‘Is it safe to stay here, Mom?’ Fukushima evacuees on aftermath of tragedy then and now
Five years on since a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the worst in Japanese and possibly world history, activists and the people evacuated from the exclusion zone do not believe returning to the area is a good idea.
RT spoke to some of the people who were forced to flee their homes in 2011. Many of them accuse the government of playing down the dangers from the start.
“I saw a terrifying scene on TV. There was a big explosion at a nuclear power plant. The government people and the scientists and professors, they kept saying on TV that there would be no danger,” Fukushima evacuee Hiroko Tsuzuki told RT from Sapporo, Japan.
“I was, like, ‘Isn’t that weird?’ I found out that the radiation level on March 15 was almost 200 times higher than the usual level. I was so shocked,” she said.
“In that same period my daughter’s son had a nose bleed several times. My son cried and asked: ‘Is it okay to stay here, Mom?’ I was so ignorant about these things. I could not protect my children from exposure to radiation,” Tsuzuki said.
“Radioactive contamination poses hazards far beyond Fukushima. It spreads beyond the official exclusion zone. I think it is unsafe to return children there,” Ken Sakamoto, from the Evacuation and Support Kanagawa Network, an organization that helps the Fukushima evacuees to protect their rights, told RT.
Sakamoto says that as of today, the situation of many those displaced is yet to improve.
“Today it seems that the Japanese government does not take the refugee problem quite seriously. That’s why the plight of those displaced has worsened considerably of late,” Sakamoto told RT.
Christina Consolo, founder and host of Nuked Radio and freelance reporter for Climateviewer.com and FederalJack.com, told RT that said she was deeply concerned with the consequences the disaster will have for the future generation, stressing that there should be no place for complacency, even though five years have passed.
“The five-year anniversary of the Fukushima Accident… is a gaping wound in our planet that will continue to bleed radiation into our food chain for at least the next 100 years, affecting our health and genetic legacy for generations to come.”
In September 2015, Tokyo came in for criticism for allowing people to return to a town which lies just 20km south of the crippled plant. That's while the cleanup is estimated to take about 40 years and the area has registered cases of flora and fauna mutations.
Nancy Foust, research team member of SimplyInfo.org and the Fukushima Project, is concerned how soon people are being allowed to return to that area.
“Many of these areas are not truly safe, they have not been properly cleaned up, infrastructure has not been put back in place,” Foust told RT.
“There is also the problem of proximity to the actual disaster site. They have a lot of complicated and very risky work that to do in the next couple of decades to remove the melted fuel,” Foust said, adding that the idea of re-locating people back from evacuations right now is “very premature and not a really good idea.”
“Restarting reactors in the manner they’ve done them is problematic. It has been very much a political move rather than a determined social need that they really need to restart them,” Foust said.
Activists had made the case that there were just not enough safety measures taken, both on the technical side of operating a reactor and for the local communities in the nearby areas, “So if a reactor does have a problem, they cannot effectively evacuate people,” Foust said.
Foust recalls the rate of children living near Fukushima diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Over 130 children were diagnosed with the cancer in the area in August last year – a 25 percent spike from the same month in 2014. The average rate of thyroid cancer in children is estimated at 1-2 children per one million.
The events of March 2011 triggered massive protests in Japan against the use of nuclear energy.