East Asia Theater
The amount of radioactive material being emitted from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has fallen to one-fifth that of a month ago and one-10 millionth the levels in mid-March, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Aug. 17. Maximum radiation levels near the plant measured since the beginning of August were put at 200 million becquerels per hour—but Goshi Hosono, the cabinet minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, cautioned the 200 million becquerel reading is an estimate, and promised to seek ways of making precise measurements. TEPCO and the government said there is no major change in their timetable for bringing the plant under control. Containment efforts include building a wall of steel plates in front of the existing sea walls for units 1 through 4 to keep contaminated groundwater from entering the ocean. (ENS, Aug. 17)
This seems utterly Orwellian, and has received frustratingly little media attention. In recent days, several seemingly less-than-reliable sites have headlined the story in lurid terms (Alexander Higgins Blog, Above Top Secret, Rumor Mill News, Examiner.com). They are mostly quoting each other and contradicting themselves, saying that Japan has "passed a law" (implying a vote of the Diet) or that the Japanese government has "issued an order" (implying mere bureaucratic promulgation) mandating "censorship" of "negative stories" about the Fukushima disaster. It all seems to go back to two short paragraphs toward the end of a May 16 story on the (reliable) website Japan Focus, which cites and links to a page (in Japanese) of Tokyo's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications:
Oil that spewed from an offshore drilling rig in the North China Sea (Yellow Sea) for more than two weeks last month spread 320 square miles, government officials acknowledged July 5, amid public outrage over why it took so long for fishermen and local residents to be informed of the spill. News of the spill emerged in late June on the microblogging site Sina Weibo and was not confirmed by the authorities until July 1. China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said July 5 that US energy giant ConocoPhillips is responsible for the spill. The leak took place at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in Bohai Bay, a field being exploited by ConocoPhillips China under a joint development agreement with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. (NYT, Xinhua, July 5)
Angry parents held a hundreds-strong march in Japan's Fukushima city June 26 to demand greater protection for their children from radiation more than three months after the start of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years in the northern prefecture. The parents won a victory last month, when a protest campaign pressured the government to lower the limit for radiation exposure for children at schools, and to offer money for schools to remove topsoil in playgrounds with too much radiation. But also June 26, government officials met with local residents in a televised meeting at Saga, on Kyushu island, to try to convince them that it is safe to restart the prefecture's Genkai nuclear power plant. Since the Fukushima disaster, 35 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors have been temporarily shut down. (Reuters, AFP, June 26; Asahi Shimbun, June 14)
From the Movement for Democratic Socialism (MDS), Tokyo, June 10:
It will soon be three months since the Eastern Japan catastrophic earthquake and tsunami broke out and the successive Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster was triggered. We are grateful to all of you for the messages and largesse you have sent us from many parts of the world to encourage us in our efforts to gain democratic recovery from the disaster and the total abolishment of nuclear power plants. We, once again, express our profound gratitude. As for the donations, we are making full use of them in our activities to help reconstruct the disaster-stricken communities. Let us now turn to how we, MDS, are campaigning against nuclear power plants.
Hundreds of Vietnamese turned out to protest against Chinese naval operations in disputed waters of the South China Sea on June 5. the protesters in Hanoi marched on the Chinese embassy, shouting slogans including "The Paracels and Spratlys belong to Vietnam"" and "Stop Chinese invasion of Vietnam's islands." The demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City follow a May 26 confrontation between a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship and Chinese patrol boats. Hanoi accused the Chinese vessels of cutting the cables of the Vietnamese ship conducting seismic research about 120 kilometers off Vietnam's south-central coast. (BBC News, June 5)
At least two people were killed and six wounded by three explosions within an hour on May 26 at government office buildings in Fuzhou, in southern China's Jiangxi province. The targets were the Fuzhou Procurator's Office, the Linzhuan District government building and the Linzhuan Food and Drug Administration office. The attacker was said to ben unemployed man named Qian Mingqi, 52, who was himself among those killed in the blasts. Reports indicated Qian was a farmer angry over the handling of a court case. Feeds he posted on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, protested that his home was demolished in 2002 to make way for a new highway, without adequate compensation: "My newly built home was demolished illegally so that I incurred a great loss. After ten years of futile petitioning, I am forced to take a path I don't want to take. I want to seek justice but there's no justice; jackals and wolves are everywhere in Linchuan district in Fuzhou." During his fight to keep his home, Qian's wife was hung upside down by a demolition team, and died a few days later. His land seized for the new Beijing-Fujian expressway was never built on, and remains vacant. (Spero News, May 28; NYT, May 26)
Engineers at Japan's stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have abandoned their attempt to stabilize reactor Number 3 by flooding it with water, finding that melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing some 3,000 tons of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building—raising concerns about groundwater contamination. Plant operator TEPCO now says it will pump the 4,000 tons of water out to be transferred to a waste-disposal facility before pumping in new water and installing a "self-circulating" system. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has approved the new plan—but it appears to carry its own risks. The temperature in reactor No. 3 has been rising since the beginning of the month, reaching more than 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit).