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Kizuna: Tohoku Update, 6 years from Great Earthquake

• Right before the 6th anniversary of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami in the Tohoku area, a presentation “Kizuna: Tohoku Update” took place on February 21 at the Japan information Center, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. The three speakers, Ichiro Sone, Chief Executive Director of JETRO Chicago; Yoshiyuki Takasago, Director-General for Commerce and Industry, Commerce, Industry and Tourism; and Robert Priddy, Engineering Lead at Atkins Nuclear Solutions talked about what has being done to build a positive future, with first-hand insights on the current progress.

Tohoku Resurgence Update

• Ichiro Sone spoke about Tohoku’s reconstruction efforts, contributions to the U.S. economy by Japanese companies and others.

• The numbers of victims of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami, which happened on March 11, 2011, are: deceased 15,894, missing 2,558, and injured 6,152 as of June 10, 2016.
• The number of evacuees has decreased from about 470,000 to 140,000 as of October, 2016. The evacuees in temporary housing are about 50,000 as of September, 2016.
• Completion of rebuilding public housing is 66.2%; that will increase 86% by March, 2017, 97% by March, 2018.
• Completion of building relocation to upland is 49.7%; that will increase 69% by March, 2017, 91% by March, 2018.
• Industrial production indices have recovered to the pre-earthquake level.
• About 83% of tsunami-affected farmlands have recovered, and 88% of seafood processing companies have restarted their business.
• About 45% of companies have recovered sales to the pre-earthquake level.

Creating New Industries in Fukushima

• The evacuation zone caused by the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has been reduced to 5% of the entire area of Fukushima Prefecture as of July, 2016.

• Fukushima has been developing a medical device industry. The Prefecture had been one of the top producers of medical devices and parts in Japan before the disaster hit the area. It plans to develop an even greater production base through promoting both industry and employment.

• With a purpose to recover industry and employment of the coastal region, which were lost by the disaster and nuclear power accident, Fukushima will create new industry and employment through research and development related to decommissioning and robot technology, accumulation of energy related industry, and rehabilitation of primary industry.

Contribution to the U.S. Economy by Japanese Companies

• Japanese Direct Investment in the U.S.
• Since 1990, Japanese investment in the U.S. has steadily increased. Japan comes in the second after the U.K. in direct investment stock. By the end of 2015, the investment stock had increased by 74% compared to 2008, and Japan was the country with the highest value of investment during this period.

• Contribution to the U.S. Employment
• Japanese manufacturing companies employed the largest number of workers among major countries. In 2014, the total number of employed (including all industries) around the Great Lakes increased by 27.8% to 186,900, from 146,200 in 2010. This was the largest increase out of all major countries. More than 40% of Japanese manufacturing companies increased local employment in the years since 2011.

• Contribution to the U.S. Export
• In 2014, Japanese companies in the U.S. exported a total value of $78.7 billion, equating to a 50.8% increase since 2007. Exports by Japanese companies in the U.S. accounted for 4.9% of the total U.S. export value (0.5% of GDP), which was highest among all non-U.S. countries.

• Contribution to Research and Development
• Compared to companies of the U.K., France and Germany, expenditure on R&D grew rapidly. In 2009, investment in this area grew 53%, equating to $2.74 billion, the highest value out of any non-U.S. country.

• Employment in Manufacturing Sector
• Total employment by Japanese manufacturing companies amounts to 382,600, the largest by any foreign country. This is an increase of 93,200 (32.2%) from 2010, the largest increase by country during that period.

• Comparison to Other Asian Countries
• Total employment by Japanese companies in the U.S. (2014) is 8.9 times larger than that of Australian companies and 22.1 times larger than Chinese companies.

Recovery and Business Opportunities in Miyagi

• Yoshiyuki Takasago spoke about the recovery and business opportunities in Miyagi Prefecture. The monetary damage by the Great Earthquake and Tsunami in the Prefecture was $81 billion. About 320,900 residents, which were 15% of the Prefecture population, evacuated at a peak time.

Resurgence in Miyagi

• Six years after the disaster, Tohoku’s number one strawberry producer Watari Town returned to the top position. In Onagawa City, which was washed away by the tsunami, a shopping mall opened, a new train station was built inland, and tourism began to revive as hot springs were reopened.
• Rebuilding tsunami resistant “Sanriku Expressway” has been advanced, and Minami Sanriku interchange will open soon and enable access from Tokyo.
• A coastal train line of Joban was moved inland and reopened last December.
• The Sendai Airport was privatized for the first time in Japan and has brought more affordable air services.

