社説:食品の放射能 説明と測定を徹底せよ

2011-10-31 05:07:41 | 英字新聞
(Mainichi Japan) October 29, 2011
Gov't should thoroughly explain health risks from internal radiation exposure through food
社説:食品の放射能 説明と測定を徹底せよ

The Japanese government is required to thoroughly explain health risks from overall radiation exposure to the public and ensure that food products are measured for radiation now that the Food Safety Commission (FSC) has shown its safety standards on internal radiation exposure through foods.

In a report it submitted to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Oct. 28, the FSC explained that if lifetime cumulative exposure to radiation exceeds roughly 100 millisieverts, excluding natural radiation, it will adversely affect human health.

Based on that report, the ministry will set upper limits on radiation for each type of food product.

The problem is the interpretation of the 100 millisievert upper limit.

When it released an initial draft of the report in July, the FSC explained that 100 millisieverts refers to the upper limit on the total amount of overall radiation exposure, both internal and external.

However, the report submitted to the ministry limits it to internal exposure through food.

The report has raised questions as to whether the upper limit on internal radiation exposure through food should remain at 100 millisieverts or should be lowered if the amount of external radiation exposure is high.

The FSC has declined to answer this question on the grounds that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry or other government organizations in charge should decide on the matter.

The FSC apparently believes that it should stick to its mission of evaluating risks involving food.

However, the government should stop such sectionalism and evaluate risks of overall radiation exposure as what members of the public want to know is how their health is affected by both internal and external radiation exposure.

The current regulations on food safety set the upper limit on exposure to radioactive cesium at 5 millisieverts per year.

However, since this is a provisional limit set following the accident at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it is an urgent task for the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to set stricter standards.

In doing so, the ministry should thoroughly explain the basis for the new standards, including health risks involving external radiation exposure and internal exposure to less than 100 millisieverts, in an effort to convince the public.

The FSC report suggests that children are more vulnerable to radiation than adults.

However, as it is unrealistic to set separate upper limits for children and adults, it is necessary to set a figure that can protect the health of children as the upper limit on all citizens.

But even if a stricter upper limit is set, it alone cannot eliminate consumers' anxieties as long as they do not know how much radiation they have been exposed to through food.

Sample surveys on food that national and local governments are currently conducting are far from sufficient.

In order to protect the health of citizens and relieve their concerns and mental stress, central and local governments should conduct more thorough and detailed measurements of radiation contained in food.

Such measurements should cover a wider diversity of food products, as fish and other marine products could later turn out to be contaminated with radiation as a result of bioaccumulation.

University of Tokyo professor Ryugo Hayano has proposed that the amount of radioactive cesium contained in school lunches should be measured and that the results be released on a daily basis.

Tatsuhiko Kodama, professor at the same university, has suggested that all food products should be measured for radiation using belt-conveyer-style measurement devices.

A growing number of retailers and citizens are voluntarily measuring food products for radiation.

The national and local government should actively support these moves.

If the current situation continues, consumers' concerns about food safety cannot be eliminated even if the actual radiation levels remain low.

毎日新聞 2011年10月29日 2時30分


2011-10-30 07:08:37 | 英字新聞
(Mainichi Japan) October 22, 2011
Journalists keep close eye on Fukushima nuclear worker radiation exposure (Part 3)

The wide perception gap that has surfaced between Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the government and other parties has raised serious questions about the management of plant workers' radiation exposure.

Shortly after the plant was stricken with meltdowns and hydrogen explosions in March, Mainichi reporters, mainly those with the Tokyo City News Department, began interviewing workers struggling to bring the crippled facility under control.

Most of the workers are from Fukushima Prefecture, and many of them commute to the plant from shelters or dorms where they were taking refuge after their homes were badly damaged in March 11's natural disasters.

A 30-year-old worker for a sub-subcontractor said he had been told by an employee of the subcontractor, "We won't write down the amount of radiation you were exposed to during the latest work on your radiation management record. You don't have to worry about it."

Radiation exposure amounts and the results of regular medical exams are supposed to be stated clearly on each worker's radiation management record.

If workers suffer from cancer in the future, there will be no proof of the causal relationship between their radiation exposure and the disease unless such data is included in their radiation management records, making them ineligible for workers' accident compensation benefits.

Further interviews with the utility, the government organizations concerned including the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and other parties have revealed there was a wide perception gap among them over maximum exposure limits for workers.

Health ministry regulations stipulate that nuclear power station workers can be exposed to a maximum of 100 millisieverts over five years, and 50 millisieverts in a single year.

However, in the case of an emergency such as a nuclear accident, they can be exposed to up to 100 millisieverts during work to bring the plant under control.

In the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the ministry raised the upper limit to 250 millisieverts.

The ministry concluded that workers who are exposed to 100 to 250 millisieverts during efforts to tame the Fukushima nuclear crisis must be withdrawn from further work for five years on the grounds that the conventional regulations apply to the Fukushima crisis.

However, TEPCO was of the view that the conventional regulations do not apply to the work at the Fukushima plant, arguing that workers should not be deprived of employment for long periods.

