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Five Years Since the Suspension of Proactive Recommendation of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine in Japan


National Plaintiffs Association for the HPV Vaccines Lawsuits in Japan

Representative Nanami Sakai

National Attorneys Association for the HPV Vaccines Lawsuits in Japan

Joint Representative Masumi Minaguchi

Joint Representative Yoshiaki Yamanishi

It has been five years since the Japanese Government halted proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine on June 14, 2013, claiming that it could not provide the public with enough information. Compared to other routine vaccinations, an average of over seven times the number of serious adverse effects per one million HPV vaccinations have been reported, and the number of disability certifications by the Adverse Drug Reaction Relief System is almost ten times higher. The government has put in place research groups and selected cooperating medical institutions for the HPV vaccine, but measures to prevent adverse effects and to provide treatment have yet to be established. The public cannot use the HPV vaccine with peace of mind.

The government officially endorsed the HPV vaccine nine years ago, and many of the victims who were junior or high school students at the time of their HPV vaccination have now grown into adults. However, they have received no effective medical treatment until now and suffer from serious adverse effects, not only pain spreading all over their bodies and involuntary movements, but perceptual disorders, impaired mobility, sleep disruption, impaired memory, and learning disabilities. While their classmates became working adults, they have been incapable of fully attending classes and have abandoned their plans for higher education or getting a job. With no medical institutions able to give them sufficient treatment, they see no bright future and live under a shadow of uncertainty as they struggle to cope with agonizing symptoms every day.

Similar cases have been also reported overseas. Groups of victims from five countries, UK, Spain, Ireland, Colombia and Japan, participated in an international symposium held in Tokyo in March this year, and published a Joint Statement in April, calling for the necessity of a fact-finding investigation, development of treatment methods, and support for daily life, education and employment.

In the meantime, studies on the adverse effects of the HPV vaccine have made solid progress and a number of results have been reported. Based on analysis of multiple cases, one study clarified that the adverse effects of a range of symptoms develop in a multi-layered manner over time. Another study reported changes in cerebrospinal fluid, cerebral blood flow, and peripheral nerves, etc. A third study reported that the HPV vaccine causes impaired mobility among other effects in vaccinated mice due to neurological damage. Finally, a fourth study indicated that individuals develop chronic ailments soon after receiving the HPV vaccine. A paper written by researchers from the WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring argues that previous signal evaluations and epidemiological studies have relied primarily on reporting of a specific diagnosis or single-symptom concept, and thus a focus on symptomatology and seriousness in combination with an investigation of the underlying pathology may be required to fully elucidate the safety signals.

Interview at press club in Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Second left: Ms. Nanami Sakai, Representative of National Plaintiffs Association) June 14, 2018

Interview at press club in Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Second left: Ms. Nanami Sakai, Representative of National Plaintiffs Association) June 14, 2018

The drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. have long ignored this progress and insist on resuming proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine, adding that the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) in WHO and other overseas authorities have already approved the safety of the HPV vaccine. However, the epidemiological studies they rely on were not conducted with proper understanding of the adverse effects of the HPV vaccine and thus cannot be a basis for confirming safety. It has also become clear that there are conflicts of interests and a lack of neutrality in WHO.

At the current time, the overall Japanese HPV vaccination rate has dropped to less than 1 percent, and few new cases have been reported from clinical practices, but new victims will obviously emerge if the government were to resume proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine. In January this year, although the government updated their HPV vaccine leaflets, those for girls to be vaccinated and their parents intentionally omit the risk of impaired memory and learning disabilities, delivering misleading information to the public. Far from resuming proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine, what the government must do now is to remove the HPV vaccine from its routine vaccination list.

We call again for the government and drugmakers not to spread harm any further, and demand that they compensate for all the harm caused based on their legal liabilities, and take the necessary measures to develop treatment methods and establish a medical treatment structure to prevent more suffering, so that victims can live in peace in the future.

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When I Came to the U.S. from Japan The Eyes of “Others” for Us All


NOVAMNEWS

For every immigrant, speaking about his or her home country can be somewhat emotional and personal. For us immigrants, the experiences of leaving former identities framed in memories of the land, people, smells, tastes, smiles, laughter, tears and other feelings wrapped in the native tongues and rebuilding our own personhoods in foreign words, foreign-scapes, foreign frameworks held together with the values, beliefs and norms of others gives us a special opportunity to see our world dimensionally. Some of us recognize the mechanisms carefully hidden by the very machination of the social structure. The revelation, at the same time, reveals our essential beings hidden in our former-selves.

When I came to the States as an 18 year old young man, I found out that I was a little Asian man. I met enough people in the small town in West Virginia who didn’t bother to hide their feelings when they recognized me as “other”. Although, I must say that there were also plenty of people who expressed generosity and friendliness to me. In addition, after all, I was one of the privileged Asians – a Japanese.

Japan was nuked twice after the humiliating defeat over the imperial struggle for the Asian hegemony (China and associated interests, etc.) (1) Uncle Sam showed off who the top dog was by incinerating two cities worth of people in Japan. The country was at the brink of extinction. But, Japan, after all, was the most prominent capitalist force in Asia. I think the US made a calculated decision to co-opt the Japanese imperial momentum as its Asian proxy in the most effective way–this, by the way, mirrors what happened to Germany and its Nazi elements as well (2). After the war, the new US backed Japanese regime was given a partnership role in the hegemonic rule of the Pacific nations by the US. The one and only viable political party in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, got CIA support along with the Imperial Japanese war criminal leaders guiding its trajectory (3)(4). This was–for the US, as well as for the Japanese corporate power–certainly a better option than Japan having a communist revolution of some sort. The US backed Japanese regime totally went along with the US occupational force, and it did extensive work in demonizing the Japanese imperial trajectory of the past (it must have been easy considering the horrendous things they had done to the neighboring countries) while replacing the momentum with the US made “democracy”, “freedom”, “justice” and so on, which of course operate within the framework of corporatism, colonialism and militarism. The process came with demonization of socialist elements, infiltration of socialist elements, and neutralization of socialist elements. As a result, Japan became a formidable capitalist force backed by the US military might against China and Soviet Union (Russia).

This explains the odd subserviency exhibited by the Japanese here and there. My British friend in Japan, for example, was deeply puzzled by people in Hiroshima welcoming Obama’s visit. However, for the Japanese, Obama is a leader of the “free world”. The fact that he was there to whitewash his engagement in expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, global warmongering and so on and so forth was not a problem to most Japanese people. This tendency can be prominent even among those who vehemently oppose the Japanese rightwing establishment that shamelessly glorifies the imperial Japanese past. Just as president Obama’s kill list and violent colonialism against Libya, Syria and so on didn’t register as criminal to many people in the US. In fact the situation sort of parallels Democratic Party members vehemently demonizing the current Republican president for following colonial, corporate and military initiatives begun by the previous Democratic Party administration.

