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3 Fukushima municipalities conduct 'torch relay' ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

15 October 2018

A "torch relay" was conducted in Iwaki city and the towns of Naraha and Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture on Oct. 14 in an attempt to invite part of the real relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as well as forging an atmosphere conducive to the drive. Dubbed "Let's keep our dream alive! Reconstruction relay 2018 -- toward tomorrow of hope," the event was joined by about 110 people, including grade and junior high school students from the three municipalities. They relayed a torch in teams on a route of about 20 kilometers along the Pacific coast.

An opening ceremony was held at the J-Village national soccer training center straddling Naraha and Hirono. A group of 12 Naraha Junior High School third-year students kicked off the relay together with a guest runner, former Yomiuri Giants professional baseball player Takahiro Suzuki hailing from Soma city in the prefecture. The torch was reproduced from a model used at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, made in the same size and using the same raw materials.

The runners passed through JR Hirono Station, Iwaki Shinmaiko Heights hot spring hotel and other locations to reach the goal, "Iwaki PIT by Team Smile" multipurpose hall, in the Taira district of Iwaki in about three hours. "I do want to take part in the real torch relay," said Taira Junior High School third grader Ryuta Suzuki, 15, referring to the 2020 relay scheduled to start in the prefecture.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

1 October 2018

51.1% of Fukushima residents "have no idea” about methods of treating tritiated water

A survey of Fukushima residents jointly conducted by Fukushima-Minpo Co. and Fukushima Television Broadcasting Co. has found that 51.1% of respondents "have no idea” about how to dispose of tainted water treated but still containing tritium, a radioactive substance left after purification of water polluted by fallout from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The ratio exceeded the 48.9% who replied they "understand" the proposed methods of disposal, according to the 23rd survey on the awareness of such issues among residents in Fukushima Prefecture.

As for the suggested release of treated water into the ocean, 53.8% are opposed, almost triple the 17.1% who "support" it. Referring to ways of discussing the issue, 40% said the parties concerned "should exchange opinions further," suggesting concern at insufficient government explanations and the process of discussions so far.

Asked to what extent they understand the treatment methods, the greatest proportion of respondents, at 43.8%, said they "do not understand them well" while 7.3% "have no idea at all," adding up to a majority at 51.1%. In contrast, 10.8% "understand them well" and 38.1% "understand them to some extent" for a total of 48.9% on the positive side.

While the Nuclear Regulation Authority says the release of tritium-tainted water into the sea is the leading disposal option, public hearings were held at the end of August in Tomioka town and Koriyama city, both in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as in Tokyo to listen to the opinions of citizens.

The fact that radioactive substances other than tritium remain in treated water came to light right before the hearings. At each hearing, one participant after another expressed opposition to the proposed ocean release and criticized the way the central government is proceeding with the discussions.

■53.8% against, 17.1% in favor of ocean release
Regarding the release of tainted water into the sea, 53.8% are "opposed" to the method of discharging it after diluting radioactive content, or nearly three times the 17.1% of respondents who "support" it. Another 29.1% "have no idea," surpassing the ratio of those in favor. As to the advisability of ocean release, opinion was split even among those who understand the method of disposal, with 43.4% in favor and 50.0% against.

Based on the backlash against ocean release, a government subcommittee has indicated in connection with tritium removal that it is prepared to consider the possibility of long-term storage in tanks in addition to five options explained at the hearings: (1) injection into the geological formation, (2) ocean release, (3) release into the air as steam, (4) release into the air as hydrogen after reduction to hydrogen, and (5) underground burial.

■40.1% see need for more debate with parties concerned
Asked to pick one of three ideas about the future course of action, the largest proportion of respondents, at 40.1%, favored the suggestion that "opinions should be exchanged further with parties related to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry and the tourism sector which are feared to be affected by reputation damage." Another 27.0% supported the proposal that "measures should be hammered out to revitalize relevant communities and industries in accordance with methods of disposal," followed by 12.6% who agreed to the idea that "specific measures to address reputation damage should be put into shape first of all."

Water containing tritium is kept in tanks in the compounds of the nuclear plant. Installation of additional tanks there is nearing its limitations in terms of space, threatening reactor decommissioning work and leading to the current examination of treatment methods.

On Sept. 28, Tokyo Electric Power announced the results of a survey showing that the density of radioactive substances other than tritium is in excess of legal standards for exhaust water in about 80% of some 890,000 tons of treated water stored in tanks. The utility reported at a government subcommittee meeting on Oct. 1 that it is considering purifying tainted water again to reduce the density below the standards before releasing it into the natural environment.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

24 September 2018

Procession of Aizu feudal lords joined by actresses Ayase, Suzuki

A procession of people dressed as feudal lords, samurai warriors and other members of the Aizu clan was held on Sept. 23 as the main event of the annual "Aizu Festival" staged in autumn in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture, parading through streets starting from and coming back to Tsurugajo Castle's keep. Participants from within and outside the city, clad in the costumes of successive Aizu domain lords, "Byakkotai" (White Tiger Brigade) teenage warriors and other clan members, portrayed what looked like scenes of a historic picture scroll.

Actress Haruka Ayase, who played the lead role of Yae Niijima in public broadcaster NHK's 2013 period drama series "Yae no Sakura" (Yae's Cherry Blossom) set against the backdrop of the Aizu region, took part in the event as a special guest for the fifth straight year while another special guest, Rio Suzuki, who performed the role of the heroine in childhood days, participated for the first time, together adding grace to the festival. The two were dressed in their respective clothes worn in the drama. Ayase wore a brightly colored "uchikake" (a long kimono robe) over battle attire during a morning appearance, changing to a dress in the afternoon. Suzuki wore a kimono made of Aizu cotton on both occasions. The kimono dress was a makeover of what Ayase wore in the drama.

As the procession proceeded, Ayase called out to roadside onlookers, partly in the local Aizu dialect. "It's a bit hot and humid. Are you alright?" Suzuki also spoke in the dialect. "I want to do something to make myself useful," she said, repeating some of her drama lines. "I want to be strong someday and return a favor to Aizuwakamatsu. You elders, I want to come to Aizu once again!" she said, drawing applause from the crowd.

As this year fell on the 150th anniversary of the start of the 1868-1869 Boshin civil war between forces seeking to return Japan to imperial rule and troops supporting the Tokugawa shogunate, the procession's organization focused on the "Ouetsu Reppan Domei" (alliance of the domains of some northern and eastern regions). People related to the Sendai and Tanagura domains joined the event for the first time while those associated with the Yonezawa and Nagaoka domains also walked in the procession. Some 550 people joined the parade over a stretch of about 7 kilometers, roughly 50 more than usual. Many spectators came from within and outside the prefecture.

【Photo】 Actresses Haruka Ayase (left) and Rio Suzuki, clad in their drama costumes, wave to spectators during a parade on Shinmei-dori street in Aizuwakamatsu.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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