Because of this, the subcontractor omitted the levels of radiation workers were exposed to from their radiation management records.

"In the end, we are the ones who are going to be left holding the bag," a 28-year-old worker lamented in an interview with the Mainichi.

The Mainichi published an article about the omission of exposure data from the 30-year-old worker's radiation management record on the front page of its April 21 morning edition.
「原発作業員 被ばく線量 管理手帳記載せず」との記事は4月21日朝刊の1面トップに掲載された。

It was subsequently learned that at least one TEPCO employee had been exposed to more than 250 millisieverts, prompting the ministry to step up its radiation management instructions to the utility.

There have been some cases of plant workers being exposed to excessive levels of radiation during their work because of sloppy management.

We are determined to continue to shed light on how workers' radiation exposure is being handled in an effort to improve their working environment.

(By Satoshi Kusakabe, Takayuki Hakamada and Akiyo Ichikawa, Mainichi Shimbun)

毎日新聞 2011年10月18日 東京朝刊


2011-10-29 04:56:53 | 英字新聞
October 27, 2011
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 27
EDITORIAL: New cost estimates argue for changing nuclear power policy

New government estimates that factor in the cost of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant show that nuclear power generation is actually a relatively expensive way to produce electricity.

The damage from the accident is so vast and wide-ranging that a final figure is not yet available.

However, the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission has come up with a broad idea of how much the disaster will raise the cost of nuclear power generation.

The additional cost due to the accident could be as high as 1.2 yen per kilowatt-hour of electricity, according to the commission’s estimate.

A core meltdown occurred at three of the six reactors at the disabled plant.

Based on the total number of years that Japan's 50-odd nuclear power plants have been in operation, divided by the number of crippled reactors, it can be estimated that an accident of this scale occurs once every 500 years per reactor.

This estimation was used to calculate the cost increase.

If the cost of the accident is factored in, the overall tab of nuclear power generation comes to 6.8 yen per kilowatt-hour, compared with 5.7 yen for thermal power generation using coal as fuel or 6.2 yen for generating electricity by burning liquefied natural gas.

The new cost estimates are ball park figures and don’t take account the money needed for the massive-scale decontamination that has yet to be undertaken.

Another important cost factor concerns the unsolved issue of the final disposal of radioactive waste being produced by nuclear power plants across the nation.

Clearly, the cost of atomic power generation will be much higher than traditional estimates.

Nuclear power generation has long been touted as “a cheap and safe way to produce a large amount of electricity.”

But the Fukushima disaster has disproved not only the claim of its safety but also that of its economic advantage.

The Atomic Energy Commission has produced another important cost estimate.

Japan has adopted the nuclear fuel reprocessing approach, which involves extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for recycling as fuel.

This process costs 2 yen per kilowatt-hour.

In contrast, the direct disposal approach, which involves burning uranium just once and disposing of the radioactive waste produced in the process, costs 1 yen, half of the cost of reprocessing, according to the commission.

This is a big difference.

The total cost of nuclear power generation would be 5.8 yen if the current reprocessing approach is replaced by the direct disposal method.

The Atomic Energy Commission made the same cost comparison seven years ago, and the results were roughly the same.

But it decided against proposing to drop the policy of fuel reprocessing, citing the huge costs that would result from such a major policy shift.

There is the argument that changing the policy would negate past investment and require new research while straining the central government’s relations with the local governments of the areas where nuclear power plants are located.

This argument doesn’t hold water any more.

In the wake of the catastrophic accident, there is strong public distrust toward nuclear power.

It is almost impossible to win public support for the reprocessing approach, which can only make a small saving of uranium at a high cost.

The two cost estimates are hard numbers that throw into sharp relief the grim reality of nuclear power generation in Japan.

It is clearly time for the govrnment to change its nuclear power policy, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

The government’s Energy and Environment Council should lead debate on the issue.

As such, it bears a heavy responsibility.
Japan must face up to the fact it needs to pursue a future without nuclear power.

At the same time, we feel debate is also needed on scrapping nuclear fuel reprocessing, the necessity of which has been called into question.

The time has come for the government to grapple with the cost of changing its nuclear power policy.


2011-10-27 23:47:04 | 英字新聞
October 26, 2011
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 26
EDITORIAL: Spending review needed for nuclear-related subsidies

If the Yoshihiko Noda administration is serious about weaning the nation off nuclear power generation, one of the biggest issues it must address is its relationship with local governments with jurisdiction over the nuclear power plants.

The oil shocks of the 1970s propelled Japan toward greater dependence on nuclear energy.

Many of the municipalities that agreed to host nuclear plants were experiencing population drains and had no local industry to speak of.

For taking in what nobody else wanted in their backyards, the municipalities were "rewarded" with huge amounts of government subsidies, even while the plants were still in the planning stages.

Roads and public gymnasiums sprang up, funded by the subsidies and property tax revenues.

And from 2003, the municipalities became able to spend their incomes in "soft" fields, such as supporting community activities and footing hospital personnel expenses.

As their finances grew stronger, so did their dependence on the nuclear industry.

