The firefly-watching season has begun in many parts of the country. A popular nature activity for parents to do with kids in Japan, it is a tradition known to have existed from the earliest of historical times because it is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan(Nihon shoki日本書紀 which was edited in 720), as well as the Tale of Genji in the Heian period. Firefly-watching is also the theme for the traditional J. children’s song “Hotaru Koi ほたるこい” (original version) written by a primary teacher from Akita prefecture, in the Tohoku region. Follow our links to read more about where to go for Firefly watching (such as Firefly watching at Hotaru Park, Fussa River, Tokyo | Osaka) or just listen to this rendition of the song Hotaru Koi here sung at a school choir competition (find lyrics and translation here). Fireflies, by the way, are taught in the science lessons in Japanese elementary schools, as well as mentioned in social studies textbooks.
Below you’ll find our regular EDU WATCH roundup on the news on the educational scene both here in Japan as well as globally, plus updates on what’s happening on the Fukushima crisis.
The OECD has produced an analysis of behaviour statistics gathered as part of its international PISA study, which compares the performance of education systems. The report found there was less disruption in classes in 2009 compared with the results of a previous study in 2000. Pupils in the UK were better behaved than the international average. But Asian countries and regions dominated the top places in this good-behaviour league. The Top 10 countries deemed to have the best behaving pupils are:
- Hong Kong-China
- South Korea
- Russian Federation
Osaka school mourns victims on 10th anniversary of fatal stabbing rampage (Mainichi) An elementary school in Osaka Prefecture mourns the deaths of eight children who were killed by a knife-wielding intruder on June 8, 2001, marking the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
This next article examines the safety pitfalls of local schools as well as measures that have been taken by certain schools since the Ikeda Primary school tragedy …
Daily efforts needed to protect children (Yomiuri, Jun 10) Excerpts:
One measure introduced by the central government was to improve the crime prevention surveillance systems at schools. A survey taken three years ago showed that nearly 70 percent of schools had installed such security equipment as cameras, sensors and intercoms….
But the installation of such equipment alone will not prevent intruders from entering school premises. More than 1,500 intrusions into schools are reported every year.
Two years after the Ikeda murders, a man armed with a knife entered a primary school in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, and injured two children.
The school was equipped with a security camera and sensor, but did not have the camera on at all times. Also, the sensor was turned off at the time of the intrusion, as teachers were annoyed by the sounds it made.
One of the proposals was to have teachers swap their usual sandals for sports shoes, so they could react quickly to any suspicious person who entered the school.
The teacher also proposed moving first-floor classes to higher floors, as first-floor classrooms are vulnerable to intruders.
It is also essential to assure the safety of the roads students use to commute to school. Since the fatal stabbing incident, an increasing number of communities have drawn up safety maps for local children, indicating such dangerous locations as streets that are often deserted. Many have also started voluntary programs to monitor children on their way to and from school. Read more here…
University in Kyoto to offer doctoral course on ‘manga’ (Jun 8, Kyodo) Kyoto Seika University will offer a doctoral course on studies of Japanese “manga” comics in fiscal 2012, the private university in the city of Kyoto said Tuesday. The university will be the first Japanese university to offer a doctorate in the subject, during which students will study the theory of manga making and actually produce manga, the university said, adding the course will allow for enrollment of four students. German art scholar Jaqueline Berndt, manga artist Keiko Takemiya and other active authors and editors will give lectures as part of the planned doctoral course.
Are thicker textbooks better? Kenichi Ikeda, professor of education at Chuo U. questions the basis for assumptions about “the concept of common education”, the notion of the minimum level of required knowledge, the need to guarantee Japanese language education, and the meaningless assessment of academic scores.
Elsewhere in the world the news on education:
Alternatives to Zero Tolerance (An Interview with Anne Marie (Jun 8, Education News)
Zero-tolerance policies bring attention to what behaviors schools are unwilling to accept. They are successful at removing a misbehaving student from the classroom and the school.
Colleges Now Offering Education in Disaster (NY Times)
The cost implications of the Coalition’s inept handling of the increase in tuition fees are beginning to emerge. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned yesterday of a funding shortfall of close to £100 million because ministers underestimated the fees universities would charge when the cap was lifted to £9,000. To no one’s great surprise – apart, it seems, from the Government’s – the great majority of universities are opting for the £9,000 maximum, with some actually admitting they are charging top dollar because to do otherwise would make them look second-rate.
This leaves the Government facing far higher up-front costs than it predicted. The shortfall can be bridged in only two ways – more money from the taxpayer, or a cut in the number of student places
‘Superhead’ priased by Gove lavished thousands on staff (9 Jun 2011) A ‘superhead’ praised by Michael Gove for how his academy is run spent thousands of pounds on champagne receptions, hotels and trips on the Orient Express.
If, on the other hand, you are seeking a pay rise or promotion within your existing company then showing commitment through further study could be just the thing to demonstrate your credentials and ambition to your boss.
Purely on a financial level, research conducted by the University of Sheffield and published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has shown that vocational qualifications make a marked difference to employees’ earnings. The effect varies between sectors and occupations, ranging from 5 and 23 per cent.he other option is to complete a course via home learning, which offers a range of benefits to anyone trying to combine work with study. …
Distance learning can be fitted around existing professional and personal responsibilities, allowing people to gain a new qualification while maintaining their earning power, family life and leisure time. In a study we conducted recently, almost two thirds (57 per cent) cited the ability to continue working while studying, and to work at their own pace, as the key benefits of distance learning.
If you are seeking to improve your profile within your existing organisation then distance learning will allow you to demonstrate drive and aptitude without impacting on your current responsibilities….With distance learning, you progress at your own pace and submit work or take exams when you are fully ready to do so. This means that if other areas of your life suddenly demand more attention – such as job hunting or increased commitments at work – then you can simply put your studies on hold and return to them when things have calmed down… distance learning also performs well when compared with the grades and pass rates achieved through classroom-based education. A recent US-based study showed that 62 per cent of Chief Academic Officers rated learning outcomes for online instruction as the same or superior to those for face-to-face instruction. Home Learning College
£9,000 tuition fees could cause ten universities to fail (Telegraph, 7 Jun) Up to ten universities are in financial difficulty and risk failing as a result of the introduction of the increased fees, the head of the Public Accounts Committee said.
Education advice: Our children’s school has banned climbing trees | Schoolboy gets £2,500 for tripping and cutting his knees A schoolboy who fell over and cut his knee during PE class was awarded more than £2,500 compensation and a school girl £879 for injury during a Frisbee game. However, an 11-year-old schoolboy who lost a finger trying to find a way out of another school after being accidentally locked in by the caretaker was awarded just £250.
A Plea to Elite Colleges for Socioeconomic Diversity (NY Times May 25, 2011)
University challenge (Telegraph View, Jun 7) An injection of private finance and greater competition could help save our failing universities.
At last, an Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge (Jun 6, The Telegraph) A private university that will take on the cream of the rejects is a simply brilliant idea …
Private schools ‘should run academies’, says Nick Gibb (The Telegraph, 07 Jun 2011)
Private schools have a “moral purpose” to help poor pupils whose parents cannot afford the fees, according to Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister.
An insider look at Stanford’s College life: Atticus Lee (Stanford): A Year Among the Naked, the Pagan and the Vegan (NY Times May 2, 2011)
Digital Textbooks Slow to Catch On (June 8, 2011 IHT)
E-textbooks are widely available at prices as much as 60 percent lower than print editions, but sales have yet to catch up. A study, however, hints at a boost for e-textbooks with the rising use of tablets.
Up to Their Ears in Debt (NY Times)
The bottom line for recession refugees: grad school and debt. The assumption is that students have a nest egg or are reimbursed by employers…
France Reinvesting in Universities, Education Minister Says (NY Times, May 23, 2011)
An overnight train ride to a final destination: College (Jun 8, NY Times)
Too Many Students and Not Enough Chairs in Germany’s Universities(May 16, 2011) Increasing demand and the elimination of the last year of high school are adding thousands of students to universities that are already over capacity.
New York University, on its way to becoming the first truly global university, is starting a new partnership with an online school that offers free classes to students around the world Jun 8 IHT.
‘It’s terrible’ (BBC)
Children’s feelings on growing up in poverty Recent figures show 47% of children with asthma are from the poorest 10% of families in the UK, and 85% of children living in damp houses suffer from breathing problems.More than 3.5m children live below the poverty line in the UK, which has one of the worst child poverty rates in the industrialised world. Four youngsters explain what it is like growing up when a family has little money. One in five low income families report skipping meals, and children living with single parent families are twice as likely to go without.
Filling Classes With Learning, Not Fears (Jun 10, NY Times)
(The Independent, 9 Jun) Cuts to building budgets mean there’ll be no more show-stoppers like the newly unveiled City of Westminster College.
By comparison to the relatively cheap, £1,800 per square metre Catmose, the City of Westminster College is a Rolls-Royce project. Designed by the eminent international Danish practice, Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL), it is one of the most architecturally striking new colleges or academies in Britain….
What’s new in books and resources:
“From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who was responsible?” by The Yomiuri Shimbun
“We found not only high-ranking government leaders, generals and admirals should shoulder the blame. Field officers often were more influential than even the Emperor, war ministers and chiefs-of-staff in making decisions to go to and escalate the wars and were responsible for many atrocities. We hope our findings serve as a cue for peoples elsewhere to examine and explore what kinds of miscalculation or blind belief could trigger wars in the future.” —– Tsuneo Watanabe, Editor-in-Chief, The Yomiuri Shimbun
The book looks at these 5 questions:
— Why did Japan plunge into the quagmire of the Sino-Japanese War?
— Why did Japan wage war with the U.S. despite its lack of resources?
— What caused the Japanese military to employ “kamikaze” attacks?
— Was it possible to prevent the devastation of the atomic bombs?
— Were there problems with the Tokyo Tribunal?
Five Keitai Rules for Parents and Children (from the second edition of the Kinjo Gakuin cellphone guide)
(1) Set specific hours for cellphone use.
(2) Children shall not subscribe to websites without permission from their parents.
(3) Check the cellphone bill.
(4) Treat personal information carefully.
(5) Put importance on family time.
When she was in junior high, Kaori Matsuoka used to spend almost all her free time on her cellphone….Her monthly cellphone bill topped 30,000 yen ($375) from time to time.
But eventually her parents “persuaded” her to allow them to take custody of the phone after 10 p.m. It took her half a year to get used to spending the night without her phone, but now she says she feels “relieved.”
Kaori, now a senior in high school, overcame her cellphone addiction by setting rules about the use of the device with her parents, including that she can only subscribe to up to three membership sites.
Today, Kaori and other students at Kinjo Gakuin Junior and Senior High Schools, a private all-girls school in Nagoya, are passing on their lessons in a guide to help parents learn about their childrens’ relationships with cellphones and develop family rules for how these gadgets should be used.
In April, the third edition of the guide came out. The guide contains many first-person narratives on mobile phone use among teens, such as students’ recounting of their own “keitai izon” (cellphone addiction).
A group of students who were in their first year in high school at that time embarked on the project as part of their efforts to study problems with cellphone use.
