Creating linkage between Fukushima and the US: Talk with Chikako Nishiyama, a nuclear refugee from Fukushima evacuation zone (Part 2)
Continues from Part 1.
Big information gap
The national and prefectural governments continue to deploy and allocate resources to the safety campaign, promoting reconstruction. The parents in Fukushima are feeling less and less need to send their children to retreat camps to get a temporary relief from radiation exposure. There is too big of an information gap between those who access the internet (about 30% in Fukushima) and those who don't. Ms. Nishiyama is concerned for those who choose to stay in Fukushima without adequate information on the health effects of radiation. At the same time, if you are aware of what is going on, it is hard to find hope in Fukushima.
Reliance on nuclear money
Shifting consciousness is not the only challenge in getting the people out of danger. It has a lot to do with day to day survival. Many people are directly or indirectly involved in the extensive network of the nuclear-related special interests, and rely on the trickle down benefits for jobs.
When Ms. Nishiyama attended a briefing session held for the councilors around Fukushima Daiichi on the decontamination process in October 2011, it was clear to her that each step was linked to certain interest groups. Zeolite, for instance, is widely used in the decontamination of agricultural land in Fukushima, for its ability to absorb cesium. According to her, specific business interests are linked to the supply of Zeolite. The national and prefectural governments are focused on serving these business interests. This has not changed before or after the accident. So far roughly $10 billion has been poured into the decontamination projects. But it is reported that 90% of the municipalities in Fukushima did not even have the targets specified in the contracts for how much the radiation levels need to be lowered [NHK news, 6/14/13]. Ms. Nishiyama goes so far as to say “they essentially don't care about the people in Fukushima, other than as a source of data for the health impact of radiation. They will do what they can to avoid the responsibility for the accident and reduce the compensation payments to the victims”.
Home as a nuclear waste dumping site
In Kawauchi, a locally-owned convenience store has been bought out by a larger business. She learned the same thing happening in Koriyama too. After more than two years, the Japanese government is still trying to identify the locations for the government-managed interim storage for highly contaminated soil and materials in the municipalities closest to Fukushima Daiichi. The negotiations and land surveys are ongoing.
Although Kawauchi is not being considered for that, Ms. Nishiyama suspects that the contaminated land in Kawauchi, which supposedly nobody wants, is being bought out cheaply, for future sale at higher prices as places to store nuclear waste. Her point is, if her home is going to be a dump site for nuclear waste, the people must be moved out first.
Fukushima – US horizontal linkage among people to change the system
After meeting many activists and concerned citizens in Vermont and Massachusetts who are trying to close the nuclear power plants in their neighborhood and address the issue of nuclear waste, she understood the challenges the people face here are very similar. The nuclear promoting government bodies and businesses behave the same way. It has become clear to her that the problem is not only Fukushima's, but that of the world as a whole.
That is why this trip has been such a precious opportunity for her to connect with the people in the US. She does not have much faith in the current political system in Japan to save Fukushima, but in order to affect the system that is hovering over us, she thinks this horizontal linkage with those in the US and the rest of the world is absolutely critical. Japan follows the US. What happens in the US in its nuclear policy has a profound influence in Japan.
She appreciated the interest shown by the Vermont state legislators and a representative of the region’s Red Cross office in her experience, and particularly in the evacuation process. She calls for more linkage, for instance, between medical doctors in Fukushima, Japan and the US.
Need to end wars to let go of nuclear energy
The term “hibaku” in Japanese means to become a victim of an atomic bomb, which is now being applied to the forced exposure to radiation the people in Fukushima are suffering. The word is now a taboo in the Japanese mainstream media, while “anti nuclear power” is still accepted. Ms. Nishiyama argues unless we get rid of wars and nuclear weapons, we won't be able to see the end of nuclear energy.
She will continue to work hard to search and gather bright ideas from the world to save the young ones in contaminated Japan. She is interested in the collaboration to move people overseas as well. The end goal is to contribute to the international tide to put an end to nuclear energy. Her motto is “One World, No More War, No More Fukushima”. Maybe this is a chance for us to achieve the world without wars.
The political climate in Japan will not be any kinder to her, though. Last month, 23 mayors of the municipalities that host nuclear power plants in Japan had a meeting with the government. Their primary concern was the deterioration of local economy as a result of the prolonged period during which their reactors remain idle. There were a number of mayors who requested the government approval for the restart [Fukushima Minpoo, 5/30/13]. The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority has just published the new safety guidelines for operating nuclear power plants. It is reported that 6 reactors that are currently idle will apply for the restart based on these guidelines.
Keiko Kokubun, WNSCR member