3,300 participate in nuclear evacuation drill in Satsumasendai, 40,000 rally in Tokyo against nuclear power

Entrance gate to Namie Town, about 6km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Entrance to Namie Town, about 6km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Over the past weekend, the Japanese government conducted its first major nuclear disaster drill ever since the 3/11 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triple meltdowns. It was a two-day drill that was conducted as if an earthquake had caused an accident releasing radioactive substances from the reactors of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, which brought together about 3,300 participants, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The local residents living within the plant’s 5 to 30 km radius had to realistically exercise an evacuation based on the assumption that a level of radiation that requires evacuation had been detected.

Namie Town 2013
Namie Town 2013

During Japan’s greatest nuclear crisis in March 2011, the government kept changing the perimeters of the evacuation zone, and delayed instructing the residents about taking iodine pills, which could have helped prevent thyroid cancer.

Namie Town, 2013
Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture 2013

In the spring of this year, the 20km no-go zone has reopened partially, which allowed some of the 83,000 evacuees to visit their homes with a special permission. Visitors can visit the zone for a limited amount of time during daytime.

Fukushima Prefecture, around Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Fukushima Prefecture, around Daiichi nuclear power plant.

While the drills were going on, 40,000 participants reportedly rallied in Tokyo on Sunday, lead by the now famous Japanese anti nuclear activist, Misao Redwolf to protest against Japan’s nuclear policy and the restarting of the nuclear reactors. The coverage of this even was sparse.

JSRC visited Namie (ghost) Town and its seaside, only 4 to 5 km from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, where its 21,000 residents are still unable to return, but for a limited amount of time. The streets of Namie Town were indeed empty from any form of life, except for the crows flying over the houses, curious about human activities which are mostly drivers moving 30 km/h and police patrols occasionally getting out to get a closer glance at improbable sights. Electronic goods, such as refrigerators, TVs, radios, or microwaves have been systematically stored on sidewalks, probably to avoid fires or electric joint dislocations inside a deserted zone. ATMs at shopping malls showed signs of vandalism, broken glasses clearly undue to the 3/11 earthquake. The town in general looks like the time had stopped since March 11, 2011.

Boat cemetery in Namie town's sea coast, 2013
Boat cemetery in Namie Town’s sea coast, 2013

The seaside fields, where the tsunami hit mostly seems untouched. Fishing boats lay forgotten. The tidal wave brought them on the coast when it intruded the land.

If you want a virtual tour of the place, you can also check out The New York Times blog on the Google Street Views of the ghost town 



In Fukushima, the kids aren’t all right, says documentary A2-B-C (Sept.14th)

The strangely titled documentary  A2-B-C  which examines the lives of the children in Fukushima prefecture who have been diagnosed with thyroid cysts and nodules and how it affects them and their families—will be shown at 5pm on September 14th at the PIA Film Festival in Tokyo. The title comes from the code that is used to indicate the test results of thyroid screening. The Japanese government vehemently denies any links to thyroid cancer or thyroid abnormalities in Fukushima children and the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March of 2011; the film lets the viewer decide for themselves whether they believe it or not. What it does not shy away from is depicting the fog of uncertainty and fright of those children and their loves ones, dealing with the fear of developing full-blown thyroid cancer, and living in a contaminated area.

The director of the film, Ian Thomas Ash, in a brief talk with JSRC, stated the most surprising thing he uncovered during the filming was the blame-the-victim mentality of the Japanese government. “Some mothers of children positively diagnosed with thyroid cysts and nodules were told by the doctors or officials, ‘Your fear of radiation and your excessive worrying caused this to happen.’ In other case, the parents were told, ‘Well, you live outside the evacuation zone, so even if this is related to the radiation—it was your decision to stay and your financial burden to bear (自己責任).’ It’s as if they really believed that radiation stopped at the imaginary lines drawn by the Japanese government.” He notes  A2-B-C is the second in a series of documentary films which will follow up on the initial findings.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the world in his efforts to get the Olympic bid that there was no problem at Fukushima and “that it was 250 kilometers from Tokyo.” For those living in Fukushima, there appears to be more than a few serious problems remaining. This 71-minute film that may not change how you think of nuclear power but may make you wonder about what the finals costs are of having it.