FUKUSHIMA — The Oct. 10 ruling by a district court here, in which Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese government were ordered to pay plaintiffs in Fukushima and nearby prefectures a total of 500 million yen in damages from the 2011 nuclear disaster, covered those who lived outside evacuation zones, signaling a shift in the compensation system.
Roughly 3,800 plaintiffs brought a suit against the company and the state requesting a total of some 16 billion yen in damages, and of them, the Fukushima District Court ordered payments for some 2,900 people ranging from 10,000 to 360,000 yen per person. The court also recognized the responsibility of the national government in the nuclear disaster, ruling that it jointly pay half of the 500 million yen.
The majority of the plaintiffs in the case lived outside of the evacuation zones and voluntarily left the area following the disaster. Others lived outside of Fukushima Prefecture and were not eligible for receiving compensation from the accident. The decision recognized the right of voluntary evacuees and some in neighboring prefectures to compensation, expanding the scope of those eligible to receive payments.
“This opened up the possibility for anyone to be able to claim damages and receive relief,” the legal group representing the plaintiffs in the case commented.
The number of residents who lived in the same areas as the victorious plaintiffs in Fukushima Prefecture alone exceeded 1.5 million. While the odds of the case being appealed are high, if the court maintains its ruling, it will have an enormous impact on the current compensation system.
Concerning the government’s involvement in the accident, the court decision cited a 2002 long-term assessment concluded by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which predicted that a tsunami caused by a magnitude-8 or higher earthquake was possible along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. The court pointed out that based on this assessment, the government could have predicted that a 15.7-meter tsunami could hit the power plant just as TEPCO estimated later in 2008, and stated that the government’s inaction to order the utility to prepare tsunami countermeasures by the end of 2002 was “significantly lacking in rationality.”
The standard for the amount of damages to be paid by TEPCO was decided in interim guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, and a broad distinction in compensation between those living in and nearby evacuation zones and those who chose to evacuate voluntarily was drawn by the end of 2011.
The amount to be paid to those living in the evacuation zones was set at a minimum of 8.5 million yen, but the amount awarded to voluntary evacuees was set at 80,000 yen in principle. Additionally, those living in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture and other areas not directly nearby the reactors were completely excluded from receiving compensation, creating a disparity among evacuees from different regions and leading to numerous litigations.
Because of this, the plaintiffs in the Fukushima case claimed that they, including those living outside the evacuation zones, shared the same worries of having been exposed to radiation. Without claiming individual compensation, the group decided to file the suit for 50,000 yen per month until the radiation levels in the air where each person lived returned to the pre-disaster levels — 0.04 mircosieverts or lower in all cases — regardless of the place of residence of the plaintiff.
Additionally, they divided the regions where the plaintiffs lived in such a way that a total of 35 representatives from each of the areas testified to damages. There are few precedents of this method, such as noise disturbance cases for those living near airports and military bases, but the group decided to adopt the method as it looks to have the state review the conventional compensation system itself.
The Oct. 10 court decision stated that the interim guidelines were merely a yardstick, and that the certification of compensation payments exceeding those guidelines should naturally be allowed, taking one important step forward in restructuring the system.
“Behind those 2,900 plaintiffs who won compensation are all of the victims (of the Fukushima disaster),” said lawyer Yoshio Nagumo, the head of the group’s legal team. He hopes that this case will become an example to lead the reform of the compensation system. However, the amount actually awarded to each person was low.
“The ruling doesn’t accurately reflect the damage suffered,” said Jun Watanabe, another member of the legal team, hinting at the possibility of appealing the ruling. “We’ll fight in order to raise the amount of appropriations even further.”
The Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tepco to pay ¥500 million to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, many of whom stayed at their homes in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere in the midst of of the world’s worst and ongoing nuclear crises.
3,800 plaintiffs, most of whom were residents of Fukushima Prefecture, sought a total of about 16 billion yen in compensation… Fukushima District Court only awarded 500 million yen ($4.4 million) but their decision puts this on the record: in the ruling, presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa concluded that the government and Tepco are both to blame for failing to take steps to counter the risk of a huge tsunami caused by an earthquake, as they were able to foresee the risk based on an assessment issued in 2002.
