The nuclear plant at Fukushima Daiichi has been in the news increasingly over recent days as it seems that the Japanese authorities and Tepco are not being entirely frank about the scope of the problem. It has been one of the lead headlines in the UK for 2 or 3 days now.  I am thankful that, as far as I am aware, Hugo lives at the other end of the country.  Hiroshima is (I hope) a safe 500 miles away.  This is the latest news:


BBC News

22 August 2013 Last updated at 10:32

Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News


A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Meanwhile the chairman of Japan’s nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.

The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.

Moment of crisis

The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.

This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.

But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.

They are worried about the enormous quantities of water, used to cool the reactor cores, which are now being stored on site.

Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.

“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.

“What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.

Satellite images show how the number of water storage tanks has increased in the past two years. The tanks store contaminated water that has been used to cool the reactors.

“It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse,” said Mr Schneider, who is lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports.

At news conference, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority Shunichi Tanaka appeared to give credence to Mr Schneider’s concerns, saying that he feared there would be further leaks.

“We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more. We are in a situation where there is no time to waste,” he told reporters.

The lack of clarity about the water situation and the continued attempts by Tepco to deny that water was leaking into the sea has irritated many researchers.

Dr Ken Buesseler is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has examined the waters around Fukushima.

“It is not over yet by a long shot, Chernobyl was in many ways a one week fire-explosive event, nothing with the potential of this right on the ocean.”

“We’ve been saying since 2011 that the reactor site is still leaking whether that’s the buildings and the ground water or these new tank releases. There’s no way to really contain all of this radioactive water on site.”

“Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow. You can pump out water, but how many tanks can you keep putting on site?”

Several scientists also raised concerns about the vulnerability of the huge amount of stored water on site to another earthquake.

Water from the storage tanks has seeped into the groundwater and then into the sea. Efforts to use a chemical barrier to prevent sea contamination have not worked.

New health concerns

The storage problems are compounded by the ingress of ground water, running down from the surrounding hills. It mixes with radioactive water leaking out of the basements of the reactors and then some of it leaches into the sea, despite the best efforts of Tepco to stem the flow.

Some of the radioactive elements like caesium that are contained in the water can be filtered by the earth. Others are managing to get through and this worries watching experts.

“Our biggest concern right now is if some of the other isotopes such as strontium 90 which tend to be more mobile, get through these sediments in the ground water,” said Dr Buesseler.

“They are entering the oceans at levels that then will accumulate in seafood and will cause new health concerns.”

There are also worries about the spent nuclear fuel rods that are being cooled and stored in water pools on site. Mycle Schneider says these contain far more radioactive caesium than was emitted during the explosion at Chernobyl.

“There is absolutely no guarantee that there isn’t a crack in the walls of the spent fuel pools. If salt water gets in, the steel bars would be corroded. It would basically explode the walls, and you cannot see that; you can’t get close enough to the pools,” he said.

The “worsening situation” at Fukushima has prompted a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland to call for the withdrawal of Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

In a letter to the UN secretary general, Mitsuhei Murata says the official radiation figures published by Tepco cannot be trusted. He says he is extremely worried about the lack of a sense of crisis in Japan and abroad.

This view is shared by Mycle Schneider, who is calling for an international taskforce for Fukushima.

“The Japanese have a problem asking for help. It is a big mistake; they badly need it.”

Source:  “Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe'”, BBC News, 22 August 2013



Writing here yesterday, I wrote about something that I do to keep Hugo in my mind.  Every day, however, I see and hear things that unwittingly remind me of Hugo.  These unprompted reminders, sometimes of very indirect connection to my son, are often the most painful.

Today, I went to Lincoln for the first time in my life, for routine work purposes.  Nothing unusual about such a visit.  After I had finished I walked to the station to catch a train back to London.  Again, nothing unusual about that.  None of the trains were working due to “signal failure”.  Again, nothing particularly unusual about that; this is afterall England and not Japan.  After a period of inactivity, the train company laid on replacement coaches.  Again, these things can happen.  Today’s most telling reminder of Hugo was when I was embarking the rail replacement coach (it was a proper coach and not a bus) to make the connection at Newark North Gate in order to get back to London, it suddenly dawned on me that I had not been on a coach since the day I had left Japan after my abortive visit there at Christmas 2011 to see Hugo – I had to take a coach to and from the local airport to the city centre area – they use the American term “limousines” there to describe coaches.  That reminded me of the visit and, of course, my son.