But in any case, for many who see the enormity of the military might possessed by the US, the monstrosity is a necessary evil against the “bad guys” in the world theater. For many who do oppose the war machine, so called US allies are seen as independent countries with their own self-determination, fully capable of making decisions. Therefore, some of us end up wondering why people in Japan or Germany faithfully go along with the US imperial policies even if that might be contrary to their own interests: Like, going along with sanctions against Russia when they might be losing a productive economic relationship with Russia, or provoking Russia or North Korea even if their own counties might be targets of nuclear attacks. Meanwhile, going along with imperial policies is getting more and more debatable: the imperial hegemony seems to be imploding as it desperately attempts to grow, while China enjoys its spectacular economic success in pursuing a Marxist trajectory in its own way.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan (4795820403) cropped.jpg

There is an interesting anecdote revealing the true nature of the imperial relationship between Japan and the US. When three of the Fukushima nuclear plants caused China syndrome in March 2011, Naoto Kan (image on the right), the Prime Minister at the time, warned other Japanese officials that the US might occupy Japan. The remark allowed some to label him as a clueless moron. However, some of us saw in the remark the real position of Japan within the imperial hierarchy shaped by money and violence in which a “sovereign” country exercises its “free will” at imperial economic and military gun point.

The steep imperial hierarchy that imposes the US military bases in Okinawa (for example), which has been dumping agent orange, depleted uranium, and toxic materials (5) while turning pristine rainforest into a jungle warfare training ground, a military aircraft airport, and a shooting range while also creating the grave threat of nuclear war against South Korea, Japan, Europe and so on, extends right onto the US soil as well. The very population that have allowed the empire to grow so much endure mass incarceration, police violence, massive unemployment, blatant lack of social safety nets, poverty, health crisis, education crisis and so on. But the imperial mind trick somehow renders their powerlessness less visible than the powerlessness of the Japanese people or the German people perhaps. An extraordinary case that illustrates my point deals with the USS Reagan aircraft carrier, which was heavily irradiated by radiation plume from the Fukushima disaster. The sailors suffering from radiation diseases have been abandoned by the US government as well as the Japanese government (6). Within the imperial hierarchy, common men and women are powerless and disposable regardless of their nationalities.

JGSDF soldiers at Camp Kinser (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If the current build up of the US economic/military pressure against pacific countries continues, and if Japan keeps serving its role with re-militarization, the relationship between the US and Japan can more prominently exhibit a neo-colonial relationship. In this scenario, Japan would play an armed guard dog of the empire against China, Russia and so on, while giving an impression that the violence that emerges should be blamed solely on the evil Japanese regime that would surely come to the fore. This gives the US an opportunity to act as the good cop who engages in whatever is necessary to bring about a “peace”–a “peace” under the western capitalist hegemony. Japan can be Asia’s Israel. And Asia can be the Middle East 2.0.

Regardless, militarization will prolong the life of the western war economy while continuing to delegitimize its authority. The illegitimate force will need a bit more iron fist to keep the whole thing in line. The death spiral that devours the capitalist hegemony will exacerbate the hardship of the people in the west while continuing to mess with the rest of the world.

Maybe I’m letting my imagination fly too wild. But as I said, I felt the imperial arrogance of Japan within the framework of western imperialism as I went through the process of perceiving my existence within the larger framework of the global hierarchy. I do not like the dynamics at all. I want the people of Asia stop being a part of the imperial hierarchy. I want the people of Asia to work together to create environment to free their potential in living harmoniously with each other and with the environment.

Every struggle of a people is connected to struggles of others, and each struggle is unique according to their predicaments. For that reason, we must not keep our eyes off of the larger framework of global capitalism and its contradictions. We must not impose the imperial framework onto people of other countries.

I do know that it is much easier to say than to live according to such a perspective. When I see my fellow Asian people or any immigrant bending so far backward to kiss a nefarious backside of the establishment, I feel their urgent need to be accepted in the hierarchy of money and violence.

But still, I desperately feel the need to share what I learned through the eyes of an immigrant. The emotional and personal part of my story also stems from the fact that I could not adjust to the highly structured Japanese atmosphere when I was growing up. I particularly remember the regular corporal punishments I received at school. I developed an extreme aversion toward the authoritative tendency. The process of shedding my former-self slowly taught me how foreign elements can be removed and destroyed within an authoritative hierarchy by imposing obedience or self-destruction. As a young man I chose self-destruction by alcoholism. This continued until I found my expression in art. My studio practice also led me to understand the bits and pieces holding together to show me the larger picture of what I went though as I moved to a different society. Without this experience, I might have followed a different path.

Anyone in the imperial hierarchy can become “other”. I believe our experience as “others” might perhaps inform the true nature of the capitalist hierarchy for those who have a hard time seeing it. After all we are but one species struggling to save ourselves from our collective predicament of the threat of extinction.

*

Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Bookstein Projects. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 and 2016 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.

Notes

(1) The War Was Won Before Hiroshima—And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It

Seventy years after the bombing, will Americans face the brutal truth?

https://www.thenation.com/article/why-the-us-really-bombed-hiroshima/

(2) In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/us/in-cold-war-us-spy-agencies-used-1000-nazis.html

(3) Nobusuke Kishi

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobusuke_Kishi

(4) C.I.A. Spent Millions to Support Japanese Right in 50’s and 60’s

https://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/09/world/cia-spent-millions-to-support-japanese-right-in-50-s-and-60-s.htm

(5) Okinawa: the junk heap of the Pacific

Decades of Pentagon pollution poison service members, residents and future plans for the island

(6) Injustice At Sea: the Irradiated Sailors of the USS Reagan

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The Constitution, Human Rights and Pluralism in Japan: Alternative Visions of Constitutions Past and Future


NOVANEWS

Recent moves by the Abe administration to change the Japanese constitution may result in the most fundamental change to Japanese political life since the 1940s. Although there has been widespread debate on the possible revision of Article 9 – the constitution’s Peace Clause – other profound implications of the push for constitutional change have received scant attention. This special issue aims to take a broad view of constitutional debates in Japan today by posing two key questions: “What is the purpose of the constitution?” and “What does the constitution mean for a culturally plural and diverse society?”

A New Constitution for Japan?

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized (Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, 1947)

In May 2017, as Japan commemorated the 70th anniversary of the enactment of its postwar constitution, Prime Minister Abe announced a proposal to alter the constitution’s most famous and controversial section, Article 9, which renounces the nation’s right to wage war and to maintain armed forces. Abe suggested a revision that would not remove any of the wording of the article’s existing two paragraphs (quoted above) but would add a third paragraph formally legitimizing the existence of Japan’s existing military force, which today boasts the world’s eighth largest military budget.1 More surprisingly, perhaps, while directly mentioning only this modest change to the wording of the document, Abe simultaneously proclaimed his intention to give Japan a “new constitution” (not just a modified version of the old one) by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.2 At the start of 2018, he returned to the theme, urging government and opposition politicians to reach a “broad based consensus” on constitutional change to be put to a national referendum.3 If Prime Minister Abe’s proposal is put into effect, this will mark the first revision of a constitution which has remained unchanged for longer than any other in the contemporary world.