Court orders gov’t, Tepco to pay 500 mil. yen over Fukushima crisis
Lawyers hold banners saying “case won” on Oct. 10, 2017, after the Fukushima District Court recognized that the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are responsible for compensation to those who lived in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the nuclear disaster.
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyoto) — A district court Tuesday ordered the state and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant to pay damages over the 2011 tsunami-triggered disaster, making it the second ruling of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide.
The Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay 500 million yen ($4.4 million) to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, many of whom did not evacuate and stayed at their homes in Fukushima and elsewhere in the midst of one of the world’s worst nuclear crises.
In the ruling, Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa concluded that the government and Tepco are both to blame for failing to take steps to counter huge tsunami caused by an earthquake, as they were able to foresee the risks based on a quake assessment issued in 2002.
“The government’s inaction in exercising its regulatory authority (to order Tepco to take safety measures) was extremely unreasonable,” the judge said.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will consult with other government offices on whether to appeal the ruling. Tepco also said in a statement, “We will study the content (of the ruling) and consider our response.”
Among some 30 lawsuits filed nationwide by over 10,000 people, three rulings have been handed down so far and two of them — the latest ruling by the Fukushima court and one handed down by the Maebashi District Court in March — recognized that both the state and Tepco are liable for damages.
Only the Chiba District Court dismissed claims against the state. The plaintiffs in the Chiba and Maebashi cases were evacuees, including those who were subject to government evacuation orders and those who had left their homes at their own discretion.
In the case of the Fukushima court, the ruling said the government and Tepco were able to foresee the possibility that the plant could be hit by up to 15.7-meter-high tsunami based on the 2002 quake assessment.
The assessment, made by the government’s earthquake research promotion unit, predicted a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 level tsunami-triggering earthquake occurring along the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean within 30 years, including the area off Fukushima.
The court noted that the main responsibility for nuclear power plant safety lies with the operator and secondary responsibility with the state.
The plaintiffs who will receive the payments are Fukushima residents who live both in and outside the evacuation zones and some plaintiffs in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit seeking monthly compensation of 50,000 yen until the radiation level at their residences return to the pre-crisis level.
They also urged that radiation levels be restored to the levels before the accident, or below 0.04 microsievert per hour, but the court rejected the request.
During the trial, the government and Tepco claimed the quake assessment in question was short of being established knowledge and that the tsunami could not have been foreseen. The government also argued that it only obtained powers to force Tepco to take anti-flooding measures after a legislative change following the disaster.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the nuclear power plant. Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.
Government, Tepco ordered to pay ¥500 million in damages for Fukushima disaster
A man speaks on Tuesday in the city of Fukushima during a meeting of victims seeking damages from the government and Tepco over the 3/11 nuclear disaster. Later in the day, the court ruled in their favor.
FUKUSHIMA – A court on Tuesday ordered the state and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant to pay a total of about ¥500 million in damages for the 2011 nuclear disaster, the second ruling of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide.
The Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay ¥500 million to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, many of whom stayed at their homes in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere in the midst of one of the world’s worst nuclear crises.
In the ruling, presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa concluded that the government and Tepco are both to blame for failing to take steps to counter the risk of a huge tsunami caused by an earthquake, as they were able to foresee the risk based on an assessment issued in 2002.
“The government’s inaction in exercising its regulatory authority (to order Tepco to take safety measures) was extremely unreasonable,” Kanazawa said.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will consult with other government offices on whether to appeal the ruling.
Tepco also said it would study the ruling to consider its response.
The plaintiffs, the largest group among around 30 similar suits, filed lawsuits in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex, which was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit the Tohoku coastline.
Among the lawsuits, three rulings have been handed down so far, and two of them — the latest by the Fukushima court and one handed down by the Maebashi District Court in March — found that both the state and Tepco are liable for damages.
In the latest case, the plaintiffs claimed the government should be held liable because it was able to foresee the tsunami based on the 2002 assessment.
In the Fukushima ruling, the judge said the government and Tepco should have been able to foresee the possibility that the plant could be hit by up to 15.7-meter-high tsunami based on the 2002 assessment.
