Archives for : September2011

Municipality votes to close Hamaoka nuclear power plant

A man fishes from the beach in front of Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan (top). Photo of the plant from the viewing plant (bottom left), while woman entertains baby in a room allowing children try on plant worker's uniforms. Rob Gilhooly Photos












Local news this evening reports that Makinohara City has voted to close indefinitely¬†Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Shizuoka Prefecture. The plant was temporarily shut down by the national government on May 6 due to estimates that a magnitude 8+ quake would strike the area where the plant is located over the next 30 years. The municipal level vote is the first to be held by the 4 cities under whose jurisdiction the plant falls. Makinohara City officials reportedly made the 11-4 vote on the grounds that “Without reliable guarantees of its future safety and security, the Hamaoka plant, which is built on the focal area of the (predicted) Tokai Earthquake, should be close indefinately.”

The Hamaoka plant lies directly over the subduction zone over 2 tectonic plates, though it was reportedly built to withstand ¬†a quake in excess of magnitude 8.5. It was not affected directly by the March 11 earthquakes and tsunami. The photos above were taken a few years ago when I visited the plant. On my way down to the seafront I was stopped and questioned by local police for almost 2 hours. Apparently they had been put on alert for possible terrorist attacks. At the end I asked if they shouldn’t be more worried about the Tokai quake. They smiled.

Tsunami survivors 6 months on

In yesterday’s Guardian they ran the 6-month follow-up to the interviews and photos of the 7 survivors that Justin McCurry interviewed back in April. The interactive can be found here while a feature focusing on two of the survivors can be found here. More really excellent work from Justin.

Some of the original photos of these survivors can be seen in the slideshow below

Typhoon Roke

Two women cling on to a street sign and guard rail as typhoon Roke blows through Tokyo, Japan on 21 Sept. 2011. The typhoon was reported to have killed at least 4 people and by evening was heading toward Fukushima's stricken nuclear plant, where it is feared heavy rains may force radioactive water into the sea. Photographer: ROBERT GILHOOLY

Incredible typhoon swept through western Japan and then Tokyo yesterday. TV news was reporting 5 people killed and thousands being evacuated from many parts of western/central Japan. Images of severe flooding and people wading chest-deep through water. The roof of my father-in-law’s garage was blown off — and it’s not one of those flimsy plastic covers you often see.

We live on the top floor of an 11-story building and the winds made the structure sway quite noticeably. I had to bring in everything off the veranda, including a heavy glass vase that had been blown over and smashed. I decided to venture out at one point to see if I could get some pictures, wrapping my camera up in a plastic protective cover. It was mad, the swirling wind and rain dragging me all over the place.

Not unsurprisingly there were very few people out on the streets. I could see in the distance a few students trying to cross the street with umbrellas, which got ripped clean from their hands by the strength of the wind and rain.

Further on — and now completely drenched — I came across the two women in the photo. They were clinging on to road signs for dear life, unable to proceed any further. Across the road a teenage schoolboy got blown off his bicycle. There was all sorts of debris flying around — and not just paper and other light materials either.

Back at the flat — which was still swaying, though not enough to knock anything over — the news was now reporting that Typhoon Roke was heading toward the disaster zone in the northeast, site of the March earthquake, typhoon and nuclear disasters. Reporters were expressing fears that excessive rains could force radioactive water into the sea.

One report suggested that local workers, who are still fighting to bring a leaking under control, had installed some kind of protective covers to ensure radioactive materials will not be spread by the rains and winds.

Further north, tsunami-affected places such as Ishinomaki were experiencing extreme flooding and residents from several  temporary shelters there and further north in Kessennuma had been forced to evacuated due to flooding.


Fukushima man decides to stay behind as guinea pig


Story about Fukushima man ho has decided not to evacuate his home near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant published in the Japan Times here

Human Guinea Pig

Nobuyoshi Ito, 67, tends to his rice fields in Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan on 08 Sept. 2011. Despite being advised to evacuate his home due to high radiation levels, Ito has decided to become a human guinea-pig, testing himself and his crops for radiation levels. Photograph: Robert Gilhooly


Visited this chap during a (slightly too long) trip up north, during which I had various work with the London Times, the Manchester Guardian and the Telegraph, among others for the 6-month anniversary of the March 11 quake and tsunami. This man was really quite remarkable, very calm, very organized. He doesn’t trust any of the information that has been out out about the leaking nuclear power plant, just 32 km from his abode, and so decided not to leave — one of only 9 residents now left in the vast, but eerily quiet town.

I wrote up a story about Mr. Ito for the Japan Times and you can find an online version of that story here

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