Tohoku Disaster News updates May 13, 2011

EVENT: Nishimachi International School in Moto-Azabu in Minato-ku will be hosting a Flea Market on Saturday, May 14, 2011 from 10:00am to 3:00pm and also a Tomo no Kai Auction on May 27th both events at the gym
> All proceeds from the food and drink stalls will go to benefit the earthquake and tsunami victims.
See more details here
A picture by Soshi Itakura, 8, depicts the tsunami as a Tyrannosaurus. (Photo courtesy of Kunihiko Kanaya)

A picture by Soshi Itakura, 8, depicts the tsunami as a Tyrannosaurus. (Photo courtesy of Kunihiko Kanaya)

2 boys who lost mother to tsunami express feelings through art (Mainichi)

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi — A volunteer here collecting children’s tsunami-related compositions received a set of drawings from two boys who lost their mother to the March 11 tsunami that depicted their feelings through pictures and words.

Gaishi Itakura, 11, and his 8-year-old brother Soshi, made three compositions. Soshi handled the pictures, using crayons on drawing paper, while Gaishi wrote messages on the back. In his drawings, Soshi represented the tsunami as a Tyrannosaurus dinosaur, or monster, attacking the town.

The boys’ mother was taken by the tsunami while heading home in a car. A possible depiction of this, or a drawing of another victim, can be seen in the third drawing, where a person being swallowed by the tsunami is yelling out, “Help!”

Gaishi Itakura, right, and his younger brother Soshi hold their compositions. (Photo courtesy of Kunihiko Kanaya)

Gaishi Itakura, right, and his younger brother Soshi hold their compositions. (Photo courtesy of Kunihiko Kanaya)

On the back of the artwork, Gaishi wrote messages such as, “Stupid tsunami,” and “My mom died because of the tsunami, but I won’t give up.” Read the whole story here

This morning’s NHK news featured the traditional kamishibai storytelling as one of the most popular and gratefully received activities and forms of entertainment for evacuees, young and old, at evacuation centres. It was also an art or activity also much used in the aftermath of the Hanshin earthquake. One of the most loved and moving stories pertinent to these times is the tale of the Mouse and the Horse( a tale about helping one another).

The following organizations and NGOs for example (source) detailed below are involved in such projects, among others, to help children and schoolchildren at evacuation shelters:

Caring for Young Refugees (CYR)
[Project areas] Miyagi and Saitama Prefectures (Saitama is where many victims from Fukushima Prefecture are going to establish evacuee’s lives)
[Beneficiaries] Young children, their mothers and staff members of nurseries
[Summary of our projects]
1.    CYR is planning to offer childcare services in several project areas in Miyagi and Saitama Prefectures for victims, offering opportunities for people in affected areas to be paid volunteers in order to promote participation of our projects, and working closely with other related organizations to implement our projects effectively.
~    Donating 30 sets of toys, teaching materials, and picture books to evacuation centers and temporary compounds in Miyagi and Saitama Prefectures. Toys and teaching materials are handmade materials from volunteers.
~    Providing scholarship to buy school uniforms and stationary for those who face difficulties.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

Plan Japan
[Project areas]
Tagajo City and its surrounding areas, Miyagi Prefecture
Children, students, and their parents in the activity areas
Teaching, clerical staff and specialists such as clinical psychotherapists who are engaging in medical care for children
[Summary of our projects]
The goal is to provide safe living conditions, both mentally and physically, for children hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Plan Japan carries out the following activities:
~    To provide school supplies in expectation of resuming 16 elementary and junior high schools in Tagajo City, Matsushima and Watari Town.
~    To hold workshops for teaching and clerical staff as well as medical personnel who engage in medical care for children of the devastated areas.
~    To install and manage play areas for children of the devastated areas and to hold events for them
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ)
[Project areas]
Kesennuma City and Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture
Ofunato and Rikuzentakada City, Iwate prefecture
Victims living in shelters and those who move into temporary housing and corporate managers affiliated to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
[Summary of our projects] …
Psycho-social care
We procure and provide toys for kids as well as set space (play room) where children can play with our staff. Furthermore, various programmes are currently under consideration such as lectures on how to deal with the mental trauma of children in the framework of psycho-care and support.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

World Vision Japan
[Project areas]
Minimisanriku Town, Tome and Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture
Yamada Town, Tono City and Otsuchi Town, Iwate prefecture
People hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, especially children
[Summary of our projects]
Among others, World Vision Japan is also managing Child Friendly Service (CFS) to alleviate grief and anxiety among children who lost their family members or friends.

