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Namie picked for hydrogen production base, operation eyed in 2020

11 May 2017

The Fukushima prefectural government formally decided on May 10 to locate a candidate site for a projected major hydrogen production plant in the Tanashio and Ukedo districts of Namie, including the site of a once-planned Namie-Odaka nuclear power station. The hydrogen plant, expected to be one of the world's largest, is based on the national government's "Fukushima New Energy-Oriented Society Scheme" designed to make the prefecture a major supplier of the gas. The plant is to be built on a tract of land measuring about 169 hectares. Fukushima is seeking to begin construction work by the middle of 2018 to start operation in 2020 when Tokyo is to host the Olympics and Paralympics.

At a Fukushima reconstruction promotion headquarters meeting attended by senior prefectural officials such as department and bureau heads, the candidate site was narrowed down from five places. The hydrogen facility will be built in an area comprising a 128-hectare plot of land, where the nuclear plant was planned, to be offered by Tohoku Electric Power Co. free of charge, and a town-owned 41-hectare tract subject to coverage by a national subsidy program aimed at promoting collective relocation of houses for disaster mitigation.

The prefecture is poised to recommend the candidate site to the central government soon for authorization as an official construction site. Three companies -- Toshiba Corp., Tohoku Electric Power and Iwatani Corp. -- to be commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) for the project will then begin developing the area by the middle of 2018.

"Hydrogen manufactured here will be used at the Olympics and Paralympics, showing at home and abroad that reconstruction has progressed in Fukushima," Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told the meeting.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

14 May 2017

Season’s first bonito catch landed at Onahama port in Iwaki

Fishermen landed the season’s first catch of skipjack tuna, or bonito, at Onahama fishing port in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, on the morning of May 13. The port was bustling and lively as the early summer delicacy arrived while efforts are under way to rebuild fishing ports elsewhere in the prefecture badly damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

About 4 tons of bonito caught on May 12 off Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, were hauled in by the Soho Maru No. 26, a carrier for a purse seine fishing fleet based in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. The fish weighed about 2 kilograms each, medium to small in size, and were sorted out at the Onahama fish market. “The fish are rich in fat,” said Shigeru Murakami, 61-year-old skipper of the boat. “Bonito are moving north earlier than usual.” The first haul of the season was more than 20 days earlier than usual.

The fish fetched 393 yen to 559 yen per kilogram in an auction at the market, where they were tested for radioactive content. As all were found below a detectable limit, they were sold from the same day at supermarkets and other retail outlets in the city.

“Hauls in Onahama by fishing boats from outside the prefecture have declined since the (2011) nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant,” said Takayuki Yagiuchi, a 50-year-old board member of the Onahama Trawl Fisheries Cooperative Association which runs the market. “We hope ships from both within and outside the prefecture will bring in bonito.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

12 May 2017

Cattle grazing to resume on Mt. Bandai ranch after 6-year hiatus

A municipal stock farm at the foot of Mt. Bandai in Inawashiro town, Fukushima Prefecture, is set to begin pasturing cattle on June 23 for the first time in six years, or since it was suspended following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The resumption was decided at a meeting in the town office on May 11. Dairy farmers and other parties concerned are pinning high hopes on the move to restart long awaited local grazing.

The Mt. Bandai ranch is scheduled to accept about 40 head of milk and beef cattle at two places on a tract of grassland about 15 hectares wide. The farm will set up electric fences while hearing from dairy and other farmers in and outside the town about their desire to have their cattle put in the care of the ranch.

The farm opened in 1966 in the foothills of Mr. Bandai overlooking Lake Inawashiro. Of its land about 110 hectares, some 80 hectares are grassland. It used to accept about 40 head of cattle usually from late May to the end of October.

In a survey taken in February 2012 when a provisional permissible level of radioactive cesium content in cattle feed was tightened to 100 becquerels per kilogram, feed samples collected in the town exceeded the standard, forcing the municipality to refrain from using the farm. The town undertook cleanup work such as plowing to replace surface soil over four years from 2013. A new survey in June 2016 found feed contamination below the standard, prompting the town to discuss the farm’s restart.

Toru Asakawa, 59, a dairy farmer in the town, used to pasture about a dozen head of cattle on the farm every year before the nuclear disaster. He now has about 15 dairy heifers six months and older in the care of a farm on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido. Asakawa, who heads a dairy division of JA Aizu-Yotsuba, a local chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group, expects to have them return gradually to the farm in Fukushima now that it is reopening. “Some farmers outside the town are also expecting to see the farm resumed,” said Asakawa, who is awaiting it eagerly himself. “We are happy to grow cattle in the natural environment of the hometown while always watching their conditions.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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