The first edition of the guide was issued two years ago, at a time when cyber-bullying was gaining public attention. It included students’ tales about their keitai addiction and other articles.
“It provided an opportunity for parents, children and the school to discuss cellphone problems from shared perspectives,” says Hiroshi Miyanohara, a teacher at the school who gave guidance to the students for the project.
The second edition contained “Five Keitai Rules for Parents and Children,” which were developed last fall through discussions among representatives of students and parents.
One of the student representatives, Yuka Terao, who was in her third year in high school, says she thinks some of the rules are too strict.
“But we agreed that both parents and children need to try to have regular communications (over cellphone use) instead of simply setting rules for control.”
In March, some 45 parents met at the school to study related issues, using the guide as a reference.
“It is not uncommon for cellphone providers to offer lectures to parents on cellphone manners and measures to prevent trouble, but it is unusual for a guide produced by students to be used,” says Kojiro Imazu, professor emeritus at Nagoya University who gave a lecture at the study meeting.
Hirotsugu Shimoda, chief of the Association of Media Study, a nonprofit organization devoted to studying the negative effects of digital media on children, stresses the importance of parental control.
“Problems concerning the use of keitai by children require close monitoring by their parents,” Shimoda says.
The association holds lectures around the nation on parental control, an essential for child-rearing in this Internet age.
The first thing the participants are told to do is to activate the filtering features of their children’s mobile phones to automatically block harmful sites.
A Cabinet Office survey of 2,000 children aged 10-17 in September last year confirmed the effectiveness of filtering. The survey showed the ratio of the respondents who said they had met with a person they had gotten acquainted with through a website was four times higher among children using cellphones without content filters than among those subject to filtering.
Mobile carriers are required to provide all users under 18 with content filtering options. The ratios of users using such features were 80 percent among elementary school students and 70 and 50 percent among junior and senior high school students, respectively.
“Restrictions alone cannot solve the problems,” says the association’s Shimoda. What is vital is keeping a “close watch” by parents, he says.
Parents should keep watch over their children for signs of excessive and inappropriate use of cellphones, such as looking sleepy during the day and going out at night.
The government survey found parents who learned about parental control were nearly twice as likely to discuss Internet manners and risks with their children than those who had not.
The Brain Sports Foundation JAPAN has organized an open day FREE event for those who want to try out their brain sports world games activities. More than 200 world games may be tried out at the Brain Sports Community Center on Saturdays between June 11th to June 16th. Time: 10 am – 5 pm. Location: Brain Sports Community Center, In front of the Tama-ku Town Office, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Detailed information at: www.brain-sports.jp Phone: 044-328-5981 Email: email@example.com
The Brain Sports Foundation’s goals for organizing these activities are to redress present-day Japan’s various problems on school problems, declining academic ability, and truancy incidents, education in homes, and on-line dependence, etc. Focusing on the importance of communication in communities, the association regards “brains sport” as a kind of “culture”, that can augment the ordinary education provided by a school, and boost the thinking skills as well as perseverance of students. It is believed that the soul of a sport is learned from competitive power and cooperativeness, and in the process, communications skills are raised. International exchange with many foreign countries is promoted, linguistic capacity is supported, ultimately contributing to global peace. The activation of these goals can contribute to the healthy training of youth in various forms like, the social participation and interaction with elderly people or a disabled person and participation of various members of society, and the activities will be useful toward the true “production of convivial society.
Useful thematic lesson plans:
- Teaching Ideas: The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
- 20 Ways to Teach About the Disaster in Japan Across the Curriculum
- Teaching Ideas: The Death of Osama bin Laden
Next are the briefs and excerpts on the situation at Fukushima:
Boiling water charges cellphones (Japan Times)
A pot called the Hatsuden-nabe (power-generating pot), can be used to charge cellphones by boiling water in it will go on sale as disaster equipment later this month.
Made by an Osaka-based venture company TES NewEnergy Corp. the pot looks like an ordinary household utensil but can directly convert heat waste into electricity using a thermoelectric module. Since the device can charge cellphones and other devices using open flames from firewood, charcoal, gas and other sources, it can be useful as a backup charger for natural disasters or other emergencies. The pot has a USB connection and can charge an iPhone in three to five hours. It can also charge radios and flashlights — if they have USB plugs available.
Related news: Power shortages seen expanding to Kansai
Widen evacuation zone for children, pregnant women: Greenpeace chief (Japan Times, Jun 10)
Greenpeace says the government should consider evacuating children and pregnant women from a wider area around the Fukushima No. 1 power plant because radiation levels remain high even outside the 20-km no-go zone. Greenpeace’s team of radiology experts found hot spots that had a maximum hourly reading of 45 microsieverts of radiation alongside a school zone. While the area likely had high levels of radiation as a result of the landscape or other natural conditions, Greenpeace insisted the central government should conduct thorough checks and provide accurate and fast information to local residents.
Nuclear evacuation being considered for more areas (NHK, Jun 9)
1,700 kids living 20-30 km from N-plant (Jun 10, Yomiuri) despite the government’s recommendation for residents of that area to get their children out.
According to local government officials, many of the children left the area at one point with their parents. However, some later came back when their mothers and fathers decided to return for work-related reasons, the officials said.
Based on the law on special measures concerning preparedness for nuclear emergencies, the government has designated the area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant as an emergency evacuation preparation zone. Residents there are asked to be ready to flee inside buildings or evacuate the area in case of emergency.
Children who would have difficulty evacuating by themselves, pregnant women and people who require nursing care have been asked to leave the area, but the request is not binding.
All areas of Hironomachi and parts of Minami-Soma, Tamura, Narahamachi and Kawauchimura in Fukushima Prefecture are located within the zone.