Our future activities are as follows; to expand the areas of CFS; to provide recreation areas for the elderly; to open community kitchens in order to provide nutritionally balanced meals; and to provide urgent necessities for the people who enter temporary housing, or school supplies for children.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi, Children without Borders (KnK)
[Project areas] 5 municipalities in coastal part of Iwate Prefecture (Yamada Town, Otsuji Town, Kamaishi City, Ofunato City and Rikuzentakada City)
[Beneficiaries] Juveniles in devastated areas
[Summary of our projects]
KnK is coordinating with boards of education in 5 municipalities in coastal part of Iwate Prefecture (Yamada Town, Otsuji Town, Kamaishi City, Ofunato City and Rikuzentakada City) regarding educational materials, school bus, school uniform and equipments for staff room in order to re-open and to proceed education at elementary and junior high schools. From 18th to 23rd April, we will again visit the same areas to conduct the third survey in Iwate Prefecture.
We will continuously conduct needs investigation with cooperation of local communities in order to support mental care for juveniles through doing sports and cultural activities for mid-long term durtation.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL

Campaign for the Children of Palestine
Staff and volunteers of the Campaign for the Children of Palestine began to assist in evacuation centers in Iwate Prefecture. We conducted hearing surveys asking members of the Council of Social Welfare and leaders of each evacuation center about the welfare of children and what is essentially lacking. With support from various fields we have sent relief supplies to Otsuchi Town such as food, candy, bottled water, water-free shampoos, flashlights and so forth. We decided to give a helping hand to Ando Elementary School that accommodates over 300 evacuees. The school has been sheltering a large number of children and lacking enough schoolteachers to serve as caretakers. Tents were set up at the corners of the school for children because there are already people living inside the school’s facilities. For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

 Child Fund Japan
[Project area] Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture
[Beneficiaries] Children and adults who engage with children (teachers and etc), other
[Summary of our project]
As an emergency assistance, we have so far delivered relief supplies to Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Natori City, Sendai City, Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture and Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture.
We will conduct the same kind of assistance based on the local needs. However, we have no plan to provide emergency relief supplies outside of our project areas.
As recovery assistance, the following projects are going on.
1.    Making “Guidance of mental health care for children”. It will be from May.
You can download PDF file from
2.    Starting “We are with you!” project from May.
Providing stationery sets to elementary students with messages from the Philippines and Nepal. We are currently looking for target schools for provision.
3.    Conducting workshop for elementary school teachers about “Children mental health” (workshop schedule to be decided)
4.    Conducting “Grief work” for those who lost family and important persons.
It will be held about six times from June in Tokyo, Fukushima Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA)
[Project areas] Ohtsuchi Town, Shimohei, Iwate Prefecture.
Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture
[Beneficiaries] Victims of Ohtsuchi Town, Shimohei, Iwate Prefecture and Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture
[Summary of our projects]
AMDA has been providing medical relief since March 12th, 2011 in Minamisanriku Town, Kamaishi, Ohtsuchi Town (Iwate Prefecture). Victims in those areas often tell us that they feel relieved when they see AMDA Jackets (usually staff members of AMDA wear blue jackets with name of the organization).
However, some evacuation centers closed since April marks the beginning of a new school year in Japan, and most of the evacuation centers are public schools. We decided to hand over our activities to local doctors and medical facilities in order to reconstruct and develop the local medical system. As AMDA’s decision, we are going to shift our activity of dispatching medical teams directly, to the activity of supporting local doctors. AMDA takes over medical team activity’s on April 20th, 2011 to local doctors, and we will continue to support the local healthcare system in affected areas of earthquake and tsunami, educational reconstruction, and scholarship for students and providing school supplies.
For more details of our activities, please visit our URL:

Good Neighbors JAPAN
[Project areas] Kamaishi City, Yamada Town and Okaji Town, Iwate Prefecture
[Beneficiaries] Adults and children
[Summary of our projects]
1. Children Support Project
We are visiting kindergartens and nursery schools in Kamaishi City and Okaji Town, Iwate Prefecture in order to deliver futons and to do cleaning while reviewing the possibility to construct temporary kindergartens.


Related topic: Superheroes cheer children in tsunami zone (Japan Times, May 7) Excerpts below:

The battle between the buggy-eyed blue superhero and the evil sea monster and his ninja henchmen was a brief but refreshing return to normalcy for children in this coastal city.