The debate about constitutional change in Japan has been a long one. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on the postwar constitution before various political figures, mostly on the right of the spectrum, were debating reinterpretations of Article 9 and planning for its revision. During the Korean War, the US pressed Japan to rearm by creating the National Police Reserve, which soon evolved into the Self-Defence Force [Jietai], and by the late 1950s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) figures including Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke had defined constitutional revision as a top priority for their party.4

In practice, though, strong popular support for the postwar constitution ensured that the 1947 constitution survived unchanged into the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Asia Pacific War evoked a renewed upsurge of constitutional debate in the mid-1990s, with several media organizations and other groups putting forward proposals either to change the constitution or to protect the existing document and implement it more effectively.5 In January 2000, both houses of the Japanese parliament established constitutional review committees, and by 2005 both the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the major opposition party – the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) had published proposals for constitutional change.6 By 2012, though, the political climate was changing rapidly, and in April of that year (some nine months before the party returned to power) the LDP published a new proposal for constitutional reform which was much more far reaching than its 2005 draft. Some sense of the difference in tone between the 2005 and 2012 LDP drafts can be seen by comparing their preambles (Appendix 1 of this article). The 2012 draft (discussed in further detail in the essays by Lummis, Okano, and Uemura and Gayman in this special issue) also includes many more revisions to the body of the constitution than the 2005 draft had done.

Prime Minister Abe (like his grandfather Kishi) has been a particularly vocal proponent of constitutional revision, but after coming to power for the second time in 2012, and even after securing the parliamentary majority needed to win Diet approval for revision in July 2016, he remained relatively cautious on the subject, preferring to place emphasis on “re-interpretation” of Article 9. This changed, though, with his statement in May 2017. An LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution (Jiyū Minshutō Kenpō Kaisei Suishin Honbu) was promptly created to draft a new constitution, although the task (as we shall see) seems to be proving a challenging one.

In October 2017, against the background of intense security anxieties about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Prime Minister Abe called a snap election, with constitutional revision listed as one of the items on his party’s manifesto, though the party’s campaign rhetoric focused more on economic policy and the North Korean missile issue. The ruling LDP and its ally Kōmeitō predictably won a very large majority (313 of the 465 contested seats), but in other respects the election failed to follow the expected course. Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko’s Hope Party (Kibō no Tō), which also favours constitutional revision, was expected to emerge as a leading opposition force. Its chances seemed to have been boosted when – in the midst of the campaign – the existing main opposition group, the Democratic Party, dissolved its lower house caucus, and the party leader urged party members to join forces with Koike’s grouping. But in fact, the Hope Party failed to make the expected impact. Instead, another newly-formed force, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP – Rikken Minshutō), consisting largely of former DPJ members who disagreed with Koike’s hawkish policies, put in a better performance, winning 55 seats in the new parliament compared with the Hope Party’s 50. A key feature of the CDPs policies, as the party’s name suggests, is respect for the existing constitution, and particularly for its emphasis on democracy, human rights and peace.7

The political mood surrounding the election has left Abe’s government in a rather curious position. It has the two-thirds supermajority in both houses of parliament needed for constitutional change, but all the signs suggest that most of the Japanese public – who would have the final say on the matter through a referendum – are unenthusiastic about Abe’s constitutional ambitions. A Kyodo opinion poll conducted soon after the 2017 election showed that, although the Abe cabinet enjoyed a healthy approval rating, just over 50% of people opposed Abe’s plans for constitutional reform, while just under 40% supported them.Even within the government itself, opinions on the subject are divided. The constitutional review committee created in May 2017 intended to produce a full draft of its proposed revisions by the end of the year, but was in fact only able to come up with a summary of four key points, and even on two of these (the content of the revision to Article 9 and proposed state of emergency provisions) the committee had failed to reach a consensus.9

morrissuzuki_140514adelsteinprotestsjapantease_zqnzrq.jpg

Protesters opposing constitutional revision gather outside the National Diet Building.

The committee’s four-point summary echoes the brief statement on constitutional change made in the LDPs election manifesto, and gives some sense of the direction in which the government plans to take the debate from here. The four points are: that Article 9 should be revised in some way (either by leaving the existing wording as it is and adding an extra paragraph, or by deleting and replacing part of its second paragraph); that new emergency powers of should be given to the government (though there are divided views on what those powers should be); that the constitution should be revised to prohibit the creation of electoral districts larger than a single prefecture, and to “clarify” the status of local government; and that Article 89 of the constitution should be revised as part of a policy of “enriching education” for all Japanese citizens.10

The last two points need some explanation. The proposal on electoral districts aims to reverse recent revisions of electoral boundaries, which were undertaken to prevent a rural gerrymander from which the Liberal Democratic Party has traditionally benefitted. These revisions have created some Upper House electorates which combine two prefectures (e.g. an electorate of “Tottori and Shimane”), a situation which is fiercely opposed by a number of regional-based LDP politicians. The meaning of “clarifying the status of local government” remains obscure, but it is worth noting that the 2012 LDP draft constitution includes a proposal to explicitly ensure that residents who are not Japanese citizens would be constitutionally prohibited from voting in local elections.11 The proposed revision of Article 89 also has potentially far-reaching implications. It is presented by its proponents as being a move to improve the quality of Japanese education by removing restrictions on the funding of private schools. But Article 89 not only prohibits state funding to any educational enterprise “not under the control of public authority” but also, more importantly, prohibits payments from the state to religious organizations. Revision of this article could therefore become a major step away from the separation of state and religion enshrined in Japan’s postwar constitution.

What is a Constitution?

Proposals for constitutional revision have for decades generated intense debate in Japan and beyond. Most of the debate, though, has focused on specific clauses – most notably on Article 9, and recently also on Article 96, which sets out the processes for constitutional revision. These are important matters, and they are addressed in essays in this special issue: Douglas Lummis’ essay presents a fresh perspective on Article 9, while Okano Yayo highlights the significance of Article 96. But here we also aim to take a broader view of constitutional debates by posing two key questions: “What is the purpose of the constitution?” and “What does the constitution mean for a culturally plural and diverse society?”

Protesters rally to save Article 9.