However, most of the local governments were unable to determine the number of children living in the affected areas. An official of the Tamura government, for example, said the city does not know how many children are left in the designated areas in the city.
The Minami-Soma municipal government said it had confirmed at least 170 preschool children and 1,500 primary and middle school students were staying in its Haramachi district.
Most parts of the district are between 20 and 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. A total of about 25,000 people, including the children, are staying in the district, the government said.
About 6,400 children of the same ages lived in the district before the March 11 disaster.
The four other municipalities had about 2,346 children before the disaster.
According to the Minami-Soma government, residents in most of the Haramachi district were initially asked to stay indoors after the March 11 disaster. Many residents who fled at this point came back after the government changed the areas to their current status on April 22, the government said.
To cope with the increase in the number of children returning, the government has been using 20 buses to take children to and from seven primary and middle schools in the city’s Kashima district, which is located outside the designated area. The service started April 22.
The measure appears to show that the local government is tacitly approving the presence of children in the zone. A local government official said: “Most of the parents who’ve come back to the district are engaged in work related to reconstruction, so we want to support them as much as possible. With this many children in the district, we have to be practical.”
The number of children who lost their parents in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami came to 201 as of June 6, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Many of these children under the age of 18 now live with their relatives, and the ministry is urging such relatives and other parties concerned to utilize the foster parent system.
Specifically, the ministry is considering revising the ministerial ordinance this summer to provide uncles and aunts with a monthly allowance of 72,000 yen if they become foster parents.
Of the 201 quake and tsunami orphans, 101 are in Miyagi Prefecture, 82 in Iwate Prefecture and 18 in Fukushima Prefecture. There are also many children who lost one of their parents in the disaster.
Meanwhile, applications filed with the Tokyo-based orphan support organization Ashinaga for special lump-sum payments showed that the number of children — from infants all the way up to those in graduate school — whose parents were killed or went missing totaled 1,223 as of June 7.
Of the total, 78 lost both parents or both parents are still unaccounted for, and 1,145 lost one of their parents or one of their parents is missing.
The ministry has long worked hard to expand the foster parent scheme by sanctioning uncles, aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers as kindred foster parents who receive 54,980 yen a month per infant or 47,680 yen per older child to cover living or educational costs.
In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the ministry plans to treat uncles and aunts without a legal duty of support in the same way as other foster parents, and provide them with foster parent allowances.
55% of donations not reaching survivors (Jun 8, Yomiuri) Excerpts follow:
Less than half of the more than 80 billion yen in disaster-relief donations already sent to prefectures affected by the March 11 quake and tsunami has reached the hands of people waiting for urgently needed cash to rebuild their shattered lives, it has been learned.
Although a committee tasked with distributing cash donations to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake has decided how to hand out the second batch of payments, only 45 percent of the money already sent to 15 affected prefectural governments has reached people’s pockets. The slow progress in the distribution of donations is largely seen as due to the loss of family registries and residents’ certificates in the tsunami, as well as a lack of staff in the affected areas. …
The prefecture’s social welfare section said many municipalities lost their family and resident registries in the tsunami. Without these documents, it is difficult to decide who is entitled to a share of the donations. “The quake left us with a ton of clerical work, and we’re short of staff who can handle making donation payments,” one official said.
To be paid, a person needs a disaster victim certificate. To get a certificate, one must undergo an inspection. The problem is that there is not enough staff to handle the issuing of the certificates, which has severely slowed up distribution of the donation money.
The Tagajo city government said staff shortages mean it takes at least one week to issue a certificate. But even after a person gets a disaster victim certificate, the city said it takes even more time for them to get paid.
Tagajo resident Ayako Hirayama, 57, visited the city office Saturday to apply for a certificate. She lives in an apartment with her husband and her son’s family because their house was flooded by the tsunami. They have no refrigerator, so they have to go shopping nearly every day. She said having a place to store food would be a big help, but a city official told her the donations would not be distributed for about a month.
“Without money I’m just wilting with worry. We’re really having to tap our savings, so I’d like to get the donations as soon as possible,” she said.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the distribution rate is 61 percent, much higher than Miyagi. The prefecture has received about 35 billion yen and quake-hit residents have been paid about 21.5 billion yen.
“We sent a staff member to each of three municipalities for a week in late April to make progress on handing out disaster donations,” a prefectural official in charge said.
The distribution rate in Iwate Prefecture is about 47 percent. Out of about 10.2 billion yen, about 4.9 billion yen has made its way to disaster survivors. The prefecture said it has sent 44 officials, including workers from other prefectures, to five cities and towns that had especially serious damage in the tsunami to pave the way for smooth distribution of funds.
As concerns over radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear crisis continue, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced it will begin checking atmospheric radiation levels at about 100 locations across the city.
Cesium detected in Shizuoka tea Radioactive cesium exceeding the legal limit was detected in tea made in a factory in Shizuoka City, more than 300 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Shizuoka Prefecture is one of the most famous tea producing areas in Japan. Related article: Story: Scared of your salad? How to wash veggies safely (www.msnbc.msn.com)
Japan Moves to Ease Parental Fury Over Radiation Limits (NY Times May 28, 2011)
The education minister that the country would lower radiation exposure limits for schoolchildren in areas around a stricken nuclear plant and pay for schools to remove contaminated topsoil.
No.2 reactor air filter starts running (NHK, Jun 11) The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has begun running air-filtering equipment at the Number 2 reactor building on Saturday to remove airborne radioactive material. Tokyo Electric Power Company had set up 2 air-filtering units at a building adjacent to the reactor building….The devices will filter radioactive materials out of air pumped from the reactor building through a duct. The cleaned air will be fed back into the reactor building. TEPCO says it plans to run the devices for about 3 days and check internal radiation levels before opening up the doors of the reactor building.