Invest in Miyagi

• Miyagi Prefecture and Japan’s Government have offered subsidies up to 5 billion yen for regional employment creation and business establishment in the areas affected by the tsunami and nuclear power incident. Eligible companies are in the manufacturing industry, logistics facilities, experimentation and research facilities, and more. The 7th round of applications has been accepted through mid-May, 2017.

• Miyagi has offered tax exemptions for firms which invest in the special zones for reconstructions. The offer includes special depreciation/tax exemption, corporate tax special exemption and tax system to promote new establishment – no corporate tax levied for 5 years for newly established business in the tsunami-inundated municipalities.

• Miyagi also offers subsidies for newly established factories limited to manufacturing or research facilities.

Tourism in Miyagi

• Visitors to Miyagi have increased since the disaster hit the area. Most visitors come from Taiwan followed by China and the U.S. Miyagi’s average winter temperature is around 30 degrees, and 78 degrees is the highest in summer. Takasago said that Miyagi was a wonderful tourist spot with Sendai beef, oysters, and a picturesque place of Matsushima.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

• Robert Priddy of Atkins spoke about the process of decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. He has been performing a project to upgrade fire protection at the plant site more than 18 months and led the work on the fire hazard analysis. He also visited Fukushima several times and walked across the plant site.

Summary of Events

• When the Great Tohoku Earthquake occurred, Fukushima Daiichi’s units 1 through 3 shut down as designed from 100% power. Units 4 through 6 were already shutdown for refueling and maintenance. All units were under control.
• About 50 minutes after the earthquake occurred, a massive tsunami struck the plant site, and floodwaters caused failure of the safety systems that cooled the reactors, resulting in core damage.
• Hydrogen generation from the damaged reactors resulted in explosions in unit 1 through 4 and destroyed the structures.

Current Situation

• The damaged reactor cores are being maintained safely and are stable.
• Spent fuel was being relocated from accident units in December 2014
• Debris removal is underway in preparation for fuel removal to help decommissioning
• Ongoing contaminated water management is a long challenge. Water from rain and ground water filter into the site, and needs to be treated. Ice walls have been installed and have minimized the incoming ground water to the site.
• Long-term decommissioning of the plant involves removal of damaged reactors, removal of contaminated materials from the site, and returning the site to a decontaminated state.

Projected Goals are:

• Identifying site-wide fire hazards to prevent potential release of radioactivity to the public and workers.
• Protecting equipment needed to ensure that the fuel and core debris remain in a safe and stable state.
• Providing recommendations for fire prevention and mitigation.

Atkins’ Help for the Plant

• Performing walk down inspections of 100% of the site to identify fire hazards and deficiencies in fire detection and suppression.
• Fire hazards analysis to identify fire threats to the systems relied on to maintain the core debris and fuel assemblies in a safe condition.
• Preparing “pre-fire” plans, which help onsite firefighters to attack potential fires.
• Providing specific recommendations for long-term improvements in the fire protection program.

Current Status

• TEPCO has been very responsive to Atkins’ recommendations. It dedicated fire trucks and equipment, located water tanks around the site, installed new fire detection and video surveillance systems, and a dedicated fire brigade and around the clock coverage.

Other Atkins’ Improvements were:

• Immediate response to the damages from the tragic 311 event and designed the Advanced Liquid Processing Systems (ALPS), which was built in partnership with Toshiba.
• Taking responsibility for the quality control of all radioactive water treatment on site to achieve non-detectable levels of radioactivity.
• Provided High Integrity Containers (HIC) to store highly radioactive sludge and spent resin generated by HICs which were structured and shielded with a stainless steel outer layer for protection

• Mid-long Term Road Map towards the Decommissioning

• Phase 2 (2014-2021)
• Period to the start of fuel debris removal

• Phase 3 (2022-)
• Period to the end of decommissioning

• As his closing thoughts, Priddy said that the future of the region was very bright because he had seen that so many people committed to participate in resurgence, such as building play grounds and bringing back regional cultures.

• Answering a question from audience, Priddy gave his personal view on the future of the nuclear power generation industry. His perspective on the technology side was that nuclear power plant design has continued to be simplified to be safer, and nuclear power will strive to be a clean, safe energy source in the future


From left: Robert Priddy, Ichiro Sone, and Yoshiyuki Takasago