Debates about constitutional change tend to be based on an assumption that participants have a shared understanding of what the constitution is and why it exists. The discussion then generally focuses on the content and wording of the constitutional document, rather than its essential nature. But as Judith Pryor and others have pointed out, the meaning of the word “constitution” is not as simple as it may appear.12 In the broadest sense, the term “national constitution” refers to the way in which a nation is made up or operates: how the nation is constituted. More often, we understand the word as referring to a set of foundational rules or principles on which subsequent law-making or policy-making must rest: even though (as in the case of Britain’s famously “unwritten constitution”) these principles may not necessarily be set out in a single written text. More commonly still, though, when we speak of a nation’s constitution, we are referring to a single written document which is understood as containing those fundamental principles of national political life.

Constitutions which emerge from revolutions or independence struggles, or which (like Japan’s) are products of a radical political transformation following military defeat, are often ringing statements about the values and vision of the nation. The opening words of Japan’s postwar constitution (see Appendix 1) are a resonant example. But many constitutions are much longer, more arcane and more unreadable documents, because they have been created over centuries of accretion, or have emerged through compromise and negotiation out of older political arrangements whose residues still cling like moss to the surface of the political edifice.

A key issue is the relationship between the constitution as a foundational written document and the way that a nation is actually constituted and operates in practice. If there is virtually no correspondence between the two, then a written constitutional document clearly does not mean very much at all. The Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), for example, states: “Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association” (Article 67); “Citizens have freedom of religious beliefs” (Article 68); and “The citizens shall have freedom to reside in and travel to any place” (Article 75); none of which has any real bearing on the realities of life in North Korea.13

At the same time, though, the relationship between written text and lived practice is fluid and dynamic. Written constitutions are constantly reinterpreted, and parts of the constitutional text that are not perfectly reflected in the everyday life of the nation may still be important as statements of aspiration or future goals. In the Japanese context, it is sometimes argued that Article 9 serves to limit pressures for Japan to become engaged in military action, even though everyone knows that the promise that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” has in practice been violated for decades. A recent book by Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah argues that “Article 9 has helped to shape a post-war Japanese mind-set and character – passed on from one generation to the next – in a population that is constantly reminded, through formal and informal education, of the dangers of war. As such, there is a consciousness in Japan about peace as a national value that should be protected”.14 This is an appealing argument, but there is a counter-argument: that it may be dangerous to maintain a significant constitutional clause which is persistently violated in practice. For, if it comes to be taken for granted that the second paragraph of the peace clause can be reinterpreted to mean the opposite of what it says, what is to stop politicians from deciding (for example) to reinterpret the constitution’s guarantees of free speech to mean the opposite of what they say?

The Constitution in a Diverse Japan

There are no simple answers to this dilemma, and the essays in this special issue neither present simple answers nor speak with one voice. But they do suggest a range of ways of reconsidering the meaning of the constitution, and of re-examining the relationship between (on the one hand) the Japanese constitution as embodied in the 1947 constitutional document, and (on the other) the way in which the Japanese state is constituted in practice. Douglas Lummis’ essay highlights the role of constitutions as “seizures of power”. If we see constitutions in this way – as radical moments in which power is transferred from one set of hands to another – the central question becomes “just who is wresting what power from whom?” In this light, the grammar of the constitution becomes particularly important: who is the subject and who is the object of the constitution’s clauses? Lummis shows how current government proposals for constitutional change radically alter that grammar, with far reaching implications. But his examination of Article 9 also reminds us that postwar Japan has been shaped, not simply by its formal constitution, but also by the interaction between the constitution and other documents, most notably the security treaty with the United States. The refractory relationship between Article 9 and the security treaty may be relatively easy to ignore from the perspective of Tokyo, but becomes glaringly obvious from the perspective of Okinawa, from where Lummis writes.

Okano Yayo also focuses attention on the meaning of constitutions. The key danger in current schemes for constitutional change, she argues, is that they obscure and undermine the core function of a democratic constitution, which is to place limits on the power of the state. The Abe government’s approach treats the constitution as though it were any normal law which the state has the power to change at will. Okano’s analysis also highlights the cultural underpinnings of the Abe government’s vision of a new constitution. A crucial element, she suggests, is a denial of the individuality of citizens. Rather than emphasising individual rights, the LDP’s version of a new constitution treats nationals – kokumin – as possessing citizenship only by virtue of being embedded in the communal ties of family and nation. In this sense, current proposals for constitutional revision are inextricably connected to historical revisionism, and to efforts to entrench that revisionism in the school curriculum. This approach is particularly alarming for Japanese citizens or residents whose ancestral background lies outside the historical bounds of the Japanese state (for example, descendants of twentieth century Korean or Chinese immigrants).

Noah McCormack’s essay “Affirmative Action Policies Under the Postwar Japanese Constitution” focuses on an instance where the visions of equality in the postwar Japanese constitution empowered a movement that has transformed sections of Japanese society. Although the constitution makes no specific mention of so-called Dōwa or Buraku15 areas, the clauses enshrining the right to equal treatment under the law, free choice of marriage partner and the right to a reasonable standard of “wholesome and culture living” gave new impetus to the long struggle for Buraku rights. This was reflected in a series of affirmative action measures which aimed to overcome the discrimination and disadvantage faced by residents of Buraku/Dōwa areas. McCormack’s study highlights the magnitude of the changes that resulted. But at the same time, important problems remain. The reduced gap in living standards and life styles between Dōwa and non-Dōwa areas has not meant an end to cultural discrimination and stereotyping, and has in some ways intensified controversy around notions of Dōwa identity. As declining relative deprivation weakens the sense of distinct Dōwa identity, the people of Dōwa areas are increasingly confronted by a dilemma: whether (in McCormack’s words) “to achieve liberation in Japanese society from Buraku discrimination while remaining Burakumin, or to seek the erasure of the categories of Buraku and Burakumin from Japanese society in the process of achieving liberation and becoming ‘regular Japanese’”. As the debate continues, the Japanese Diet in 2016 passed a new law for the “Promotion of the Elimination of Buraku Discrimination”. Whether this should be seen as a welcome step to protect human rights or as an assimilationist measure which re-inscribes the borders of “Japaneseness” remains debatable. But the relatively neglected history of postwar Dōwa policy and its consequences forms a crucial part of the constitution of Japan in its broad sense, and offers an important example of the implications which constitutional principles can have for the shaping of social diversity.

Uemura Hideaki and Jeff Gayman, focusing on the question of indigenous rights, present a starker picture of repeated constitutional refusals to recognise Japan’s diversity. Uemura and Gayman take the story of constitutionalism and pluralism back to the Meiji Constitution of 1889, observing that, throughout Japan’s modern history, the nation has been constituted in a way that failed to address the distinctive rights and histories of Japan’s indigenous people. Critical debates on the constitution, they argue, have not yet adequately addressed this crucial lacuna. Uemura and Gayman’s careful analysis shows how the interaction between the constitution and other decrees and laws has negated the rights of Ainu and Okinawans. In the prewar era, this denial of rights was reinforced by imperial decrees imposed on the colonies as well as on “Japan proper” (naichi). But even the democratic constitution of the postwar era contained no recognition of the distinctive history and status of Ainu and Okinawans, while the constitutional interpretations of liberal scholars often dismissed the problems of these groups as a mere matter of “small numbers”.