Japanese-made robot to be used at Fukushima plant (NHK, Jun 8) A Japanese-made robot, unveiled to the media at the Chiba Institute of Technology will be used in restoration efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for the first time since the crisis began in March. A team of researchers from the institute, Tohoku University and others developed the robot and modified it for use at the troubled nuclear plant. The robot moves with the help of a pair of 20-centimeter-wide rolling belts. Four additional belts at each corner of its body enable the robot to move freely through debris and up and down staircases. The robot is equipped with a device to measure radiation. It also has a sensor to gauge levels of radioactive water inside reactor buildings, as well as a container to collect the water.
TEPCO tests filters to decontaminate water (NHK, June 09)
Tokyo Electric Power Company began testing water filtering devices at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to decontaminate highly radioactive wastewater on Thursday.
The utility put up fences around water intakes outside reactors 2 and 3 to prevent leaked wastewater from spreading out to sea. But radioactive cesium is being found outside the fences, in amounts above government-set safety levels.
The utility has installed two filtering devices near the reactors’ water intakes.
The filters are made of zeolite, which absorbs radioactive cesium.
After a test-run, Tokyo Electric plans to filter a maximum 30 tons of contaminated water per hour from inside the fence and to discharge the decontaminated water into the sea.
TEPCO mulls release of decontaminated water (NHK, Jun 8)
Fisheries Agency opposes Fukushima Daini nuke plant water release plan (Mainichi Japan, June 8, 2011)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to release water containing traces of radioactive materials from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant to the sea has been stopped due to stiff opposition from the Fisheries Agency, sources close to the mater said Wednesday.
Although the utility known as TEPCO told the agency that it will release the water after removing radioactive substances to an undetectable level, the agency is not approving the plan, leaving the fate of the 3,000 tons of the water accumulated in the nuclear power station, located 15 kilometers south from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant, undecided.
If the water remains in tanks for a prolonged time, the storage facility may be corroded by salt in the water.
After being flooded by tsunami following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, the Fukushima Daini power station saw about 7,000 tons of water accumulate in its facilities.
Of the water, 3,000 tons in the reactor, turbine and other buildings has been found to contain a small amount of radioactive materials such as cobalt.
TEPCO initially planned to let the water stay in the tank, but changed its mind after seeing rust in the storage facility and decided to release the water into the sea.
The level of radioactive materials detected in the water is below the legal standard for releasing such water to the environment.
To seek acceptance of its plan, TEPCO told the Fisheries Agency and local fishermen it would further clean the water with a mineral called zeolite before releasing it. … More here.
Fishermen to Tepco: Don’t release water (Japan Times)
A plan by Tepco to release water containing traces of radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant into the Pacific has been halted by stiff opposition from the Fisheries Agency.
TEPCO forced to review reactor 4 cooling plan (NHK, June 12) Synopsis:
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been forced to reconsider its plan to cool the spent fuel storage pool of the No.4 reactor.
Water injection from a special vehicle has not been intense enough to cool the water in the pool, allowing the temperature to remain at more than 80 degrees Celsius.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, aims to install a circulatory cooling system that will pump water out of the pool and return it there as coolant. The utility originally hoped to put the system in place next month.
However, when on Friday, workers entered the 4th floor of the No.4 reactor building where the pool is located for the first time since the nuclear disaster took place, they discovered a large hole in a wall created by the March 15th explosion, destroyed equipment and scattered debris on the floor, and that a nearby pipe necessary for the cooling system had been mangled. Fixing the damaged pipe is expected to be extremely difficult. In addition, it remains unclear if there is another pipe that can be used for the cooling system.
Shizuoka tells tea retailer to conceal radiation info (Japan Times)
Shizuoka Prefecture tells a Tokyo-based mail order company not to say anything on its website about excessive radioactive material being found in tea from the prefecture, the retailer says.
Below Yomiuri Shimbun has provided a rare critical (three-part) post-mortem on TEPCO and the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis so far:
Three months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a nuclear crisis that shows little sign of ending anytime soon.
This is the fourth installment in a series that examines what caused the unprecedented crisis, which has dealt a fatal blow to the myth of the safety of nuclear power plants in this country.
“The lands of Mutsunokuni were severely jolted. The sea covered dozens, hundreds of blocks of land. About 1,000 people drowned.”
This is a description of the massive Jogan Earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region about 1,150 years ago. It is contained in “Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku” (The official history of three reigns of Japan), which was compiled during the early Heian Period (794-1192).
Mutsunokuni is the name of the region that covered most of the present-day prefectures in the Tohoku region.
It is now clear the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not learn from history.
Since 1990, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Tohoku University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have researched the traces left by the Jogan Earthquake. Their studies have shown that the ancient tsunami was on the same scale as that caused by the March 11 earthquake.
According to a report submitted by the national institute to the government in the spring of last year, the Jogan Earthquake occurred off Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and is estimated to have had a magnitude of about 8.3 or 8.4.
The Jogan Earthquake tsunami penetrated more than four kilometers inland in the Sendai plain in Miyagi Prefecture, and about 1.5 kilometers inland in an area where Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, is currently located, the report said.
According to a recent study conducted by Tohoku University, two tsunami equivalent to the size of the Jogan Earthquake tsunami have hit the Sendai plain in the past 3,000 years.
Before March 11, scholars had repeatedly warned at academic conferences and other occasions that a massive tsunami could hit the Tohoku region in the future.