Little things, in themselves meaningless, such as this serve as a constant reminder of my missing son.  Whenever I see a crane, I think of him as he spoke about them when he was seen by consular officials earlier this year.  Whenever I ride an escalator I think of him as he would love going up and down them.  Whenever I cross a pelican crossing I think of him as he would always enjoy reaching up (or trying to reach up) and pressing the button even when the light was green.  Whenever I see an aircraft in the sky I think of him as he always loved pointing at them in fascination and quiet awe.  Whenever I see a boy of his age, especially a western-Asian boy – and there are quite a few in London nowadays –  I think of him and have to quickly look away and/or sadly walk away.  These are just a few of the more common examples of the reminders that fill many moments of every day.  Today also marks exactly 1 3/4 years since Hugo’s abduction.

Below is a photograph I took of Lincoln this afternoon, with the Cathedral visible in the background, so that Hugo can one day see for himself:

Lincoln 20 August 2013

My favourite place in London

If writing a post about the above subject prior to Hugo’s abduction, I would have written about Hampstead in the north of London, Greenwich in the east, Wimbledon in the south, Putney in the west or Covent Garden and surrounds in the centre.

Things have, of course, changed now.  My favourite part of London is a quiet and nondescript place called Norbiton, a district of the somewhat better known Kingston-upon-Thames.  During the time when Hugo was living alone with his mother in 2010-2011 he lived on Park Road in Norbiton (although I only came to know this less than a week before he was taken to Japan).

Since that time, I have visited Norbiton 80 times, in all seasons, sometimes just until the next train left the station and sometimes for hours on end.  Today was the 80th such visit; in the first year after Hugo left, I made 40 such visits so that has now been equaled.  I cannot be close to Hugo because he has been taken away from me.  What cannot and will never be taken away from me, however, are my special memories of the time – a few weekday evenings and a Saturday and Sunday – that I was allowed to spend with Hugo in and around Norbiton, before he went to Japan.  I remember how, in particular, I would walk with Hugo around the block – just him and me – up and down Brunswick Road.  Every time that I go back there, I retrace our steps and relive those memories as if Hugo was still walking beside me.  I hope that, one day, he might do so again.  Some might belittle such activities but for me it is and will remain a way of staying close to my son.

Below are some photographs of the area, taken by me at different times.

Norbiton sign 15 July 2013

Norbiton Station, July 2013 

Norbiton 23 April 2013

As above, April 2013 

Park Road, 20 May 2012

The house on Park Road, Norbiton, where Hugo lived until 20 November 2011 (taken on 20 May 2012, exactly 6 months after he left the UK)

Brunswick Avenue sign 15 April 2013

Brunswick Road, Norbiton, April 2013 

Brunswick Avenue, 20 May 2012

Brunswick Road, Norbiton, May 2012 


The name “Hugo”

The name Hugo has made it into the top 100 baby names for boys in England and Wales; the latest list of popular baby names was issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) a few days ago.   When Hugo was born in 2008, it was fairly unusual name in the UK. The information below is reproduced from the ONS website:



Top 100 baby names in England and Wales in 2012

Word clouds for the 100 most popular names for boys and girls are given below. The size of a name represents how many times that name was given, rather than the rank of that name.

Within the 100 most popular boys’ names given to babies born in England and Wales in 2012, there were only seven new entries:

  • Hugo at number 88 (up 51 places from 139)
  • Sonny at number 90 (up 18 places from 108),
  • Seth at number 91 (up 10 places from 101),
  • Elliott at number 95 (up 12 places from 107),
  • Theodore at number 97 (up 27 places from 124),
  • Rory at number 99 (up 11 places from 110), and
  • Ellis at number 100 (up 3 places from 103).

These replaced Joel (101), Hayden (102), John (104), Ashton (111), Jackson (113), Ben (118) and Reece (122) which fell out of the top 100.