Despite this, Uemura and Gayman show how Ainu and Okinawan activists have used the fundamental notions of human rights and equality enshrined in the 1947 constitution as a basis for asserting their claims to recognition and justice. These efforts have achieved some important results, including (in the Ainu case) the 1997 Nibutani Dam judgement, which recognised Ainu as an indigenous people, and a 2008 resolution of both houses of the Diet reaffirming that recognition. But the current LDP proposals for constitutional change, rather than accepting and embodying this development, fly in the face of recent achievements by re-asserting the myths of emperor-centred cultural homogeneity. The response from critics, Uemura and Gayman suggest, should be, not simply to defend the existing constitution, but to aim for a more far reaching and imaginative rethinking of the constitution of a multicultural Japan.

The need for such radical rethinking seems particularly important in the twenty-first century context, when a growing share of Japan’s population are long term foreign residents who do not possess formal Japanese nationality. It is often pointed out that the democratic reforms of the occupation period, which extended the franchise to women, simultaneously excluded Korean and Taiwanese former colonial subjects living in Japan from voting rights. Okinawan citizens – as residents of a region now occupied by the United States – were also excluded from voting rights at this time, though these were restored with the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. In the Japanese version of the 1947 constitution, the words which are rendered in English as “the Japanese people” become “Nihon kokumin” (literally “Japanese nationals”), excluding those without formal Japanese citizenship from the scope of constitutional protections. The LDPs 2012 constitutional draft hardens that exclusion by explicitly denying local government voting rights to foreigners.16 In this context, Uemura’s and Gayman’s proposal to “involve citizens in wide-reaching discussions” to challenge the government on questions of constitutional pluralism has particular importance for the intensifying debate on the constitution.

Constituting the Constitution

The essays in this special issue remind us of the central role of ordinary citizens in shaping and reinterpreting constitutional debates. Okano Yayo’s article, for example, explores the rise of new forms of activism to resist the Abe government’s plans for constitutional change, while McCormack, Uemura and Gayman remind us how minority rights activists have mobilised constitutional principles to advance their cause. Ever since the 1880s, when Ueki Emori, Nishi Amane and others put forward their own personal proposals for a Japanese constitution, Japan has had a history of imaginative engagement with the constitution.

In the current debate, what matters is not only the proposed changes to the wording of the constitutional document, but also the way in which the debate itself is conducted. The structure of the constitutional debate taking place in Japan today speaks volumes about the way in which contemporary Japanese democracy is constituted. On the one hand, there is lively and generally unfettered grassroots debate about the constitution. But on the other, this debate seems almost entirely disconnected to the deliberations of government, and channels to link the two are signally lacking.

In addition to the “Civil Alliance for Peace and Constitutionalism” discussed by Okano, one of the most interesting current examples of grassroots constitutional debate has been the emergence of the phenomenon of “constitution cafés” [kenpō café] which have popped up all over the country over the past decade. The first of these appeared in the town of Hakodate in Hokkaido in July 2005, when local teachers, lawyers and others gathered to talk about constitutional issues in a relaxed and informal setting over cups of coffee.17 During and after the first Abe prime ministership from 2006-2007, as debate on constitutional change intensified, the concept spread to other places, drawing in members of the public who would be unlikely to attend more formal lectures or classes on constitutional issues. As the organizer of one group in Kyoto put it, the idea was “to lower the hurdle [to participation] by meeting in a different sort of space for relaxed conversation, and first of all to spread a move to get to know the constitution”.18 According to one recent estimate, there have been over one thousand “constitution café” meetings in various parts of Japan since the idea was initiated.19

The phenomenon is an intriguing one, not least because it replicates the process through which the modern notion of democracy itself grew out of debates in the coffee houses of Europe in the eighteenth century. But what is also striking is how completely the constitution café movement is divorced from the formal process of constitutional change currently being pursued at the national government level. Indeed, in the whole recent discussion of the issue there has been remarkably little official interest in public consultation or listening to the voices of the public (other than in the most restrictive sense of conducting occasional opinion polls to gauge responses to proposals handed down from on high). The current formal debate about constitutional change is taking shape within the relatively narrow spheres of the parliamentary constitutional review committees and in closed negotiations between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its political partner Kōmeitō. Rather than constitutional change being seen as a process which must be driven by citizens themselves, as the possessors of sovereign power, it almost seems as though the proposed new constitution is a gift to be bestowed upon the people by the Prime Minister, in much the same way as the Meiji Constitution was presented to the Japanese people as a gift bestowed by the Emperor.

Japan’s constitutional debates are taking place at a moment of pivotal change in the East Asian political order. The rise of China, heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and uncertainties surrounding the US role in the region reflect a shifting of the region’s political tectonic plates. The decisions taken about Japan’s constitution over the coming year or two could either heighten regional tensions and mark a radical weakening of the democratic underpinnings of the Japanese system, or provide an opportunity to put forward new visions of a diverse, dynamic and democratic Japan. The crucial test will be whether the debate can be broadened and deepened to engage all sections of Japanese society, and whether the voices of society can reach the ears of those in power, and not merely the other way around. The essays in this special issue seek to make a small contribution to that process of broadening and deepening.


Appendix I

Three Preambles

1. Preamble to the existing (1947) Constitution of Japan

Official Translation

We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.

We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.

We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations.

We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.

2. Preamble to the 2005 Liberal Democratic Draft for a Proposed Revised Constitution –

(author’s translation)

We, the Japanese people, on the basis of our own will and decision and as sovereign subjects, establish this new constitution.

The symbolic emperor system will sustain this. Moreover, the sovereignty of the people, democracy, respect for freedom and fundamental human rights, as well as the fundamental principles of pacifism and international cooperation, will be maintained as unchanging principles.

The Japanese people share a duty to support and protect the country and society to which they belong with love, responsibility and strong spirit, and to work towards the development of a free, just and dynamic society and towards the enhancement of the welfare of the nation’s people, while also placing emphasis on the advancement of education, the generation of culture and the development of local government.

The Japanese people, truly desiring international peace based on justice and order, will work together with other countries to realise these aims, and while recognising diversity of values, will constantly strive to eradicate oppression and violations of human rights.

The Japanese people, believing in symbiosis with nature, will make every effort to protect the environment, not only of our own country but also of the globe.

3. Preamble to the 2012 Liberal Democratic Draft for a Proposed Revised Constitution

The version given below is the author’s translation, which references the translation made by the NGO “Voyce

Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture, having the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the people and governed, under the sovereign power of the people, on the basis the separation of legislative, administrative and judicial powers.

