Seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred on March 11, 2011, and the subsequent nuclear disaster. The catastrophe has dramatically changed a course of life of many people. Nothing has ended at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) as far as the aftermaths are concerned. Extraordinary efforts have been made up to today. The legacy is to give up nuclear power generation.
53 THOUSAND PEOPLE ARE STILL FORCED TO EVACUATE TODAY
Seven years will have passed since the disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. According to the Fukushima Prefecture, the number of people left as evacuees counts as many as 53,275 as of last November.
Hard works have been made so that inhabitants could return home; several trillions of Yens of tax money has been spent to remove radioactive materials. The number of flexible containers full of contaminated substance has reached over 9 million. A prospect of final disposal site of the containers, however, has not yet been seen.
Government Insists on Safety
Radioactive contamination has spread out after the accident and residents were forced to flee from zones designated as the Evacuation Order Areas. The governments have spent a big amount of money to decontaminate these areas. Today evacuation orders have been lifted in most of the designated areas except for ‘the difficult-to-return zone’ and the government has finished payment of housing support for those who could leave destinations of refuge.
It is impossible, however, to restore the radioactive level to a standard below 1 mSv (=milli-Sieverts) on the annual basis even after the decontamination works. Under these circumstances the government has set up a specific rule applicable only to Fukushima Prefecture, which is 20 mSv annually as the maximum dose. Thus, it has lifted the evacuation order accordingly.
Many of families who bring up young children have decided not to return home. A check-up for thyroid cancer among children in Fukushima Prefecture has found 154 patients as of November 2017, while another 39 children are suspected to have contracted.
Diseases caused by radioactivity have increasingly been reported. The best way to protect children from the hazard is to seek refuge. The government’s decision is totally wrong as it sends back children to contaminated zones.
Disposal of Radioactive Wastes
Either one of the major seven electric power companies, which plan to commit in decommissioning reactors, has not yet secured a final site to dispose of the so-called low-radioactive materials, like metal and concrete debris left after demolition works.
Meanwhile, highly radioactive wastes processed from spent nuclear fuel must be kept under strict control for as long as 100 thousand years. No prospect is seen, either.
Judging from a lesson from the Fukushima accident and absence of a solution of waste disposal, a right conclusion is to abandon the nuclear development program. But the government relies on this energy source: the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is to revise after four years the Basic Energy Plan during coming April-May. The assumption implies to impede development of renewable energy sources.
The Ministry’s subcommittee, Workshop on Basic Policy, consists of 18 members who commit in debates to review the plan. They are advocates of the current energy policy, including restarting suspended power plants. The union of government and power companies is to encourage nuclear energy by updating the plan.
Incidentally, the Abe government guarantees loans of a contract to build a new NPP in England by Hitachi, Ltd., while it abandons Fukushima people as aftermaths remain unsettled.
If the government clings to nuclear power generation, the nation will collapse. The Fukushima accident gives us a precious lesson.
March 6, 2018