The assessment, made by the government’s Earthquake Research Promotion Unit, predicted a 20 percent chance of a magnitude 8 tsunami-triggering earthquake occurring along the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean within 30 years, including the area off Fukushima.
The government and Tepco claimed the assessment was not established knowledge and that the tsunami could not have been foreseen. The government also argued that it only obtained powers to force Tepco to take anti-flooding measures after a legislative change following the disaster.
The plaintiffs also urged restoring the radiation levels in residential areas to levels before the accident. They sought a monthly compensation of ¥50,000 until radiation levels return to the pre-crisis level of 0.04 microsieverts per hour.
The magnitude 9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated parts of the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the nuclear power plant.
Around 55,000 evacuees were still scattered inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.
More than 10,000 people have joined the roughly 30 suits filed at courts across the country.
Fukushima court orders TEPCO, state to pay compensation
Plaintiffs celebrate the Fukushima District Court’s ruling against the government and TEPCO on Oct. 10.
FUKUSHIMA–A court here on Oct. 10 held the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ordered them to pay compensation to about 2,900 evacuees.
The Fukushima District Court, in awarding 500 million yen ($4.4 million) in total damages, acknowledged that the two defendants failed in their responsibility to prevent the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck in March 2011.
The 3,800 plaintiffs, most of whom were residents of Fukushima Prefecture, had sought a total of about 16 billion yen in compensation, arguing that the nuclear disaster deprived them of their daily lives in their hometowns.
The plaintiffs also demanded TEPCO, operator of the nuclear plant, and the government restore their living environments to pre-disaster levels. The district court turned down that request.
About 30 similar group lawsuits have been filed throughout the country in relation to the nuclear accident.
The Fukushima District Court’s ruling was the third. The Maebashi District Court on March 17 also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and held both TEPCO and the government responsible.
The Chiba District Court on Sept. 22, however, held only TEPCO accountable for the disaster.
Of the 3,800 plaintiffs in the lawsuit at the Fukushima District Court, about 10 percent were living in areas where government evacuation orders were issued.
Most of the remaining plaintiffs were residents in other parts of Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders were not issued. Some of the plaintiffs lived in the neighboring prefectures of Miyagi, Ibaraki and Tochigi.
Lawyers show banners reading “Victory” following the verdict, outside the Fukushima District Court in Fukushima, eastern Japan.
TOKYO — A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant to pay $4.5 million to thousands of area residents and evacuees who were demanding compensation for their livelihoods lost in the 2011 nuclear crisis.
The Fukushima District Court said the government had failed to order Tokyo Electric Power Co. to improve safety measures despite knowing as early as 2002 of a risk of a massive tsunami in the region.
The 3,800 plaintiffs, who sued in 2015, form the largest group among about 30 similar lawsuits involving 12,000 people pending across Japan.
Closely monitored as a measure of government responsibility, Tuesday’s ruling was the second verdict that held the government accountable in the Fukushima meltdowns, increasing hopes for other pending cases.
The court upheld the plaintiffs’ argument that the disaster could have been prevented if the economy and industry ministry had ordered TEPCO to move emergency diesel generators from the basement to higher ground and make the reactor buildings water-tight based on 2002 data that suggested there was a risk of a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters (51 feet).
The court also upheld arguments by the plaintiffs that TEPCO ignored another chance to take safety measures when a government study group warned in 2008 of a major tsunami triggering a power outage at the plant.
The tsunami that swept into the plant on March 11, 2011, knocked out the reactors’ cooling system and destroyed the backup generators that could have kept it running and kept the nuclear fuel stable.
The government and the utility have argued that a tsunami as high as what occurred could not have been anticipated and that the accident was unavoidable.
Nuclear Regulation Authority spokesman Kazuhiro Okuma told reporters that the authority plans to discuss whether to appeal the ruling with other government agencies. He said the regulatory authority is determined to fulfill its duty to strictly examine reactor safety under the new standard based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.
Investigation reports by the government, parliament and private groups have blamed the disaster on TEPCO’s lack of safety culture, as well as collusion between the utility and government regulators that had allowed lax oversight. After the accident, the more independent regulatory system and a stricter safety standard were established.
