“The Silent Voices”: what is really to be living within the Fukushima disaster



This Sunday, December 4th, 2016, I was invited to the premiere of a documentary film, produced by a couple, Lucas Rue, the french husband, and his Japanese wife Chiho Sato, from Fukushima.

Their documentary film titled “Les voies silencieuses” (The silent voices) in my humble opinion is definitely the best documentary film I have seen about the Fukushima catastrophe.

First because this documentary was made, written, directed by someone who is native of Fukushima. Only a person from Fukushima could penetrate in such manner the social fabric of the Fukushima people, to bring out the inner perspective of what the Fukushima people are living right now. An outsider, Japanese not from Fukushima or a foreigner could never penetrate the intimacy, the reserve of the people in such manner that Chiho Sato did.

Second, this film exposes very well the left unsaid things and the paradoxes in which the population of Fukushima is forced to live.
This film will help many people to better understand the dilemma in which these people live, bringing this living perspective from the inside that was really lacking, which is quite difficult to be understood by those who are not living it, living in it.

They are working right now to produce the english version to be soon screened. This Fukushima documentary is a must, to not be missed, to be absolutely watched by the many. I am also convinced that this documentary film will become THE film of Fukushima, and will win certainly some trophies for its excellency.

Thank you to both Lucas Rue and Chiho Sato for this absolutely excellent, quite unique documentary about Fukushima.


Shame on TEPCO For Taking Kids into Fukushima Exclusion Zone for Damage Control Campaign



On November 18, 2016, Tokyo Electric Power Company, a.k.a. TECPCO, took a group of 13 students wearing dosimeters from Fukushima High School into the exclusion zone around the hobbled Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant for an educational tour. It is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that this is unacceptable, and should not happen again until all radiation is cleaned up at the site.

The Asahi Shimbun reported, “It was the first tour by youngsters since the disaster as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. had deemed the radiation risk was too high.”

To be clear, epidemiology and medical science have firmly established there is no “safe” amount of radiation to be exposed to — period — end of story. With each subsequent exposure, no matter how small, the bombarded organism experiences an increase in cancer risk.

Knowing that science has firmly established that there is no “safe” limit of radiation to be exposed to, it is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that TEPCO should be ashamed of itself for taking a class of high school students into the still radioactive exclusion zone around the crippled power plant as part of what has been a continuous damage control campaign since the accident’s inception. Furthermore, TEPCO should apologize to the families, and commit publicly to not take any more children into the exclusion zone until all radioactivity has been removed.


The exclusion zone around the demolished Fukushima Daiichi power plant is a dangerous place. But when a person goes there, the invisible dangers that lurk don’t threaten to kill or maim right away — the hazardous radioactive rays and particles around Fukushima threaten to kill or harm them at some point years down the road — and those same radioactive exposures can also predispose and mutate their unborn children and grandchildren with birth defects, disease and cancer.

The gestation period of cancers from radiation ranges from as low as four years, to as high as fifty years or more. If an 80-year-old person is exposed to radioactivity, it is likely that other causes, either natural or unnatural, will lead to their demise before maladies caused by radiation will. However, for a very young person subjected to radioactivity, this is not the case, and for this reason, again, TEPCO should be ashamed of itself for taking children who may want to later have children themselves, into the exclusion zone for a publicity stunt. A physical trip to the location is not necessary to educate youth about the Fukushima accident, or nuclear power in general. To make a physical trip to the site with children is highly irresponsible. Less risky means of education must be used instead.


To suggest that TEPCO has been engaging in a continuous campaign of damage control and coverup is not a stretch at all. Earlier this year, TEPCO finally confessed publicly that it lied to the press and the entire world immediately following the meltdowns, downplaying the severity, and not admitting full meltdowns had occurred until several months later, when in fact, the company knew within hours that meltdowns were underway. This blatant lie put many thousands at risk and hampered evacuation strategies. Shortly after the company’s admission, former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two former Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were indicted for “professional negligence resulting in deaths and injury.”

Japan as a country, also has a serious PR problem with the ongoing Fukushima crisis — and that PR issue translates into economic problems, hence, Japan has done anything possible to slap a happy face on the disaster from the get-go.

Though it’s possible to display many examples of this, the country’s fervent and costly effort to host the 2020 Olympics, despite many concerns about Fukushima from the international community, may be the grandest. Japan has done much to stifle and stymie the voices of anti-nuclear protestors, while maintaining everything is “under control” at the rubbled plant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that TEPCO, and the Japanese government, should come fully clean, relinquish their pridefulness, and engage the international community for help in the cleanup effort.


