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A Fukushima Refugee Tale

Written by Jeff Drake
11 · 17 · 18

One thing that was interesting in Kanazawa is when we got to meet with a Fukushima refugee couple. They currently live in Kanazawa and have a restaurant where we had lunch. (It was a vegan restaurant. I’m probably the only one who wasn’t thrilled with our lunch. Every time I finish a Japanese lunch, I feel bad that I have taken food from some poor bird. I usually have to eat a protein bar when we get back to the hotel to fill me up.)

This couple had lost everything in the 2011 nuclear disaster. They had a farm, with a beautiful garden and a lovely traditional farm house. They showed us photos of their home at that time. Idyllic, for sure. After the disaster, the government paid for them to evacuate and gave them financial support. They settled in Anakazawa and started a new life.

All of Japan’s nuclear reactors are situated in rural areas along the sea shore. The rural people didn’t have much say in this, of course, and the location near the sea is for cooling purposes (i.e., lots of water). TEPCO is the energy business that owns and operates all of Japan’s nuclear power stations. To date, only 3-4 executives from TEPCO have been charged with crimes for their ignoring numerous warnings that the reactors were under severe tsunami threat. They pleaded innocent and are still on trial. A judgement is coming soon, I think, but no one is holding their breath that they will swing for their negligence. TEPCO still is allowed to do business in Japan, like nothing ever happened.

The government suspended nuclear production in 8 other nuclear reactors that exist in Japan which were deemed to be vulnerable to tsunamis. That’s 8 out of 42. Note that all they did was shut these 8 down. Their reactor cores and plutonium are still there, every bit as threated by the next tsunami as they were in 2011.

In the Fukushima area affected by radiation (it’s a large area), the government decided to clean it all up by excavating the upper topsoil. So far, they have gathered up 9 million cubic meters of contaminated top soil and leaves. We were shown photos of areas covered with large bags of topsoil, waiting to be cleaned up. How do they clean up all that soil? They burn it. Hopefully, the furnaces all have proper filters.

In 2016, the government decreed that much of Fukushima was now free of contamination so folks could move back. This was after the government took a look at the recommended levels of radiation per person, waved their hands and decided that 3 to 4 times that recommended amount of radiation exposure was actually… okay. So, people are now moving back in apparently. AS for the couple we were talking to, they decided not to move back. Who could blame them? Would you move back? It didn’t help at all that the way the government dealt with the problem was to plow up all the top soil. These folks were farmers, after all. Not much of a farm without good top soil.

They implored all of us to resist nuclear power. They were preaching to the choir.

Below, Hiroshi introduces us to the refugees at their restaurant:

A Powerpoint presentation on the disaster area:

Posing with our refugee hosts:

Let us know what you think…

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.