Bobby showed the largest rise within the top 100, gaining 19 places to reach number 57. Frankie (up 18 to number 66), Arthur (up 16 to number 52), Jenson and Blake (up 13 to numbers 54 and 66 respectively) were also high climbers.

Aiden (down 19 to number 80), Finlay (down 17 to number 83), Jamie (down 15 to 64) and Rhys (down 14 to number 84) showed the largest falls within the top 100.

There were six new entries in the top 100 most popular girls’ names, which were:

  • Mollie at number 84 (up 29 places from 113),
  • Ivy at number 88 (up 80 places from 168),
  • Darcey at number 89 (up 42 places from 131),
  • Tilly at number 92 (up 11 places from 103),
  • Sara at number 99 (up 10 places from 109), and
  • Violet at number 100 (up 14 places from 114).

These replaced Lexie (102), Lauren (103), Rebecca (108), Tia (116), Nicole (119) and Kayla (135) which fell out of the top 100.

Elsie, which rose 17 places between 2011 and 2012 to 70, was the highest climber within the top 100, followed by Hollie (up 14 to number 54), Maryam (up 13 to number 81) and Bella (up 11 to number 58).

Isobel (down 18 to number 98), Megan (down 12 to number 41), Amy (down 11 to number 62) and Caitlin (down 11 to number 97) were the names with the largest falls in popularity within the top 100.

There are a number of possible reasons why the popularity of baby names can change over time. The popularity of names can be influenced by names of famous figures or current celebrities and what they name their own babies. However, it is an individual choice which can be influenced by a number of other factors such as the religious, cultural and/or ethnic identities of the parents or the names of family, friends or fictional characters. As such, there is a great diversity of baby names. In 2012, there were 729,674 live births in England and Wales (ONS, 2013), with over 28,000 different boys’ names and over 36,000 different girls’ names registered. The top 10 names only account for 13% of all names in 2012.


Changes between 2002 and 2012

Five of the top 10 most popular boys’ names in 2012 were also in the top 10 in 2002: Jack, Thomas, James, William and Oliver.

When compared with 2002, the biggest increases in popularity for those names in the top 10 in 2012 were Riley (up 114 to number 8), Alfie (up 42 to number 7), Charlie (up 25 to number 4) and Jacob (up 25 to number 5). Benjamin (down 26 to number 32), Joseph (down 14 to number 22), Daniel (down 11 to number 16) and Joshua (down 9 to number 11) have fallen the furthest since being in the top 10 in 2002.

Within the top 100 names, Kayden (up 662 to number 92), Dexter (up 327 to number 70), Ollie (up 306 to number 73) and Jenson (up 242 to number 54) were the highest climbers between 2002 and 2012.

Among the most popular names for baby girls, four names appear in the top 10 in both 2002 and 2012: Olivia, Jessica, Emily and Sophie.

Of the names in the top 10 in 2012, Isla (up 268 to number 8), Ava (up 198 to number 6), Isabella (up 40 to number 10) and Amelia (up 24 to number 1) were the highest climbing new entries when compared with 2002, while Megan (down 35 to number 41), Hannah (down 34 to number 42), Ellie (down 31 to number 35) and Lucy (down 17 to number 27) have fallen the furthest since 2002.

Within the top 100 names, Lexi (up 1,613 to number 46), Ivy (up 911 to number 88), Bella (up 677 to number 58) and Violet (up 556 to number 100) were the highest climbers between 2002 and 2012.

Seasonal variations

Harry was the most popular boys’ name in eight months during 2012, with Oliver claiming the top spot in August, September, October and November. Amelia was number one in every month of 2012, with second spot shared between Olivia, Jessica and Lily; with seven, four and one appearance(s) respectively. There were 14 boys’ names and 15 girls’ names that reached the top 10 for at least one month during 2012.

Holly (number 25 in the annual ranks), the third most popular name for girls in December (number 16 in January), fell to number 44 in June. Summer (number 40 in the annual ranks) reached number 20 in June and August but fell to number 92 in December.