To be clear on another point: the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi is in no way under control — quite the opposite. It is still out of control in many regards. For example, the radioactive waste water pileup problem at Fukushima is beyond critical, as over 1,100 massive storage tanks have engulfed nearly the entire area, filling the crumpled nuke site to the brim with deadly radioactive water. The operator has on multiple occasions had to discharge large amounts of tainted H2O out to sea. Secondly on this point is the fact that deadly uranium and plutonium contaminated water have been leaching into the ocean from under the reactor buildings on a continuous basis due to groundwater seepage.

Japan is a country that has been torn to shreds by radiation poisoning, possibly more than any other. Furthermore, Japan is one of only a couple dozen or so nations on earth suffering population decline, but scarily, Japan’s population is starting to contract at an alarming speed due to a low birth rate. The last thing organizations need to be doing is risking the genetic integrity and fertility of Japan’s youths by taking them to nuclear meltdown ground zeros. TEPCO should hang its head in front of the media, apologize, and agree to engage in no further publicity stunts that endanger the country’s children.


On another relevant topic, EnviroNews has long taken issue with nuclear companies being invited to participate in the educational process on nuclear issues, as our research has shown that children’s opinions are easily swayed when “educated” on the topic by nuclear companies. Many of the campaigns we’ve seen represent borderline indoctrination on the pros of nuclear power, while typically failing to mention catastrophes and the practically boundless risks and uncleaned waste sites still plaguing the planet today. Teachers and administrators should use more discretion on a topic as controversial as nuclear, and recognize that the industry’s propaganda campaigns know no boundaries.

One of many examples of these industry-driven “nukewashing” campaigns was witnessed by EnviroNews when EnergySolutions, a nuclear waste disposal company stationed in Utah, “educated” a class of students in Salt Lake City about the “benefits” of radiation. Before the event around three-quarters of the class was opposed to nuclear energy, but when surveyed again after EnergySolutions was finished, around three-quarters of the students had changed their stance to a pro-nuclear position. Naturally, the teacher failed to bring in an educator from any anti-nuclear groups who would paint a different picture entirely. Sadly, the U.S. Government, via the Department of Energy (DOE), has also gotten involved in the nukewashing with a curriculum based program called, the Harnessed Atom.

With that stated, it is the further opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that nuclear companies should be kept out of the educational process on nuclear issues entirely — or at least limited to situations where anti-nuke organizations are allowed to present opposing views on the dangers and downsides of nuclear simultaneously.

“The tour made me realize that we should arm ourselves with accurate information if we want to change people’s perceptions of Fukushima as a scary place,” said Keika Kobiyama, a first-year student in the Fukushima High School tour group. Sadly Keika, the leaking radioactive nightmare at Fukushima Daiichi is still a very “scary place,” and should be recognized as such — and if TEPCO told you otherwise, the company is, well, full of radioactive crap. 



Fukushima Evacuees Still Unable to Go Home Over 5 Years after Earthquake, Nuclear Accident



Over five-and-a-half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since then, big disasters have occurred in several other areas around the world, and in Japan the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes also caused great damage. So, the term “disaster area” does not always evoke specific images of Tohoku or Fukushima for many of us in Japan today. However, a large number of disaster victims continues to suffer from the disaster in Tohoku, especially by the nuclear accident in Fukushima. The hard times for disaster victims haven’t ended yet. We report here on the latest situation in the Tohoku and Fukushima districts so as not to forget their ongoing suffering.

The losses from the Great East Japan Earthquake as of March 10, 2016, were officially reported as follows: 18,455 people dead or still missing (not including deaths related to injuries after the earthquake); 400,326 houses or buildings either completely destroyed or half destroyed. By prefecture in the most seriously affected areas in the Tohoku region, the death tolls are 4,673, 9,541, and 1,613, in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, respectively.

The estimated number of evacuees was approximately 470,000 at the peak, but 144,471 people were still living as refugees as of February 12, 2016.

Looking at the data of estimated populations of communities in the disaster-hit areas, comparing the population as of March 1, 2011 (before the disaster) and the most recent population, we see that the severely affected communities in Iwate and Miyagi have lost about one third of their populations. In Fukushima, several communities show “minus 100%” as the change of their population. Those ones are communities in the areas affected by the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where the evacuation order has not yet been lifted even today.

On a chart showing the timeline of evacuation orders issued right after the disaster, we see that areas ordered to evacuate were rapidly increasing one by one, while in the middle of all this, another explosion occurred at the reactor No.3. The timeline shows how the evacuation-ordered areas expanded.