Our nation has overcome and developed from the ruins of the last war and of many great disasters, and now occupies an important position in the international society, promotes amicable relations with foreign countries and contributes to the peace and prosperity of the world under a doctrine of peace.

The Japanese people will defend the nation and homeland with pride and strong spirit, and respecting fundamental human rightsvalue harmony and form a nation state where families and the whole society assist one another.

We esteem freedom and discipline, and while defending our beautiful territory and natural environment, promote the development of education, science and technology and the growth of the country through vigorous economic activity.

The Japanese people, in order to pass on our good traditions and our nation state to our descendants in perpetuity, hereby establish this Constitution.

*

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History at the Australian National University. She is currently engaged in an Australian Research Council project entitled “Informal Life Politics in East Asia: From Cold War to post Cold War”. 

Notes

Nan Tian, Aude Fleurant, Peter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Wezeman, Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2016, SIPRI Fact Sheet, April 2017, p. 2., accessed 10 October 2017.

See, for example, “Kurōzappu 2017 – Abe Shūshō, Kaiken Hatsugen: Aete 9-jō, Yotō mo Konwaku”, Mainichi Shinbun, 4 May 2017, p. 3; Kimura Kyōko, “2020-nen Kaiken: Shiji to Fushiji no Kikkō”, Nihon Keizai Shinbun, online edition, 18 May 2017.

Sithanka Siripala, “Japan’s Prime Minister Seeks ‘Broad-Based Agreement’ on Constitutional Revision”, The Diplomat, January 31, 2018, (accessed February 5, 2018).

Axel Berkofsky, A Pacific Constitution for an Armed Empire: Past and Present of Japan’s Security and Defence Policies, Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2012, p. 331.

See Glenn D. Hook and Gavan McCormack eds., Japan’s Contested Constitution: Documents and Analysis, London and New York, Routledge, 2001.

Michael T. Segal, “Questioning the Rationale for Changing Japan’s Peace Constitution”, in Joseph A, Camilleri et al. eds., Asia-Pacific Geopolitics: Hegemony vs. Human Security, London, Edward Elgar, 2007, pp. 75-92.

See the Party’s platform, published on 26 December 2017 (accessed 28 December 2017)

Kyodo, “Abe’s Cabinet Approval Rating Improves, but Constitutional Reform still Unpopular, Survey Says”, Japan Times, 3 November 2017, (accessed 28 December 2017).

“Consensus Needed on Revising the Constitution”, Japan Times, 27 December 2017.

10 Jiyū Minshutō Kenpō Kaiei Suishin Iinkai, “Kenpō Kaisei ni kansuru Ronten Torimatome”, 20 December 2017, (accessed 28 December 2017).

11 See the Japanese and English versions of the LDP 2012 “Draft for the Amendment of the Constitution of Japan” on the website of the NGO “Voice” (accessed 29 December 2017).

Some 40 countries around the world (including Japan’s neighbour South Korea) allow permanent residents who are not citizens to vote in local elections, and New Zealand also allows permanent resident non-citizens to vote in national elections. In Japan, Korean and Taiwanese male colonial subjects who lived in Japan had voting rights until Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War. These rights were then rescinded, and any the descendants of these colonial subjects who have not acquired Japanese citizenship are still unable to vote, even though they may be 3rd or 4th generation residents in Japan. For this reason in particular, civil society groups have campaigned for local voting rights for permanent resident non-citizens, but this is vehemently opposed by many LDP politicians.

12 Judith Pryor, Constitutions: Writing Nations, Reading Difference, London: Birkbeck Law Press, 2008.

13 See “Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Constitution of 1972 with Amendments through 1998”.

14 Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah, Rethinking Japan: The Politics of Contested Nationalism, Lanham NJ: Lexington Books, 2017, p. 196.

15 This refers to areas inhabited by groups identified as descendants of so-called “outcaste” groups as defined by the social status systems of Japan before the Meiji Era.

16 A small number of Japanese municipalities have allowed non-citizen residents to vote in local referendums, and over 1,400 have passed resolutions urging that foreign permanent residents should have the right to vote in regular local elections. However, controversy surrounds the question of whether or not the postwar constitution allows non-Japanese nationals to vote in elections for local officials, and so far the normal local franchise remains restricted to people with Japanese nationality.

17 “Hakodate ni ‘Kenpō Kafe’, Raigetsu Kaikan – Kyōkai Isshitsu Riyō: Shimin Dantai ga Kikaku”, Asahi Shinbun, 30 July 2005, p. 30.

18 “Marūku Kenpō Shirou: Wakate Bengoshira Kōza – Ocha Tsuide Shitashinde”, Asahi Shinbun, 15 April 2014, p. 39.

19 “Kenpō – Giron no mae ni Shirou: Kafe Tegaru ni 1000-kai – Bengoshi no Kōshiyaku”, Mainichi Shinbun, 4 May 2017, p. 23.

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Japan Plans to Expose Its People and 2020 Tokyo Olympians to Fukushima Radiation


NOVANEWS
 
Featured image: Contaminated earth storage area within the Iitate Village evacuated zone, December 2014. Photo: Eric Schultz / EELV Fukushima via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 US atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling,” Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.

He explains that both the Japanese government and the atomic power industry are trying to force almost all of the people who evacuated their homes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to return “home” before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This March Japan’s federal government announced the subsidies that have, up until now, been provided to Fukushima evacuees who were mandated to leave their homes are being withdrawn, which will force many of them to return to their contaminated prefecture out of financial necessity.

And it’s not just the Japanese government. The International Olympic Commission is working overtime to normalize the situation as well, even though conditions at Fukushima are anything but normal. The commission even has plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to have baseball and softball games played at Fukushima.

Gundersen believes these developments are happening so that the pro-nuclear Japanese government can claim the Fukushima disaster is “over.” However, he note,

“The disaster is not ‘over’ and ‘home’ no longer is habitable.”

His analysis of what is happening is simple.

“Big banks and large electric utilities and energy companies are putting profit before public health,” Gundersen added. “Luckily, my two young grandsons live in the US; if their parents lived instead in Fukushima Prefecture [a prefecture is similar to a state in the US], I would tell them to leave and never go back.”

Reports of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began when a tsunami generated by Japan’s deadly earthquake in 2011 struck the nuclear plant, have been ongoing.

Seven more people who used to live in Fukushima, Japan were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the government announced in June. This brings the number of cases of thyroid cancer of those living in the prefecture at the time the disaster began to at least 152.

Arnie Gundersen

While the Japanese government continues to deny any correlation between these cases and the Fukushima disaster, thyroid cancer has long since been known to be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear accidents like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A World Health Organization report released after the disaster started listed cancer as a possible result of the meltdown, and a 2015 study in the journal Epidemiology suggested that children exposed to Fukushima radiation were likely to develop thyroid cancer more frequently.