However, the government’s Central Disaster Management Council and TEPCO never factored such studies into their estimates of the damage that earthquakes and tsunami could cause to nuclear power plants.
TEPCO said there was not much evidence of the damage caused by the Jogan Earthquake. It was more appropriate, the utility said, to reference the Shioyazaki-oki Earthquake–a magnitude-7.9 temblor that hit Fukushima Prefecture in 1938 and caused much smaller tsunami than the March 11 earthquake–when estimating the damage earthquakes and tsunami could cause at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Robert Geller, a professor at the University of Tokyo and an expert in seismology, said that if TEPCO and the government had referred to the study of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, they might have increased the size of tsunami they thought the Fukushima plant might encounter. The government and TEPCO should have taken the risk of tsunami more seriously, he added.
“This crisis at the power plant is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster,” Geller said.
According to Geller, four earthquakes measuring magnitude-9 or stronger occurred in the 60 years to 2009.
“In 2004, there was the Indian Ocean earthquake. [The government and TEPCO] should have been aware that similar earthquakes could occur anywhere,” Geller said.
The government plays an enormous role in the safety of nuclear power plants, checking reports submitted by power companies regarding the quake-resistance measures implemented at each of their nuclear plants.
However, it takes time for the government to factor new studies into its evaluation of the reports. In addition, both the government and power companies have focused more on measures against earthquakes than tsunami.
According to sources, people who tried to raise the alarm about the risks of tsunami were in the minority at TEPCO. Many thought it was enough to arm against earthquakes equivalent to the size of the Shioyazaki-oki Earthquake, they said.
A former TEPCO executive once said: “Tsunami are a threat to ria coasts, such as the Sanriku coast. However, they’re not a threat to straight coasts, such as the one where the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is located.”
There are other examples of risks regarding earthquakes and tsunami being ignored.
In its annual reports, which have been made public since 2008, the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES) has predicted possible damage tsunami could cause to Mark-1 nuclear reactors that are about the same size as the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors at the Fukushima plant.
One report said if a breakwater that extended up to 13 meters above sea level was hit by a 15-meter-high tsunami, all power sources would be knocked out–including outside electricity and emergency power generators. In such a situation, the report said, cooling functions would be lost and the reactor’s core would be 100 percent damaged–a meltdown, in other words.
The breakwater at the Fukushima No. 1 plant was about 5.5 meters high, less than half the assumed height in the JNES report.
TEPCO assumed the tsunami hitting the plant would be 5.4 meters to 5.7 meters high. But the wave that struck on March 11 was 14 meters to 15 meters high.
Another report by the organization released last year predicted that if all power sources were lost due to an earthquake, fuel rods will begin melting after only 100 minutes. This report said a reactor’s containment vessel would be damaged after about seven hours and a large amount of radioactive material would be released into the air.
According to an analysis by the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, damage to the core of the Fukushima plant’s No. 1 reactor started about two hours after the tsunami and its pressure vessel was damaged in about four hours–very close to what JNES had predicted.
Both entities are under the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and are in charge of safety regulations at the nation’s nuclear power plants. Findings by JNES are often reflected in safety measures adopted by plant operators. But one TEPCO official said, “We prioritized preparing for high-probability incidents, so we couldn’t respond to everything.”
Wataru Sugiyama, a lecturer on nuclear power safety at Kinki University’s Atomic Energy Research Institute, said, “From a cost-performance perspective, it’s difficult to prepare for low-probability disasters and prevent all accidents.
“But by thinking about things after an accident, it’s possible to prevent worse situations,” he said.
His words were proved true by Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, which was also hit by the disaster but managed to avoid a serious accident.
After the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was hit by the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake in July 2007, Japan Atomic Power decided to build anti-tsunami walls at the Tokai No. 2 plant. The walls were built to withstand a tsunami 5.7-meters high, up from about four meters.
Construction had not been completed by the time the March 11 tsunami struck, but a finished section on the south side of the Tokai plant protected a seawater-intake pump needed to cool an emergency diesel power generator, which prevented a complete loss of power at the plant.
Economic factors are not the only reason why power utilities were reluctant to take action on safety measures. The firms also wanted to avoid losing the trust of local residents.
Many cases of cover-ups or altered data have been unveiled since 2002, including some at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. TEPCO believed that launching repairs to solve these problems would make their explanations about the safety of nuclear power to local residents ring false.
Another issue was that the voices of workers at the plant did not reach the higher-ups.
“Workers at the plant thought from before the quake that there was a risk all power could be lost if a tsunami flooded the emergency power generators,” according to one TEPCO employee who has worked as an operator at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
But a former TEPCO executive who is now an adviser to the firm said, “If there was a risk of losing all power, why didn’t workers present their views at board meetings? It’s really too bad.”
When asked why the government failed to act on tsunami warnings, industry minister Banri Kaieda said his ministry had blindly believed Japan’s nuclear plants “were the safest in the world.”
NUCLEAR CRISIS: HOW IT HAPPENED / Government radiation data disclosure–too little, too late (The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jun. 11, 2011)
On June 3, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency released a shocking, but very belated, report about what happened around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant immediately after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
At 8:39 a.m. on March 12, about 18 hours after the earthquake, radioactive tellurium-132 was detected in Namiemachi, Fukushima Prefecture, six kilometers from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s damaged plant, according to the report from the agency.
The detection of Te-132 meant the temperature of nuclear fuel at the plant had shot up to more than 1,000 C. It also meant nuclear fuel pellets in the reactor cores had been damaged and nuclear material had leaked into the environment.
Seven hours later, a massive hydrogen explosion rocked the plant’s No. 1 reactor.