In some municipalities, nuclear-related revenues make up more than 60 percent of the general account.

But the March disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant has changed things.

The town of Namie and the city of Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture, where Tohoku Electric Power Co. has plans to build nuclear plants, have decided to decline government subsidies for the current fiscal year.

And in Ibaraki Prefecture, the head of Tokaimura village--the site of Japan's first nuclear power plant--has recommended to the government that the Tokai No. 2 plant be decommissioned.

This is the first case of a local administrative body voluntarily seeking to end its financial dependence on the nuclear industry.

Other municipalities are beginning to expect eventual cuts in government subsidies and are making plans accordingly.

In switching its energy policy, the government needs to be fully receptive to these changing attitudes of local governments.

Specifically, the government needs to take a good, hard look at its subsidy system and ask itself this question: The subsidies were initially meant to promote regional development, but hasn't the system devolved into a means of "buying off" struggling communities, which is actually counterproductive to self-government in the true sense of the term?

If this is the case, the system must be overhauled.

Some local governments are still pushing nuclear power generation,

but their neighboring municipalities are becoming increasingly cautious.

Now that conventional disaster control zones are being considered for expansion, keeping or scrapping a nuclear power plant is no longer a decision that can be left only to the community where the plant is situated.

We believe the time has come to include all communities in the vicinity in the decision-making process.

We are fully aware, of course, that any abrupt nuclear plant closure and withdrawal of government subsidies would be devastating to the regional economy.

How should the transition take place?

What role can the region play in the nation's shift to greater energy diversity?

In order for the region to think these things through and come up with practicable solutions, the government must provide occasions for thorough debate.

And this is not something people in the big cities can shrug aside as none of their business.

After all, the government subsidies for municipalities that host nuclear power plants are financed by the so-called power resources development promotion tax, which is collected from all taxpayers as part of their electricity bills.

To review how money is being spent for nuclear power generation is to explore a new rule for the redistribution of our tax money,

and this is something all citizens need to think about.

欧州首脳会議 危機対策に市場の目は厳しい

2011-10-27 04:51:40 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2011)
Investors not fully reassured by moves to settle Greek crisis
欧州首脳会議 危機対策に市場の目は厳しい(10月25日付・読売社説)

Leaders of eurozone nations have moved a step closer to settling the region's financial crisis after reaching a broad agreement on a set of measures to prevent the crisis from spreading further--although their actions were slow and taken reluctantly.

However, the leaders still face a long, winding road to conquer the crisis and dispel the market's anxiety.

It is necessary for them to work on the details of issues left unresolved and act promptly in dealing with the crisis.

At the recent summit meeting, leaders of the European Union and 17 eurozone countries discussed measures to settle the debt crisis of Greece, the nation where the trouble first broke out before spilling over to other European nations, as well as measures to prevent the crisis from spreading to still more countries.

After difficult negotiations, the countries have drawn up some remedies.


'Managed default'

The measures have three pillars: bank recapitalization, significant reduction of Greece's debt burden and reinforcement of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

The eurozone leaders have decided to ask banks that own Greek government bonds for a recapitalization of more than 100 billion euros (about 10.5 trillion yen), which seems to be appropriate for the time being.

At the same time, the leaders will ask banks to bear further burdens to relieve Greece's debt problems, such as giving up 50 percent to 60 percent of the Greek government bond principal they have.

This measure is a de facto approval of Greece making a virtual default on its debts to some degree, as it is now apparent that the country lacks the ability to repay.

In July, eurozone monetary authorities announced results of stress tests on major eurozone banks, but the assessment was too lenient.

One particular problem is that the tests failed to check deterioration of bank assets caused by the rapid price fall of Greek government bonds.

This time, bank recapitalization will be conducted to prepare for debt relief for the Greek government and the expected further price fall of the country's bonds--a process that seems like a "managed default."

We hope the measures will contribute to preventing markets from panicking and to stabilizing the financial system.


Investors still skeptical

It will be an encouraging message to the investment market that eurozone leaders have agreed to strengthen the EFSF, an institution that supports eurozone nations marred by fiscal deficits, and to move forward the launch of the European Stability Mechanism, envisaged as a European version of the International Monetary Fund.

However, as the Greek crisis has already triggered credit uncertainty regarding Italian and Spanish bonds, it is unclear whether the measures agreed by eurozone leaders will be enough to deal with the financial crisis.

Market players still worry that the amount of bank recapitalization is too small.

The process of recapitalization also remains unclear, and it is uncertain whether the banks would agree to the significant reduction of Greece's debt burden.

If eurozone leaders decide to ask for the financial help of the IMF to strengthen the EFSF, it will provoke angry responses from Japan, the United States and emerging economies that want the eurozone nations to step up their self-help efforts to deal with the financial crisis.

Market players are looking with icy disapproval at the eurozone nations, whose measures against the financial crisis have always been one step behind.

Eurozone leaders need to specify the details of the agreed measures against the crisis at the next summit meeting Wednesday and present the details at the Group of 20 summit meeting of major economies scheduled early next month.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2011)
(2011年10月25日01時05分 読売新聞)