ton of radioactive water leaking from a storage tank into the groundwater last August as workers over-filled the already over capacity tanks. Last week, TEPCO said 430 liters of radioactive water leaked from another tank due to the miscalculation of the inclination of the ground where the tank was built.
According to Yasuhiro Muroishi, an expert from the Radiation Monitoring Division of the NRA, Yukia Amano also pointed out that the NRA’s lack of information displayed in English language on its homepage was an issue. “We need more manpower to conduct the translations of the reports submitted by the Japanese side when international experts will start their joint radiation monitoring of the sea,” Yasuhiro Muroishi said.
The radiation leaks continue
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently said that Japan is open to foreign expertise regarding the contaminated water problem. In a speech at the International Olympic Committee’s general meeting in Argentina in September, he was criticized for declaring that the radioactive water leaks at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had been “completely blocked,” within a zone of 0.3 square kilometers in the plant’s port area. Earlier this week, TEPCO announced that 1.4 becquerels per liter of radioactive cesium-137 was detected in sea water taken from around 1 km around the plant. Experts say that cesium-137, which has a half-life of about 30 years can cause cancer and accumulates in fish. Last month, Korea banned fish imports from certain prefectures in Japan, concerned by the increasing radioactive water leaks.
The strangely titled documentary A2-B-Cwhich examines the lives of the children in Fukushima prefecture who have been diagnosed with thyroid cysts and nodules and how it affects them and their families—will be shown at 5pm on September 14th at the PIA Film Festival in Tokyo. The title comes from the code that is used to indicate the test results of thyroid screening. The Japanese government vehemently denies any links to thyroid cancer or thyroid abnormalities in Fukushima children and the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March of 2011; the film lets the viewer decide for themselves whether they believe it or not. What it does not shy away from is depicting the fog of uncertainty and fright of those children and their loves ones, dealing with the fear of developing full-blown thyroid cancer, and living in a contaminated area.
The director of the film, Ian Thomas Ash, in a brief talk with JSRC, stated the most surprising thing he uncovered during the filming was the blame-the-victim mentality of the Japanese government. “Some mothers of children positively diagnosed with thyroid cysts and nodules were told by the doctors or officials, ‘Your fear of radiation and your excessive worrying caused this to happen.’ In other case, the parents were told, ‘Well, you live outside the evacuation zone, so even if this is related to the radiation—it was your decision to stay and your financial burden to bear (自己責任).’ It’s as if they really believed that radiation stopped at the imaginary lines drawn by the Japanese government.” He notes A2-B-C is the second in a series of documentary films which will follow up on the initial findings.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the world in his efforts to get the Olympic bid that there was no problem at Fukushima and “that it was 250 kilometers from Tokyo.” For those living in Fukushima, there appears to be more than a few serious problems remaining. This 71-minute film that may not change how you think of nuclear power but may make you wonder about what the finals costs are of having it.
In light of all the recent information that has come to light about TEPCO and the Japanese nuclear industry’s problems and involvement with anti-social forces, not to mention the industry’s history of criminal malfeasance, we have decided to repost Professor Kingston’s chapter on the subject. It’s from his eerily prescient book Contemporary Japan published long before the Fukushima triple meltdown. It’s a long read but well-worth it. We first posted this in June of 2011.
Those fears were well founded. The history of Japan’s nuclear industry is as dark as Fukushima Prefecture was on the night of March 11th, when a 9.0 earthquake devastated the nation and a meltdown took place at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) ‘s Fukushima Daiichi Reactor. TEPCO is only one company among several that has had nuclear “accidents.” In his book published in 2010, Professor Kingston describes the problems and history of Japan’s nuclear power industry. With his permission, Japan Subculture Research Center is publishing the relevant chapters from his book cited above. The book eloquently and objectively sheds light on a the problems endemic in Japan’s nuclear power plants, the ministries that oversee them, and the private companies which manage them, often quite badly and to the detriment of the general public.
The Japanese government puts a great deal of faith in, and spends massive amounts of money on, nuclear energy. This reﬂects policy-makers’ dream of securing energy self-sufﬁciency and explains why two-thirds of the national energy research and development budget is devoted to nuclearpower. In terms of reducing carbon emissions and reducing dependence on oil imported from the Middle East, it is a sensible policy. However, there are good reasons why the majority of Japanese remain skeptical about nuclear power.
Japan has witnessed a series of nuclear accidents over the past two decades that raise serious concerns in an earthquake-prone nation with ambitious nuclear power plans. Japan is totally dependent on imported energy and has thus invested billions of dollars since the 1950s in developing its nuclear energy program. Public concerns about the safety of nuclear power contrast sharply with ofﬁcial insistence that the nation’s facilities are both safe and necessary. Polls consistently reveal that 70-75 percent of Japanese have misgivings about nuclear power and fear that serious accidents might happen.
With dwindling reserves of fossil fuels, high prices, and growing concern about greenhouse gases related to consumption of these fuels, the prospects for the nuclear power industry have brightened considerably. Advocates assert that nuclear power is the trump card in the battle to reduce emissions and curb global warming while critics suggest it is more of a wild card given the risks, high costs, and long-term waste disposal issues involved.
Japan currently operates 55 nuclear power plants, up from 32 in 1987, that supply nearly 35 percent of its electricity needs. The government plans to raise the share of energy generated by nuclear power to 41 percent by 2014. Since 1998 two nuclear power reactors have started up with six more currently slated for installation or expansion. In the following sections we examine some notorious incidents and aspects of Japan’s nuclear power program that help explain why so many Japanese have considerable qualms about the potential environmental consequences. Continue reading The Melting Sun: Japan’s Nuclear Follies