Tuesday’s ruling dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand that radiation levels in their former neighborhoods be reduced to pre-disaster levels.
TEPCO is still struggling with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to take decades.
The ruling followed a decision in March by the Maebashi District Court, which ordered the government and TEPCO to split the 38 million yen ($336,000) compensation to 62 former Fukushima residents in addition to the compensation TEPCO had already paid them. Another ruling last month, however, said only TEPCO should pay 376 million yen ($3.4 million) to nearly 45 former Fukushima residents.
In the history of nuclear disaster, Fukushima stands out in its singularity. There, two kinds of disasters were intermixed: the earthquake/tsunami, and the nuclear explosion. On March 11, 2011, nature and civilization collapsed in the worst imaginable manner. The first catastrophe was tragic enough—with 15,894 deaths, 6,152 heavy injuries, and 2,561 missing persons (as of March 2016). Then came the radioactive contamination. If it had been just the so-called natural disaster, it might have been possible for us to materialize a paradise built in hell or mutual aid society amid the zone of devastation, hand in hand with its natural resilience. But the second disaster instantaneously deprived us of all power to intervene in the radioactive terrain.
This is a new challenge not only for anti-nuke discourses and movements but also anarchism or anti-authoritarian politics in a broad sense. Interviews with Mari, a Japanese feminist, anti-capitalist activist, and writer, can attest to that. When I first interviewed her, on June 12, 2011, three months after the disaster, an anarchic sensibility was dramatically in evidence. The complexity of people’s emotions—grief (over the losses), fear (of the coming devastation), panic (due to uninformed dread), rage (against nuclear capitalism and the state), and even joy (tied to the possibility of a regime change)—generated an affective power that fueled a wide range of grassroots organizing, from everyday struggles such as do-it-ourselves radiation monitoring and voluntary evacuation, to all sorts of anti-nuke actions, including legal actions against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government.
In the second interview, which took place on July 1, 2016, Mari explains what happened to the affective climate during the time in between. The complexity of the emotions, once collectivized in an ensemble, could have been the strongest weapon for organizing a resistance movement, but by the time of our second interview, they had been overshadowed by the nationalist empathy for the industrial and commercial reconstruction of Fukushima. This is largely due to the conformism that has long dominated Japanese society, wherein the nation is assumed to be a big family ruled by the emperor, to which family, township, municipality, and civil society are deemed subunits. Even the annual Hiroshima commemoration is not totally free from nationalism.
Yet Mari believes that the magnitude of people’s sufferings post-Fukushima sustains the potential of affective politics to decompose this nationalist empathy. To achieve that, however, the struggles must shift their perspective: from shortsighted political goals to aims related to the enduring quality of radiation contamination, both temporally and spatially.
It has been five years since the disaster. How has the situation changed?
It has taken five years for the public to know how criminal the responses of the government have been. In part this has to do with the temporality of the nuclear disaster, which necessitates time for the victims and evacuees to settle in and reflect on their situations. Around 2013, the nuclear disaster was finally acknowledged as a “man-made disaster” by the government. Meanwhile, thanks to journalists’ tireless investigations, the fact was clarified that TEPCO had totally neglected measures to protect against the effects of a tsunami for over 10 to 12 years.
After the earthquake, a tsunami with a 15-meter wave hit the reactors. TEPCO was not unaware of such a possibility. It repeatedly ignored warnings by specialists. In fact, up until four days before the accident, the discussion concerning the need to take measures had gone back and forth between TEPCO and government agencies. The international code for nuclear policy states that it must be prepared for even a situation that may arise once in 10,000 years. TEPCO not only ignored it but also made special efforts to do away with it. Even after the accident, the government has subtly covered up the evasion. All in all, the people realize they have been consistently tricked and deceived by the authorities. It was some independent bloggers, journalists, lawyers, and reporters who strived to reveal all this. With the retrospective revelations, the victims were naturally infuriated. In this sense, the five years have been spent preparing evidence for lawsuits—about 40 cases with over 10,000 plaintiffs. So criminal actions, too, will follow. Although the legal fight has its limitations, this development requires attention.
All in all, the government has done nothing for or even harmed the disaster victims.