Nearly two months after their lives were roiled by the massive March 11 tsunami, the boys and girls of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, many whom still live in shelters or half-ruined homes surrounded by debris, were treated to the stage show as part of Children’s Day celebrations.

“It’s been a long time since the kids were this excited,” said Yukiko Takeyama, who brought her two boys, aged 4 and 6, to Thursday’s event at the town’s famous cartoon museum.

Takeyama’s family lives in the second story of their house because the ground floor was destroyed. She spends most of her time trying to clean up and comfort her boys, who still cry and run to be hugged when aftershocks rumble each day.

The show was hosted by the Mangattan Museum, built in honor of Shotaro Ishinomori, one of the most well-known “manga” cartoon authors. … Families waited in line for hours to get inside, fed by volunteers who cooked fried noodles and chicken on skewers.

 [See similar news:
‘GeGeGe’ birthplace becomes tourist magnet | Japan Pulse]

Removing contaminated soil reduces radiation levels on school playgrounds (Mainichi)

Plant springs new radioactive leak (Japan Times, May 13)

Another leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has been pouring radioactive water filled with high amounts of cesium into the Pacific Ocean for an unknown period of time, but Tokyo Electric Power Co. was able to plug the leak.

Radioactive materials are also apparently penetrating the silt fence installed in the sea near the crippled plant, raising concern that a wider area of the Pacific may be contaminated.

The leak was found Wednesday at a pit close to the seawater intake for the No. 3 reactor. Seawater sampled in the area found concentrations of cesium-134 at a 32,000 times the permissible level and concentrations of cesium-137 to be 22,000 times the limit, Tepco said Wednesday.

The water in the pit contained cesium-134 at 620,000 times the legal level and cesium-137 at 430,000 times the limit, it said.

The radiation on the water’s surface was giving off scorching readings of 1.5 millisieverts per hour.

The leak was stopped Wednesday night after filling the pit with concrete and other materials. A worker there heard the sound of water flowing nearby at around 10:30 a.m., but it is not known when the leak began. No data were provided on the leak’s size or rate.

“This is an extremely serious problem,” Goshi Hosono, special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told a news conference Wednesday attended by Tepco and government officials to explain their ongoing efforts to contain the nuclear crisis.

In April, the utility found that highly contaminated water was leaking into the sea near a seawater intake for the No. 2 reactor at the plant, which was crippled by the quake and tsunami.

A radioactive substance exceeding the state limit has been detected in pasture grass and vegetables in Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, neighboring Fukushima Prefecture.

3,480 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in one kilogram of pasture grass collected on May 5th in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. The figure exceeds the state limit of 300 becquerels.

Also, at two different locations in Nasushiobara City, 3,600 becquerels and 860 becquerels of radioactive cesium respectively were detected in one kilogram of pasture grass collected on May 3rd.

Tochigi Prefecture requested farmers in the area where the radioactive substance was detected not to feed pasture grass to livestock.

1,110 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in one kilogram of parsley harvested in Ibaraki Prefecture. The figure is more than double the state limit.

The parsley had been shipped to a fresh food market in Niigata Prefecture, west of Fukushima.

Niigata prefectural government instructed wholesale distributers to stop selling the parsley.

TEPCO finds highly radioactive water leaked into Pacific Ocean (Mainichi May 12)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said on May 11 that it had discovered highly radioactive water was flowing into the ocean near the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and swiftly moved to stop the flow.

TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, said the highly toxic radioactive water was leaked into the ocean after flowing into a concrete hole called a “pit” near a seawater intake for the No. 3 reactor. It is not clear when the water started flowing into the sea, but the utility filled the pit with concrete to stop the water from flowing into the ocean on the afternoon of May 11….

The water in the pit contained a total of about 80,000 becquerels of radiation — 37,000 becquerels of cesium-134, 620,000 times the legal limit for seawater and 39,000 becquerels of cesium-137, about 430,000 times the legal limit.

More than 80,000 metric tons of contaminated water is believed to be gathered in the concrete tunnels that house electric cables as well as in turbine buildings for the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 reactors. Work has been underway to remove the water from the No. 2 reactor first. TEPCO believes that the contaminated water found on May 11 had come from a tunnel of the No. 3 reactor, as was the case for the No. 2 reactor in April.