The 2011 disaster left 310 square miles around the plant uninhabitable, and the area’s 160,000 residents were evacuated. This April, officials began welcoming some of them back to their homes, but more than half of the evacuees in a nearby town have already said they would not return to their homes even if evacuation orders were lifted, according to a 2016 government survey.

Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for cleaning up the disaster, announced this February they were having difficulty locating nuclear fuel debris inside one of the reactors. Radiation inside the plant continues to skyrocket to the point of causing even robots to malfunction.

Cancer cases continue to crop up among children living in towns near Fukushima.

And it’s not as if the danger is decreasing. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Earlier this year, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were at their highest levels since the disaster began.

TEPCO said atmospheric readings of 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded in one of the reactors. The previous highest reading was 73 sieverts an hour back in 2012. A single dose of just one Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea. Five sieverts would kill half of those exposed within one month, and a dose of 10 sieverts would be fatal to those exposed within weeks.

Dr. Tadahiro Katsuta, an associate professor at Meiji University, Japan, is an official member of the Nuclear Reactor Safety Examination Committee and the Nuclear Fuel Safety Examination Committee of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Truthout asked him what he was most concerned about regarding the Japanese government’s handling of the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

“What I regard as the most dangerous, personally, is the fact that the Japanese government has chosen the national prestige and protection of electric power companies over the lives of its own citizens,” Katsuta, who wrote the Fukushima update for the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, said.

Gundersen thinks it simply makes no sense to hold the Olympics in Japan.

“Holding the 2020 Olympics in Japan is an effort by the current Japanese government to make these ongoing atomic reactor meltdowns disappear from the public eye,” Gundersen said. “I discovered highly radioactive dust on Tokyo street corners in 2016.”

According to Gundersen and other nuclear experts Truthout spoke with, the crisis is even worse.

Fukushima and Surrounding Prefectures Radioactively “Contaminated”

“The Japanese government never dedicated enough resources to trying to contain the radiation released by the meltdowns,” Gundersen said.

Gundersen said that during his first trip to Japan in 2012, he stated publicly that the cleanup of Fukushima would cost more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, and TEPCO scoffed at his estimate. But now in 2017, TEPCO has reached and announced the same conclusion, but as a result of its inaction in 2011 and 2012, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful mountain ranges in Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are contaminated.

One of the tactics that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe‘s administration chose to deploy at Fukushima to contain radiation was an underground “ice wall.”

“As the ‘ice wall’ was being designed, I spoke out that it was doomed to fail, and was [an] incredibly expensive diversion,” Gundersen said. “There are techniques that could stop water from entering the basements of the destroyed reactors so that the radioactivity would not migrate through the groundwater to the ocean, but the Japanese government continues to resist pursuing them.”

Gundersen argues that Japan could and should build a sarcophagus over all three destroyed reactors and wait 100 years to dismantle them. This way, the radioactive exposure will be minimized for Japanese workers, and ongoing radioactive releases to the environment would be minimized as well.

Gundersen also points out that it is equally important that radioactive water continues to run out of the mountain streams into the Pacific, so a thorough cleanup of the mountain ranges should begin right now, but that is a mammoth undertaking that may never succeed.

IAEA experts depart Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan’s plans to decommission the facility. (Source: Greg Webb / IAEA / Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to his other roles, Arnie Gundersen serves as the chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded by his wife Maggie. Since founding the organization, Maggie Gundersen has provided paralegal and expert witness services for Fairewinds. Like her husband, she’s had an inside view of the nuclear industry: She was an engineering assistant in reload core design for the nuclear vendor Combustion Engineering, and she was in charge of PR for a proposed nuclear reactor site in upstate New York.

When Truthout asked her how she felt about the Abe government’s response to Fukushima, she said,

“Human health is not a commodity that should be traded for corporate profits or the goals of politicians and those in power as is happening in Japan. The Japanese government is refusing to release accurate health data and is threatening to take away hospital privileges from doctors who diagnose radiation symptoms.”

Maggie Gundersen added that her husband also met with a doctor who lost his clinic because he was diagnosing people with radiation sickness, instead of complying with the government’s story that their illnesses were due to the psychological stress of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and is also a contributing author to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report for 2016. Like the Gundersens, he is critical of the Abe administration’s mishandling of Fukushima.

“I am not sure we can expect much better from the Abe administration that has shown so little regard for people’s welfare in general and has supported the nuclear industry in the face of clear and widespread opposition,” Ramana told Truthout. “As with restarting nuclear power plants, one reason for this decision seems to be to reduce the liability of the nuclear industry, TEPCO in this case. It is also a way for the Abe administration to shore up Japan’s image, as a desirable destination for the Olympics and more generally.”

Katsuta agreed.

“Prime Minister Abe has neither the knowledge about the issue of Fukushima accident nor the interest at all,” Katsuta said. “The Abe administration has yet to clearly apologize for its responsibility for promoting the nuclear energy policy.”

Instead, according to Katsuta, the Abe administration has lifted evacuation orders in an effort to “erase the memories of the accident.”

Fukushima Evacuees “Forced” Back Home

In the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, 160,000 people fled areas around the plant. The Abe government has been providing housing subsidies to those who were evacuated, but its recent announcement means those subsidies will no longer be provided. Many “voluntary evacuees” will be forced to consider returning despite lingering concerns over radiation.

“This is very unfortunate,” Ramana said of the withdrawal of the subsidies. “The people who were evacuated from Fukushima have already been through a lot and for some of them to be told that the government, and presumably TEPCO, does not have any more liability for their plight seems quite callous.”

He explains that, in enacting this callous move, the Japanese government is claiming that radiation exposure is now within “safe levels” for people to return home. This claim ignores the fact that levels now are even higher than before the accident, and also disregards the widespread uncertainties plaguing the measurement of radiation in the affected areas.

Katsuta expressed similar concerns.

“The lifted evacuation area has not been restored completely, as the radiation dose is still high, and decontamination of the forest is excluded,” he said. “Besides, the decontamination waste is often stored in the neighborhood, and there were many families who did not return, and then the local community collapsed.”

Katsuta added that the subsidies only amount to $1,000 per refugee, so paying them for the next 10 years is “not expensive” in order to safeguard human lives.

Given her work in PR for the nuclear industry, Maggie Gundersen had an interesting position on the Abe government’s tactics.

When she was working for the atomic power industry, she was “carefully taught” certain misinformation about atomic power reactors by industry scientists and engineers. She said she would never have done that work if she had known the “hidden truth.” She and Arnie were both taught that atomic power was the “peaceful use of the atom” — she does not support war and believes that the use of atomic weapons or depleted uranium are horrific crimes — and she explains that she never would have worked for or promoted atomic power knowing what she knows now.

“Arnie and I immediately noticed that TEPCO and the Japanese government were using the same playbook that was used at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and for that matter, Deepwater Horizon),” Maggie Gundersen explained. “Governments immediately minimize the amount of radiation being released, or in the case of Deepwater Horizon, the amount of oil.”