In the first place, the government refuses to count the number of—if I may use this term—the refugees. It has to do with its intention not to define who are refugees. The problem is that the category of those who are desperately migrating in fact and the legal category of refugees are not in sync. This is because the Japanese government, if it grasped the actual number, would not be able to deal with it unless it gave up “business as usual.” Therefore, it would rather underestimate the number by refusing to accept the reality. By paying attention only to the forced evacuees, it chooses to ignore the voluntary evacuees from Fukushima, not to mention those from Tokyo, and even treats them like “illegal immigrants.”
Meanwhile, radiation-related illnesses have been increasing, haven’t they?
Yes. Children’s thyroid cancer has evidently increased. Even the government acknowledges it, although adding a strange proviso that more cases may be discovered because of its obsession to nitpick. But we all know that at some point in the future, the government will be forced to admit the reality. So far, it has looked into the situation only in Fukushima but not in adjoining prefectures. So the people have been investigating the cases by themselves; for instance, in Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture, there are as many as 173 cases. In addition, leukemia among the nuclear workers has drastically increased. As someone has said, radiation is an ideal poison, because of the difficulty of proving causality in court.
My friends and I, both in and outside Japan, imagined that a radical change would come inevitably. But in five years, the situation is going in the opposite direction, toward the reinforcement of pronuclear and pro-rearmament nationalism. And yet the disaster continues—since March 11, the majority of people have become disaster victims in different ways and degrees. Not only in Fukushima but also Tokyo, an unprecedented number of residents have been and will be affected by radiation. The fact is made more and more invisible, however, buried by inattention. What do you think is creating this situation?
There are many factors on both personal and social levels. Those who live with dangerous contamination don’t want to think about, admit, and confront the fact, though they know it in their subconscious, because acknowledging it would force them to join along with a radical change in all existential dimensions. Reinforcing the denial is the sense of equilibrium that has been socially shared in the postwar period. Among the many things that have been said about catastrophe in the contemporary history of disaster, the most dreadful is the revelation that the seeds of the catastrophe had been embedded in the midst of the everyday life of the highly consumerist society; the possibilities of planetary catastrophe have been so deeply internalized in the high-consumerist and controlled society called Japan. And to say it in reverse, even a catastrophe of this magnitude is quickly absorbed into the everyday process of social reproduction.
When I visit Japan, walk around the city, and watch television, I am shocked by the normalness of consumer life as well as the images of joy in embracing it—of food, technology, culture, and tourism—co-existing with the radioactive contamination. That is to say, tragedy certainly co-exists in various respects. What is the status as well as the features of people’s emotional responses—rage, sorrow, dread, anxiety, and so on?
One thing I can say is this: There are certainly physical losses, such as health, home, family, subsistence, and so forth, but public discourses often emphasize the “loss of home” or “deprived community”—namely, the loss of what cannot be reduced to a monetary value. All in all, these expressions are saying that invisible things that are indispensable for constituting individuals—a place to live and act, mutual relations, and the ways and means of life—are largely destroyed.
What can one do when this happens? There are no formulas to deal with such situations. So people must continue to record what happens, how the situation changes, and how they feel about it. For instance, it took about 20 years for Michiko Ishimure to begin writing her magnum opus Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow, after her engagement with the Minamata mercury poisoning. The power of the novel, which involves real enunciations and events of the victims along with their movement, exists in her persistent documentation and commemoration of the everyday endless purgatory for oceanic lives, animals, children, farmers, fishers, and so on. Only by this strategy of persisting in the unbearable temporality can the events of even an absurdity that refuses interpretation spark resistance from time to time. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, too, is very much an event of temporality and feeling. And our strategy to confront it must be based on collective, persistent recording and memorializing.
In the entirety of social apparatuses, forces are in full gear to make us forget about and nullify all the events around the accident. The coming Tokyo Olympics 2020 is the symbolic machine for a nationwide obliviousness, but in the larger picture, the civilian use of nuclear power has always involved such effects from the outset. Nuclear accidents and the resulting illnesses involve a time lag that does not follow clean-cut regularity, from which oblivion effects are made to develop.