Related news: Radioactive water leaked while being transferred (NHK, May 13)

Tokyo Electric Power Company says an operation to transfer highly radioactive water pooled in the turbine building of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s No.3 reactor caused contamination of the sea nearby.

Highly radioactive water was found leaking into the sea from a pit near the reactor’s water intake on Wednesday.

The utility company says 1,200 becquerels of radioactive cesium 134 were detected in one cubic centimeter of sea water near the water intake on Thursday. The figure is 20,000 times the state limit. 1,200 becquerels of radioactive cesium 137, which is 13,000 times the state limit, were also detected.

The company transferred radioactive water from the turbine building of the No.3 reactor earlier this month. It says during that process radioactive water leaked out from an underground pipe connected to the pit.

The company admitted in a news conference on Thursday that prior inspections to prevent leaks were inadequate.

TEPCO drowning in dealing with tons of radioactive water (Asahi, May 12)

As if Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, didn’t have enough problems, another daunting task is what to do with an estimated 90,000 tons of radioactive water.

This vast amount remains from the pumping of water to cool reactors after the plant’s regular cooling systems were disabled in the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and seawater from the tsunami.

The problem is growing by the day, as the volume of contaminated water keeps increasing.

TEPCO needs to treat and recycle contaminated water escaping from the facilities to maintain the cooling of the reactors without increasing the volume of contaminated water.

It signed a deal with France’s Areva SA, a nuclear engineering company, to start treating the radioactive water in June. But Areva’s equipment is capable of treating only 1,200 tons a day, and it is not clear if it can handle a total of 90,000 tons.

In dealing with this volume of contaminated water, the plant’s No. 2 reactor presents the most serious challenge of its four stricken reactors.

Melting of reactor 1 fuel ‘no surprise’ (Japan Times, May 13, 2011)

Experts were not surprised Thursday to find that most, if not all, of the fuel rods in reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant had been fully exposed, melted and fell to the bottom of the pressure vessel.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced the finding Thursday after workers entered the reactor building earlier this month and fixed equipment to monitor the water level in the pressure vessel.

“It’s neither a surprise nor bad news,” Kunihiko Takeda of Chubu University told The Japan Times. “This means Tepco has been pumping lots of water in the reactor without knowing what exactly is happening in it, which is the best thing Tepco could do.” He added that reactors No. 2 and 3 may also be in the same situation.

The new finding doesn’t increase the likelihood of a hydrogen explosion because the temperature in the pressure vessel is still low, experts said.

Hydrogen explosions can occur if zirconium, material used in fuel-rod casings, melts at around 1,200 degrees, said Ken Nakajima of the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.

The temperature in the pressure vessel is 100 to 120 degrees.

Tepco has injected nitrogen gas into the containment vessel to dilute the hydrogen density, further decreasing the chance of a hydrogen explosion, he said.

Takeda said the pressure vessels and containment vessels in reactors 1, 2 and 3 are likely to have cracks where hydrogen can escape, another factor reducing the likelihood of a hydrogen explosion. The fact remains, however, that the reactors at the Fukushima plant keep leaking radioactive substances into the air and are irradiating the water cooling them as well. Thus, the most important thing, as it has always been, is to build a system to recirculate the water being used to cool the reactors, Takeda said

No.1 reactor is in a “meltdown” state (NHK, May 13, 2011)

Tokyo Electric Power Company says the No.1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is believed to be in a state of “meltdown”.

The utility company said on Thursday that most of the fuel rods are likely to have melted and fallen to the bottom of the reactor. Earlier in the day, it found that the coolant water in the reactor is at a level which would completely expose nuclear fuel rods if they were in their normal position.

The company believes the melted fuel has cooled down, judging from the reactor’s surface temperature.

But it suspects the meltdown created a hole or holes in the bottom of the reactor causing water to leak into the containment vessel.

It also suspects the water is leaking into the reactor building.

The company is planning to fully fill the containment vessel with water by increasing the amount injected.

The company says, however, it must review the plan in light of the latest finding.

Radiation in soil near troubled Japan nuclear plant exceeds Chernobyl evacuation level

The levels of radiation accumulated in soil near the crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan far exceeded the level of radiation the then-Soviet Union had used as a criterion for urging people to evacuate at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, threatening to plague local residents for a lengthy period.

Using aircraft, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology checked the cesium-137 (half life of about 30 years) and cesium-134 (half life of about two years) accumulated in soil in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy in April.