Attempting to explain the delay in making the information public, agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said later, “We never meant to conceal the information, but it never occurred to us to make it public.”
SPEEDI data unused
Throughout the ups and downs of the nuclear crisis, the government’s transparency record has been consistently atrocious.
At 5:44 a.m. on March 12, the government expanded the evacuation area around the plant to 10 kilometers from three kilometers. Namiemachi authorities moved residents by bus to the Tsushima district in the western part of the town.
Meanwhile, the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) had been pumping out estimates of radiation doses once every hour since 4 p.m. on March 11.
SPEEDI–a system used to make forecasts of radiation diffusion patterns–had been showing that the Tsushima district was being hit with high radiation doses. This crucial information, however, was not passed on to town authorities.
Mayor Tamotsu Baba said later, “We weren’t told anything important.”
According to the government’s basic nuclear disaster plan, SPEEDI should be used to help make evacuation recommendations. The system cost more than 11 billion yen in taxpayer money to install. When Prime Minister Naoto Kan directed a disaster response drill at Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture last year, SPEEDI simulations were used to set evacuation areas.
However, the March 11 calamity severed power at the Fukushima plant, meaning SPEEDI data could not be transmitted. The government said it did not make forecasts from the system public because “accurate predictions could not be made.”
Despite the information blackout on radiation levels, SPEEDI continued to churn out useful data about radiation emissions immediately after the earthquake and tsunami by inputting provisional readings.
The system’s estimates on radiation pollution for the afternoon of March 12 show high contamination in areas eerily similar to those the government eventually designated as “planned evacuation areas” in April.
“Although the system was supposed to be used to deal with a crisis, we weren’t fully prepared to actually use it.” said one senior education ministry official. “There were no ideas or discussions about if the [SPEEDI] data should be made public,” he said, essentially admitting the ministry wasted the system.
On May 2, Goshi Hosono, special adviser to the prime minister on the Fukushima crisis, made public about 5,000 SPEEDI radiation-prediction images. Explaining why the disclosure had been so late, Hosono said the government had been “afraid of triggering a panic.”
Commenting on the matter, Hirotada Hirose, professor emeritus of Tokyo Women’s Christian University and specialist in risk psychology, said, “In a fast-changing crisis situation, delays in releasing information to try to ensure accuracy often aggravates people’s suspicions and unease.”
“Even if information is only about possible developments, data obtained through scientific methods should be disclosed,” he said. “In the initial phase of the Fukushima crisis, scientifically valid forecasts should have been made public, with the understanding that the information would be modified immediately if the situation changed.”
Numbers, but no analysis
In addition to the problems with transparency, the Fukushima nuclear crisis has also highlighted issues with the arrangements the government has made for measuring radiation from the nuclear power plant and how the data are evaluated.
The government’s basic disaster response plan assumes the task of measuring radiation levels around a nuclear plant in the event of an accident would be done by the prefectural government involved. The education ministry’s role is only “supplementary” to the duties of the prefectural government.
In this crisis, however, the Fukushima prefectural government was unable to handle the task of making radiation measurements on its own.
Therefore, on March 16, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano instructed the education ministry to cooperate with the prefectural government in analyzing and announcing radiation dosage data.
The ministry then brought observation vehicles and robots to construct 13 observation networks in April to measure air, sea and soil radiation levels. Findings were subsequently posted on the ministry’s Web site.
Since the networks were only makeshift and there was no way to digitally transmit the data to the ministry, trips to the observation stations were a cumbersome necessity. The readings were sometimes even called in over public pay phones. The result was chaos–wrong data were sometimes made public, while information that had been gathered and reported sometimes was not released.
Looking back at the situation, senior vice minister of the education ministry Ryuzo Sasaki said, “Both personnel and equipment were sorely lacking, as there was no proper plan in place for the central government to take the initiative in addressing the situation.”
Data, no matter how much effort was expended to collect it, does not serve people’s needs unless it is combined with expert evaluation and analysis. Organs in charge of making evaluations, however, failed to do their jobs.
On March 16, Yasutaka Moriguchi, deputy minister of the education ministry, announced that radiation doses of 330 microsieverts had been measured about 20 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant. When asked about possible health hazards, Moriguchi only said, “Our duty is confined to providing the public with data.”
The observation point Moriguchi was reporting on was in an area where residents had not been evacuated but were currently being told to stay indoors.
The data alone would likely have fanned anxiety among residents near the nuclear facility, but Moriguchi, when pressed over why he was only reporting the data, told the press conference, “We have been instructed by the chief cabinet secretary not to make any comments on the data.”
Around that time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano had issued an order that evaluations of radiation data could only be done by the Nuclear Safety Commission.
Chief of the commission Haruki Madarame, however, was tied up advising Kan and other government leaders. For a full week after Edano’s order, no evaluation of the radiation data was announced by the commission, the nation’s expert body on the matter.
Instead, Edano repeated in press conference after press conference that radiation levels would not cause any “immediate” health damage.
On March 23, Madarame finally held his first press conference. In it, he apologized. “We are very sorry, but we cannot make any [radiation evaluations] because we are very understaffed.”
Earlier related reports:
Other crisis postmortem reports:
Ex-adviser slams Kan, NSC for locals’ exposure (Japan Times, Jun 12)
Kyodo – A report by a former government adviser on the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant criticizes the government for exacerbating the radiation exposure of nearby residents due to what he called its disjointed initial handling of the crisis.
Toshiso Kosako, a professor of radiation safety at the University of Tokyo, wrote in the report submitted to Prime Minister Naoto Kan just before he stepped down as adviser in late April that the government failed to make efficient use of forecasts on the spread of radioactive substances from the Fukushima plant.