Regional variations

There are some similarities between the top 10 most popular names in England and in Wales in 2012. For boys the two countries have eight common names in the top 10, while for girls the two countries have five common names. However, Jacob is the most popular name for boys born to mothers usually resident in Wales. There are two names in the top 10 for Wales which are not in the top 10 for England: Dylan (number 28 in England) and Mason (number 32 in England). Amelia is the most popular name for girls born to mothers usually resident in England and in Wales. The five names in the top 10 for Wales which are not in the top 10 for England are: Ruby (number 13 in England), Seren (number 151 in England), Evie (number 11 in England), Ella (number 19 in England) and Grace (number 14 in England).

Table 2: Top 10 baby names, by country, 2012

England and Wales

Boys   Girls
Rank England Wales Rank England Wales
1 Harry Jacob 1 Amelia Amelia
2 Oliver Oliver 2 Olivia Ava
3 Jack Riley 3 Jessica Mia
4 Charlie Jack 4 Emily Lily
5 Jacob Alfie 5 Lily Olivia
6 Thomas Harry 6 Ava Ruby
7 Alfie Charlie 7 Isla Seren
8 Riley Dylan 8 Sophie Evie
9 William William 9 Mia Ella
10 James Mason 10 Isabella Grace

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Download table


Harry was the most popular name for boys in seven of the regions in England. Jack was the most popular in the North East and Muhammad was the most popular in London.

Among baby girls, Amelia was the most popular name in all regions, in contrast to 2011 when four different names were most popular in at least one region.

Table 3: Most popular name by region 2012

Regions within England and Wales

Region Boys  Girls
North East Jack Amelia
North West Harry Amelia
Yorkshire and The Humber Harry Amelia
East Midlands Harry Amelia
West Midlands Harry Amelia
East Harry Amelia
London Muhammad Amelia
South East Harry Amelia
South West Harry Amelia
Wales Jacob Amelia

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Download table

Users and uses of baby name statistics

Users of baby name statistics can be split into five groups;

  • Individuals, which includes parents and soon-to-be parents who want to pick a rare or a popular name for their child or are simply seeking inspiration. Other individuals include people interested in the popularity of their name or the names of friends and family, or names from a particular origin,
  • Special interest groups, such as Bounty, produce their own popularity lists and compare their lists with those published by ONS,
  • Those involved in the manufacture and sale of named items, such as mugs,
  • Researchers, who examine how names are changing over the years and possibly how this reflects changes in culture,
  • Journalists who report and produce articles on the popularity of names.

Further information

More detailed data for 2012 baby names are available on the ONS website. Data for 1996-2011 baby names and historical ranks of baby names for 1904-1994 (top 100 ranks at ten year intervals) are also available (see background note 6).

Quality and Methodology Information (98.8 Kb Pdf) documents for baby name and birth statistics are available on the ONS website. Further information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to births is available in the births metadata (375.7 Kb Pdf) .

A baby names comparison tool is available which allows you to analyse changing trends in boys and girls names in England and Wales. The tool enables comparison of baby name rankings in 2012 with 2011 and 2002.

An accompanying video podcast for the 2011 release, using audio commentary and graphical animations to cover the key trends in baby names is also available.

National Records of Scotland provides baby names statistics for Scotland.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency provides baby name statistics for Northern Ireland.

A user feedback survey for the baby names release took place in July 2011. The results and responses to this survey (105.7 Kb Pdf) are available on the ONS website.