Cesium-137 that has longer effects, ranging from 3 million to 14.7 million becquerels per square meter, was detected in Namie, Futaba, Minamisoma, Iitate and Katsurao, northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in Fukushima Prefecture. The levels far exceeded 550,000 bacquerels per square meter, the level the then-Soviet Union had used as a criterion for urging people to evacuate at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the Japanese government used 20 millisieverts per year of radiation in the atmosphere as the criterion to designate evacuation areas in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Therefore, there are areas that have not been designated as evacuation zones although they have larger amounts of accumulated radiation.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology says, “Radioactive substances in soil do not enter human bodies immediately.” On the other hand, when authorities try to decide whether to allow local residents to return to their homes or resume farming, levels of soil contamination could be one of the hot topics of debate.

Hiromi Yamazawa, professor of environmental radiology at Nagoya University, said, “The problem with soil contamination is external exposure through gamma rays emitted from cesium adhered to soil.” He said that replacing soil with non-contaminated soil is an effective way of reducing the concentration of radiation. He also said, “Replacing soil in lower layers with that from upper layers is also effective.”

Suspension of Hamaoka nuke plant sparks battle between common sense and outdated thinking (Mainichi May 11)

Gov’t, TEPCO in uphill battle to contain Fukushima reactors, set to review roadmap (May 11)

Two months after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are still fighting an uphill battle to contain overheating nuclear reactors and are likely to review their roadmap that seeks to put the reactors under control within six to nine months.

The government and TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant, are set to review the roadmap on May 17, a month after it was unveiled. “Although we have been making progress little by little, we must not relax our efforts,” said Goshi Hosono, secretary-general of the government joint task force.

Of all the reactors at the nuclear complex, the biggest progress in restoration work has been made at the No. 1 reactor. On May 10, work to set a water-level gauge in the reactor pressure vessel was completed. On May 11, the pressure gauge in the reactor was due to be adjusted. Preparations have been underway to install a recycle cooling system designed to cool down the reactor in a stable manner.

At the No. 2 reactor, water contaminated with high levels of radiation gathering in the basement of the turbine building is standing in the way of restoration efforts. Efforts have been made to remove the contaminated water, but the water level has not dropped sufficiently.But many obstacles lie ahead. A high level of radiation — 600 to 700 millisieverts per hour — was detected in some part of the reactor building on May 9. That could force a review of the work schedule.

At the No. 3 reactor that sustained the heaviest damage, the temperature in the pressure vessel was rising. Although more water was injected into the vessel, the temperature has not dropped sufficiently.

The reactor building of the No. 4 reactor was destroyed by explosions. TEPCO is to set up a structure to support the pool from underneath to keep it sound.

Shojiro Matsuura, former head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, said at the Japan National Press Club that workers wearing airtight protective gear could come down with heat stroke in summer. He suggested that it was an urgent task to improve the work environment and set up a well-developed medical care system for emergency workers.

Procedures start to halt reactors at Hamaoka plant (NHK, May 13) Chubu Electric Power Company has begun procedures to stop the two remaining operational reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in central Japan.
The utility company plans to shutdown the No.4 and 5 reactors as requested by the government due to earthquake concerns.

The company started inserting control rods into the No.4 reactor at 3:30 AM on Friday.

It plans to halt power generation at the reactor at about 10 AM.

Operation of the reactor is expected to fully stop at about 3 PM.

The company says it will start inserting control rods into the No.5 reactor at about 1:00 AM Saturday, and shutdown the reactor in the afternoon.

At the plant, the No.1 and No.2 reactors had been shut down for decommission, and the No.3 had been stopped for regular inspection.

After the No. 4 and 5 reactors stop, all 5 reactors of the Hamaoka nuclear plant will be non-operational.

Related news: 35 Japanese reactors are soon to be out of line  (NHK, May 13)

US nuclear regulators discuss Fukushima accident (NHK, May 13)

US nuclear regulators have announced their views on the status of Japan’s troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the safety of nuclear reactors in the United States.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday held its first hearing since the nuclear accident in Japan.

The commission’s executive director for operations, Bill Borchardt, said while conditions at the Japanese plant are not entirely stable, they are not changing at a pace to cause undue concern.

He expressed concern that high levels of radiation are still being detected near the reactors and that the structure containing a spent nuclear fuel pool at one of the reactors may not be strong enough.

In other news:

Current account surplus drops | Yosano: March disaster will slow down growth

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