She added that in each of these cases, the mainstream press dutifully reported shortly after the crisis that there was nothing to fear, even though there was no evidence to support these assertions. The governments’ objectives were to minimize fear and chaos, and most media simply echoed officials’ claims. The responses to the Fukushima disaster are following the same pattern.

“Is the Abe regime glossing over the seriousness of the Fukushima meltdowns and ongoing radioactivity? Absolutely,” she said. “What is happening in Japan to the known and unknown victims is a human rights violation and an environmental justice debacle.”

2020 Tokyo Olympics to Be Held Amidst “Hot Particles”

Katsuta said that the Fukushima evacuees are “extremely worried” that their plight will be overshadowed by the Olympics. He believes the Japanese government is using the Olympics to demonstrate to the world that Japan is now a “safe” country and that the Fukushima disaster “has been solved.”

“In Japan, the people are really forgetting the Fukushima accident as … the news of the Olympics increases,” he said.

Arnie Gundersen doesn’t think it makes sense to have some of the Olympic venues (soccer, baseball and possibly surfing) in Fukushima Prefecture itself.

“Radioactively ‘hot particles’ are everywhere in Fukushima Prefecture and in some of the adjacent prefectures as well,” he said. “These ‘hot particles’ present a long-term health risk to the citizens who live there and the athletes who will visit.”

Ramana, too, believes that the events held closer to Fukushima “may be adding to the radiation dose of the competitors and the spectators.”

Fukushima Disaster “Will Continue for More Than 100 Years”

Maggie Gundersen pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission consistently claims it has learned lessons from Fukushima, but she doesn’t think the commission — or the Japanese government, or corporations — learned any lessons at all.

“Energy production is all about money,” she said. “After the meltdowns, many banks in Japan invested in keeping the atomic power reactors on hold until the disaster could sort itself out. Those banks and the government supporting its access to the use of the atom have a vested interest in starting the old reactors up.”

Katsuta has a dire outlook for the future of Fukushima, and said there are already numerous evacuees who have given up hope of returning because they are aware of the crisis being unsolvable by the current means of TEPCO and the Abe administration.

“Even if decontamination and decommissioning work progresses, the problem will not be solved,” he said. “We have not yet decided how to dispose of decontamination waste and decommissioning waste.”

Ramana believes Fukushima should be a reminder of the inherent hazards associated with nuclear power, and how those hazards become worse when entities that control these technologies put profits over human wellbeing.

Arnie Gundersen had even stronger words.

“The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi will continue for more than 100 years,” he explained. “Other atomic power reactor disasters are bound to occur. Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi should have taught everyone around the world that nuclear power is a technology that can destroy the fabric of a society overnight.”

According to him, the remains of the reactor containments at Units 1, 2 and 3 are highly susceptible to damage from another severe earthquake, and any earthquake of 7.0 or higher at the Fukushima site could provoke further severe radiation releases.

Shortly after the meltdowns, Maggie and Arnie Gundersen both spoke about Japan being at a “tipping point”: It could respond to the disaster by leading the world in renewable energy while choosing to protect people and the pristine rural environment through sustainable energy economies.

But obviously it didn’t work out that way.

“The world saw Japan as technologically savvy, but instead of moving ahead and creating a new worldwide economy, it continues with an old tired 20th century paradigm of energy production,” Maggie Gundersen said. “Look at the huge success and progress of solar and wind in other countries like Germany, Nicaragua and Denmark. Why not go energy independent, creating a strong economy, producing many more jobs and protecting the environment?”

Arnie Gundersen has plans to return to Japan later this year on a crowdsourced trip with scientific colleagues in order to teach Japanese citizen scientists how to take additional radioactive samples. Fairewinds Energy Education is currently fundraising to make this possible.

In the meantime, dramatic examples of the ongoing dangers of nuclear power in Japan abound.

In June, radioactive materials were found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident at a nuclear research facility in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture. In that incident, one of the workers had a large amount of plutonium in his lungs.

Recent polls in Japan show that the Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority of them favor phasing out nuclear power altogether.

Meanwhile in the US, President Donald Trump has put nuclear energy first on the country’s energy agenda and has announced a comprehensive study of the US nuclear energy industry. Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry said,

“We want to make nuclear cool again.”

Posted in JapanComments Off on Japan Plans to Expose Its People and 2020 Tokyo Olympians to Fukushima Radiation

Extremely High Radiation Breaks down Fukushima “Clean-Up Robot” at Damaged Nuclear Reactor


NOVANEWS
 
Fukushima-Japan-Nuclear-Radiation-Disaster

A clean-up mission using a remotely operated robot at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has had to be aborted, as officials feared they could completely lose control of the probe affected by unexpectedly high levels of radiation.

The robot equipped with a high-pressure water pump and a camera designed to withstand up to 1,000 Sieverts of cumulative exposure had been pulled off the inactive Reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex earlier this week, The Japan Times reported Friday, citing the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The device reportedly broke down just two hour into the probe.

The failure led experts to rethink estimated levels of radiation inside the damaged reactor.

While last week TEPCO said it might stand at 530 Sieverts per hour – a dose that can almost instantly kill a human being, following the latest aborted mission a company official has said a reading of up to 600 Sieverts should be “basically correct.”

Even despite the considerable 30-percent margin of error for the revised estimate, the latest probe left no doubt that radiation levels are at record highs within the reactor. Even though it cannot be measured directly with a Geiger counter or dosimeter, the dose is calculated by its effect on the equipment.

Last month, a hole of no less than one square meter in size was discovered beneath the same reactor’s pressure vessel. The apparent opening in the metal grating is believed to have been caused by melted nuclear fuel, TEPCO then said.

The recent mission has demonstrated that the melted fuel is close to the studied area.

While extreme radiation levels have been registered within the reactor, officials insist that no leaks or increases outside have been detected.

The failure might force Japan to rethink the robot-based strategy it has adopted for locating melted fuel at Fukushima, according to The Japan Times.

The robot affected by radiation was supposed to wash off thick layers of dirt and other wreckage, clearing ways for another remotely controlled probe to enter the area, tasked with carrying out a more proper investigation to assess the state of the damaged nuclear reactor. Previously, even specially-made robots designed to probe the underwater depths beneath the power plant have crumbled and shut down affected by the radioactive substance inside the reactor.

Fukushima reactor’s radiation levels killed a cleaning robot http://engt.co/2kc1fPu 

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a blackout and subsequent failure of its cooling systems in March 2011, when it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. Three of the plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns, making the Fukushima nuclear disaster the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986. TEPCO is so far in the early stages of assessing the damage, with the decommissioning of the nuclear facility expected to take decades.

Posted in JapanComments Off on Extremely High Radiation Breaks down Fukushima “Clean-Up Robot” at Damaged Nuclear Reactor


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