Office for National Statistics (2013) Births in England and Wales, 2012

Background notes

  1. Birth registration is a legal requirement under the Births and Deaths Registration Act (1836). The registration of births occurring in England and Wales is a service carried out by the Local Registration Service in partnership with the General Register Office (GRO).
  2. The published ranks have been produced using exact spelling of first names given on the birth certificate. Grouping names with similar pronunciation would change the ranks. Although some groupings are straightforward, others are more a matter of opinion, and thus raw data are given so users can group if they wish.
  3. The separate England and Wales ranks are based on the usual residence of the mother, rather than where the baby was born.
  4. Births where the name of the baby was not stated (16 boys and 9 girls in the 2012 dataset) were excluded from all the ranks. Births where the usual residence of the mother was not in England and Wales or not stated (103 boys and 92 girls in the 2012 dataset) were excluded from the regional ranks and from the separate England and Wales ranks.
  5. Baby names with a count of two or less are not included within the tables in order to protect the confidentiality of individuals.
  6. ONS took on the responsibility for producing baby name statistics in 2009 and do not have the necessary data to be able to compile figures prior to 1996. For years prior to 1996, the top 100 rankings put together by GRO are published for all possible years (1904-1994 at 10-yearly intervals). This represents all the historic data available.
  7. Special extracts and tabulations of baby names data for England and Wales are available to order (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreements of costs, where appropriate). Such enquiries should be made to:Vital Statistics Outputs Branch Office for National Statistics Segensworth Road Titchfield Fareham Hampshire PO15 5RR Tel: +44 (0)1329 444 110 E-mail: vsob@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    The ONS charging policy is available on the ONS website.

  8. We would welcome feedback on the content, format and relevance of this release. Please send feedback to the postal or email address above.
  9. Follow ONS on Twitter and Facebook.
  10. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.ukThe United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;
    • are well explained and readily accessible;
    • are produced according to sound methods; and
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Elizabeth  McLaren +44 (0)1329 444110 Vital Statistics Outputs Branch vsob@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .


Manual issued for Hague treaty child retrievals

The Japan Times

By Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Aug 10, 2013

The Supreme Court has issued a case-by-case manual for court-appointed administrators on how to retrieve children in parental cross-border abduction cases under the Hague Convention, minimizing the use of force to avoid traumatizing the kids, the court’s spokesman said.

The manual, issued June 14, outlines measures the administrators who would be assigned the task of returning children to their place of habitual residence, even by force, should take as Japan considers joining the Hague Convention by the end of next March, the spokesman said Friday.

It says the administrators “should take utmost consideration” to protect the interests of the child.

The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction mandates procedures for a child abducted by one parent of a failed marriage to be swiftly returned to its country of habitual residence. The convention only applies to children under the age of 16.

The nation has come under fire in recent years over cases in which Japanese parents in estranged marriages overseas have brought children to Japan in defiance of divorce court custody or visitation rights rulings abroad.

Often, the estranged Japanese spouse claims to have fled from an abusive relationship. But the removal of a child from its country of habitual residence has been deemed a violation of that nation’s law, and the abducting parent a fugitive.

Under legislation that cleared the Diet in May, a court-designated officer can forcibly retrieve a child abducted or retained by a parent residing in Japan in defiance of an overseas custody ruling and who refuses to hand over the child.

The manual calls for the officer to attempt to take custody of the child at the home of the abducting parent, in an environment where privacy is thus protected and the child feels safe. Taking a child away in a public place, such as a day care center or on a street, may lead to “unpredictable situations” and traumatize the child, it said.

If the child cries or refuses to be returned to the other parent, the officer should not use force, according to the manual.

Should an officer visit a home to retrieve a child and is told it is not present, the child’s name should be called out and a check made on the presence of the child’s belongings, the manual says.

The officer is authorized to forcibly enter and search a home if there are indications the child is inside.

In the case of an infant, the manual allows the officer, with the parent’s consent, to remove it from the crib. But the officer must not try to forcibly take custody of an infant if the parent is hugging it tightly to prevent such action.

The manual, issued by the Supreme Court’s Civil Affairs Bureau, is based on meetings involving judges and other court officials nationwide in January and February. The gatherings covered past cases of failed domestic marriages where one parent fled with a child from the country of habitual residence without the consent of the other parent.

Court-designated officers have retrieved children in those cases but have not had specific manuals or regulations to follow. The latest document urges such officers in domestic cases to follow its instructions to avoid harming the child in any way.

In past divorce custody cases in Japan, officers apparently tried to retrieve children in public places, resulting in shouting matches.

Fiscal 2010 saw 120 domestic cases processed in which a parent demanded the forcible return of an offspring. The figure was 133 in fiscal 2011 and 131 in fiscal 2012.

Japan is the only Group of Eight member yet to accede to the Hague Convention. If it becomes a signatory, the cases will be handled by a family court in Tokyo or Osaka.

Source:  “Manual issued for Hague treaty child retrievals”, The Japan Times, 10 August 2013