The nuclear disaster doesn’t have an end, and therefore healing by mourning is out of the question at this point. What unites us is rage, which is the basic weapon to organize ourselves to fight against nuclear capitalism and the state. But in the five years after, rage seems to have been replaced by counterparts—apathy and resignation—leading to passive onlooking rather than engagement. Mourning is solidly shared among the earthquake and tsunami victims, who have physically lost homes, families, and means of subsistence. Still, in this case, where the nuclear disaster immediately followed, another spatiotemporal dimension that is unthinkable for us was imposed, spreading like a social cancer and depriving us of any cathartic solution. In the second dimension, mourning is bracketed, because the effects of radioactive pollution are hard to prove as causes. We need time—until an undeniable number of clinical cases appear, probably after 10, 15, or 20 years, and nobody can then deny the effects as data—or the cathartic phase, which involves a full and massive attack against the nuclear regime, won’t come.
At this moment, the cancer patients along with their families focus more on cure than political action—that which can be organized based on a solid causal recognition. For that matter, the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still fighting for recognition even today, more than 70 years after the bombs. They are still suspended in devastation. All in all, for the struggles against nuclear power, the crux is how we manage to confront the unbearably long temporality, based on observations and recordings of the situational and sensual mutation. Therefore, at this moment in the struggle against radioactive pollution, sorrow and mourning seem to be futile.
What are you going to do from now on?
There are many things to be done. But I believe the basis for all projects is to patiently observe what is going on and listen to people’s voices. It seems to me that what is lacking is the will to see through the event: what it involves, where it leads, what are the effects to whom and what … Generally speaking, perspectives of social and political movements are too shortsighted.
After Fukushima, we saw a dramatic upsurge of the anti-nuke movement for two years. But after the Oi nuclear plant was restarted in spite of the mass direct action to blockade it, the movement quickly stagnated. The ultraconservative Abe administration came into power, realizing the reform of the U.S.– Japan security treaty toward Japan’s militarization. Thereafter it has been doing almost whatever it wants to do. No protest movements and no progressive politics have been able to stop it. Its policies are centered on a kind of shock doctrine and the politics of spectacle that constantly shift its ostensible focus in order to fade from our attention. To fight against this, we should not just respond to its moves but also construct multilayered strategies based on the non-spectacular developments of events—such as the increasing number of people getting sick or refugees having lives like fugitives—that are invisible in the media and incalculable in statistics.
Even before Fukushima, nuclear problems were always made to be obscure, as exemplified by the issues of nuclear workers and radioactive contamination. As analyzed in the inspiring book by Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility, on the political situation after Chernobyl, nuclear politics is based on invisibility instead of open debate on scientific truth. In Japan, various safety standards have been set and reset after Fukushima, which have nothing to do with scientific consideration but are pure political decisions made tacitly for the benefit of nuclear industries.
How would you describe the situation people face in Japan after Fukushima?
A phrase from the book Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich speaks to it well:
Something occurred for which we do not yet have a conceptualization, or analogies or experience, something to which our vision and hearing, even our vocabulary, is not adapted. Our entire inner instrument is tuned to see, hear or touch. But none of that is possible. In order to comprehend this, humanity must go outside its own limits.
A new history of feeling has begun.
Ungraspability or spatiotemporal indeterminacy exists at the core of nuclear accidents and radioactive contamination. Radioactivity, which is invisible, omnipresent, and everlasting, has come to determine our future. In my adolescence, the so-called no-future thing was in fashion, yet it has now become reality. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during Japan’s postwar period, an obsession with apocalyptic imagery—such as in Godzilla, Japan Sinks, and Akira—flourished in mass representation. But I think that to confront the post–Fukushima disaster situation, we need a much longer view: a planetary history. In this sense, I am interested in the recent debates on the Anthropocene.
Political discourses circulating around today’s Japan, including those of the sociopolitical movements, even feminism and anarchism, avoid dealing with the crux of the event. I would see an ultimate potency for emancipation if not healing not in these discourses but instead in the rumors and panics—the fundamental power to awe deriving from people’s dread and rage. This is to initiate our thoughts about what is really troubling or unsound. This is the only basis for resisting the status quo, which is constantly seeking to absorb the endlessly expanding accident. As Yu-Fu Tuan stresses in his Landscape of Fear, a community that has lost the power to fear will perish.