In criticizing the government’s impromptu handling of the crisis in its early stages, Kosako cited a lack of leadership at the prime minister’s office and the Nuclear Safety Commission’s uncooperative attitude toward Kosako’s team.
He wrote that the government delayed the release of forecasts on the spread of radiation from the plant compiled by the Nuclear Safety Technology Center’s computer system, called the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI).
The report says an epidemiological study should be conducted in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures because thyroid cancer is expected to develop among children.
Kosako drew up the report April 27, two days before he said he would step down, as an unofficial record of his team’s activities.
Kosako assumed the post March 16 with the duty of advising Kan on matters related to nuclear power plants and radiation, five days after the earthquake and tsunami triggered the crisis.
The report says the adviser’s team gave more than 60 pieces of technical advice, but the government failed to make use of most of them promptly and effectively.
The government said in a report submitted Tuesday to the International Atomic Energy Agency that nearly 200,000 people in Fukushima Prefecture had undergone screening tests and no health problems were found.
It also said thyroid examinations of around 1,000 children detected only low-level radioactivity.
Schools must be better equipped to handle disasters (Yomiuri, Jun.12)
Many schools were used as evacuation centers in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Three months on from the March 11 disaster, evacuees still remain at more than 100 such facilities.
Schools become “fortresses” for children and community residents in times of emergency. To prepare for the massive earthquakes expected to eventually occur in the Tokai region and elsewhere, it is necessary to strengthen the earthquake-resistance and antidisaster functions of school buildings.
More than 6,000 public schools were damaged in the March 11 disaster, with much of the serious damage caused by tsunami that followed the massive earthquake. There have been no confirmed cases of students, teachers and other school staff being killed as a result of school buildings collapsing due to the earthquake.
Since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, local governments have strengthened the earthquake resistance of school buildings and gymnasiums built before old quake-resistance standards were revised in 1981. Structures were rebuilt or reinforced, and these efforts can be said to have been effective to a certain degree.
But even if the projects to bolster quake resistance that are included in this fiscal year’s first supplementary budget are implemented, 17,400 school buildings will be left untouched. That is 14 percent of the national total of public primary, middle and high schools.
Ministry sets 2015 target
Last month, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry set fiscal 2015 as its target for finishing projects to reinforce quake resistance at public primary and middle schools. The projects must be moved up as much as possible so that all the schools can be fitted to better resist earthquakes by the target year.
The latest disaster revealed school buildings’ deficiencies as evacuation centers.
Evacuees were forced to spend restless nights in darkness caused by power outages. With no protection from the cold, some wrapped classroom curtains around their bodies to warm themselves. Fixed-line phone services were cut, so many schools could not contact the outside world.
It is necessary to study such measures as the installation of in-house power generators and water storage tanks, stockpiling blankets and emergency food supplies, and the installation of satellite mobile phones.
Some school gymnasiums could not be used as shelters because their ceilings collapsed. We ask all schools to conduct safety inspections even of such nonstructural elements as ceilings, walls and windowpanes. … read more here.
Panel: Aftershocks of over magnitude 7 may occur (NHK, June 09)
A government panel of seismologists says major aftershocks from the March 11th earthquake could still occur in the sea off the coast of northeastern Japan.
At a meeting on Thursday, the government’s Earthquake Research Committee examined the impact of the March quake on seismic activities in the country.
The panel said that magnitude-7 aftershocks or stronger could hit sea areas off the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan.
It said that in some sea areas close to the Japan Trench, major quakes accompanied by tsunami could occur.
The panel said the risk of earthquakes from some active faults in inland areas is higher than before. One fault straddles Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. Two others are the fault between the western part of Tokyo and neighboring Saitama Prefecture, and the one that runs through Nagano Prefecture.
The panel chief, Katsuyuki Abe, called for continued caution, saying that although the number of tremors is declining nearly 3 months since the March disaster, aftershocks may occur anywhere.
Mainichi looks at topic of re-criticality (Jun 5) | Recriticality at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: J. researcher says nuclear chain reaction may have reignited long after tsunami disabled the plant | #Fukushima I Nuke Accident Tellurium-132 Conundrum: Case of Missing Iodine and Cesium | Radioactive strontium detected in 11 places in Fukushima Prefecture(Asahi 06/10)
Many challenges at Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant Three months after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, more than 90,000 people in Japan are still living in evacuation centers. The government plans to build a total of 52,000 temporary homes for the evacuees, but only about 28,000 have been completed. Many evacuees have declined to move into the temporary housing, citing insufficient support services compared to those at shelters.
Sludge that will be generated in the process of treating radioactive water at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is estimated to contain 100 million becquerels of radioactive substances per cubic centimeter, the plant operator said.
Radioactive sewage sludge is quickly filling up treatment facilities in eastern Japan as recycling companies have refused to accept it for safety reasons.
The central government, which has only presented guidelines for temporary storage, plans to set standards on final disposal.
Radioactive cesium was first detected in sludge at a sewage treatment facility in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 1.
Radioactive sewage sludge has since turned up at facilities in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and other prefectures.
Officials believe that radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant flowed into sewage pipes with rainwater and were condensed during sewage treatment.
In normal times, about 80 percent of sewage sludge nationwide is recycled into cement and fertilizers after it is incinerated into ash.
But at the Iriezaki Centralized Sludge Treatment Center in Kawasaki, about 220 tons of incineration ash in 550 double-layered bags have been piled up on the passageway and elsewhere.
Director Takashi Ookouchi said the center will run out of storage space in a few days.
An inspection on May 13 found 470 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of sewage sludge and 13,200 becquerels per kilogram of incineration ash. Read more here…