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:
Now the Japanese government has moved to crack down on independent reportage and criticism of the government’s policies in the wake of the disaster by deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public. A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The government charges that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and the government must take action for the sake of the public good. The project team has begun to send “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information. “The measures include erasing any information from internet sites that the authorities deem harmful to public order and morality.
(Incorrect use of quotation marks in original.) Ominous, but perhaps not quite as ominous as the Internet echo chamber would indicate. This seems to have been the only account in English, and it ran back in May (seemingly just noticed in July by the echo chamber crowd), and there has been no follow-up since—at least not in English that we can find. So, hopefully, little has come of it. Also note that it appears not to be “official” censorship, but censorship by government pressure—although that counts for a lot, and especially in Japan.
The Fukushima disaster has meanwhile completely disappeared from international headlines—but that doesn’t mean it’s over. The technology site CNet News reported July 11, in a story entitled “Dismantling Fukushima reactors will take decades”:
Japan today marked four months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunamis that left more than 20,000 dead and missing, with nuclear officials predicting it will take decades to dismantle the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Removal of melted nuclear fuel at the plant won’t begin until 2021; the fuel is apparently now in a solidified state and presents extremely difficult technical challenges. Full dismantling, including demolishing the reactors, will take decades more and will only happen after radiation levels fall, Japanese media reported, quoting a draft report on the cleanup.
Compiled by operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, the draft based the estimate on the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.
The Fukushima crisis is much more severe, and forced the evacuation of 80,000 people. In early June, Japanese nuclear officials doubled their estimate of the radiation released after March 11. The reevaluation followed the government’s ranking of the event on par with the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
Workers at the plant are still trying to bring the critical situation under control by January 2012. Decontaminated water is being used to cool the reactors ahead of efforts to achieve a cold shutdown.
Meanwhile, Tepco is constructing a massive steel frame to support a shroud of polyester fiber that will cover the unit 1 reactor, where a hydrogen blast severely damaged the walls and roof, to reduce the entry of rainwater. It may also help mitigate radiation leaks.
Remote-operated equipment will erect the 177-foot-tall structure. A larger concrete sarcophagus, similar to the one at Chernobyl, could be built in the future to cover several reactor buildings.
Yomiuri Shimbun reports July 28 that over 300 Fukushima City children have now been transferred to schools elsewhere due to radiaition fears. Japan Times reports July 25 that thousands of city employees, contractors and residents have been mobilized to remove radioactive materials from schools and other contaminated “hot spots” around the municipality. The Telegraph informs us July 26 that the Fukushima prefectural government will carry out regular cancer tests on all residents who were 18 or under when the crisis began on March 11.
In good news, Kyodo News informs us July 27 that prefectural authorities in Niigata are resisting pressure to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors there that were closed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, even if they pass a pending “stress test.”