Meanwhile, as evident with the so-called anarchists in today’s Japan, claiming to be an anarchist and confronting a life in anarchy are two different things. Those who grasp people’s autonomous actions after the disaster as anarchy and go along with them anarchistically are limited. According to my observation, I can see anarchist practice in those who have been actively engaged in people’s autonomous projects to deal with irradiation rather than those who have organized a large-scale anti-nuke movement.
I myself am a feminist, but when I see those who take care of the health of their families—or more straightforwardly, “mothers”—struggling so radically, I feel embarrassed to think in the name of feminism. Those people who live the anarchic situation don’t know the -isms such as anarchism, Marxism, and feminism.
I see that in the exploitation of these existences, there exists the political core of the Fukushima dilemma. If so, it is necessary to discover the moment in which to transversally connect these modes and practices of existence. Would that be possible? Is patiently recording and observing radiation and illnesses—or a certain strategy of information and collective intelligence—helpful for that?
That has to be done, but we don’t know how to do that precisely yet. But the problem is that the discursive realm on the Fukushima disaster, including journalism, media, and academia, has proved futile in terms of dealing with the invisible exploitation of these existences. It is a sine qua non to break out of the form of conventional method and thought to tackle the problematic and then share the results widely. This incapacity has revealed the institutional limit of discourses. People point out the power of what’s commonly called the “nuclear village,” the network of pronuclear authorities, stretching out in the central and local governments, bureaucracy, companies, industries, academia, and media, which constantly discredits and incapacitates the spreading and exchange of critical information. But according to my observation, a village-like network where all anomalies are immediately silenced or ejected entraps all realms of political and intellectual practice in Japan even before the conspiratorial operations of the nuclear village.
I value the work of some independent bloggers, researchers, and journalists who dedicate themselves to analyzing what is happening. But I feel the need of more collaborative efforts toward building a collective intelligence and information-sharing network to fight against the pronuclear status quo. It is necessary to analyze the present situation, involving the incapacitated sociopolitical movements and the complexity of sovereign power. We need, to repeat, patient observation and sharp analysis. If we can share them, we can rise up for rebellion, together with nuclear workers and care workers. Trusting the potency of the people and sharing information and analysis would be the best means of organizing. It goes without saying that demonstrating and campaigning for election are far from enough. What’s necessary is less about stronger protests than a rebellion on wider, existential dimensions.
For a year or two after 3/11, the majority experienced the state of anarchy with fissures running across the social space and everyday life. People were enraged, feeling ferocious, with a desperate need to exert justice. The defeat of the movement was due to the organizers who could not tolerate the state of anarchy beyond their control. They could not deal with people’s power to live, grudge, rage, and panic. They sought to direct the mass impetus toward a well-mannered organization, a civil institution, with enlightened attitudes on politics and science. This was responsible for the stagnation today.
Now it is evident that the waste from the melted core of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors cannot be removed. This has long been known, but now it is being revealed bit by bit by the authority. But the people don’t seem to be infuriated any longer. “Oh, we had known it”—this sense of déjà connu seems to prevail among the public. This is the scariest thing. This is precisely the extension of the mechanism inherent in nuclear power that Günther Anders (1902–92), a German philosopher and antinuke activist, pointed out in terms of “apocalyptic blindness” [Apocalypse-Blindheit]. So it is necessary for us to be shocked, to fear anew. My hope is then to be enraged together—more than ever.
ISBN (print): 9781760461393
ISBN (online): 9781760461409
Publication date: September 2017
Imprint: ANU Press
Learning from Fukushima began as a project to respond in a helpful way to the March 2011 triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown) in north-eastern Japan. It evolved into a collaborative and comprehensive investigation of whether nuclear power was a realistic energy option for East Asia, especially for the 10 member-countries of ASEAN, none of which currently has an operational nuclear power plant. We address all the questions that a country must ask in considering the possibility of nuclear power, including cost of construction, staffing, regulation and liability, decommissioning, disposal of nuclear waste, and the impact on climate change. The authors are physicists, engineers, biologists, a public health physician, and international relations specialists. Each author presents the results of their work.
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