Later, the government designated three evacuation zones based on international basic safety standards on radiation exposure. We can see on a map two significant evacuation zones: the Evacuation Order Zone (Warning Zone) — within a 20-kilometer radius from Fukushima Daiichi — and the Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone — within a 20-30 kilometer radius. And we also see one more evacuation zone on the map, the Planned Evacuation Zone — a large zone including part of the 20-30-kilometer radius zone and extending to areas outside of a 30-kilometer radius, which is the area into which the wind was blowing when the plant exploded — meaning large amounts of radioactive materials were carried into the area by wind.

At the same time, Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zones were also designated where the cumulative dose during the year after the nuclear accident was predicted to exceed 20 millisieverts (mSv) depending on wind direction and geography. The zones were also called “hot spots,” and an evacuation advisory was issued to their residents.

Later on, the categories of evacuation zones were revised as follows:

  1. Zones where evacuation orders were ready to be lifted (where it was confirmed that the annual cumulative dose of radiation will definitely be 20 mSv or less). People could go home temporarily (staying overnight prohibited) to prepare to return completely, and resume some operations such as hospitals, welfare facilities, shops, and farming.
  2. Zones in which the residents were not permitted to live (where the annual cumulative dose of radiation was expected to be 20 mSv or more and where residents were ordered to remain evacuated in order to reduce the risk of radiation exposure). People could temporarily return home and pass through the areas along main roads to repair infrastructure.
  3. Zones where it was expected that the residents would have difficulties in returning for a long time (where the annual cumulative dose of radiation was expected not to be less than 20 mSv in five years and the current cumulative dose of radiation per year was 50 mSv or more). People were legally required to evacuate from the area.

As seen in the zone map showing evacuation orders, many areas are still designated today as “difficult-to-return” zones.



Let’s look specifically at the status of Fukushima Prefecture. Before May 2012, the total number of evacuees was 164,655. As of March 2013, the number from zones with evacuation orders and other areas was about 109,000. Looking at the updates in July 2016, 89,319 people in Fukushima are still living as evacuees . Also, Tomioka, Futaba, and some other Fukushima towns and local governments located in evacuation zones have moved their administrative functions both inside and outside of the prefecture.

Besides the number of deaths related directly to disaster-caused injuries in Fukushima Prefecture, the number of disaster-related deaths is still increasing, due to mental shock and physical conditions at shelters, such as poor hygiene and cold. Japan’s Reconstruction Agency recognized 459 people in Iwate Prefecture, 920 in Miyagi, and 2,038 in Fukushima as qualifying for payment of condolence money for disaster-related deaths. These numbers surpass the deaths directly caused by the earthquakes and tsunami.

The Tokyo Shimbun, a regional newspaper covering eastern Japan, gathered statistics on the deaths tied to the nuclear accident by asking municipalities in Fukushima to read through application forms for condolence money to find out the number of people that died from worsened physical conditions due to the stress of evacuation from the nuclear accident. The company wrote in its newspaper on March 6, 2016, “We interviewed municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture and found that at least 1,368 people had died in connection with the nuclear accident, just from the numbers that could be confirmed.” The disaster-related death toll confirmed by each municipal government amounted to 2,028 as of March 4, 2016. It states that 67% of the disaster-related deaths are considered to be nuclear-related deaths.

According to statistics gathered by the Cabinet Office on the number of annual suicides related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant accident, the number in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures is approaching zero, while it is still increasing in Fukushima.

Victims of nuclear accident face multiple difficulties, as shown below.

  • Loss of daily living
  • Loss of ways to earn a living
  • Loss of community
  • Forced to make own decisions whether to evacuate or not, and personally accept all risks that entail (people whose homes are outside of designated mandatory evacuation zones)
  • Divorce, family breakdown, and separation of generations due to differences of opinion among family members
  • A second mortgage to pay at the place of temporary evacuation
  • Discrimination or bullying at place of temporary evacuation
  • Not knowing when they can return home
  • Uncertain about safety of returning home even after evacuation order is lifted
  • Unable to rebuild community because many people have rebuilt their own lives (employment, human relations) at their place of temporary evacuation, and leaving mainly the elderly to return home.

Before the disaster, the nuclear power plants in Fukushima were generating power to send the electricity mainly to the Tokyo metropolitan area, not for local use. The nuclear accident forced people to leave their hometowns, and they are still not allowed to return to some areas. Even if the evacuation directive is lifted, evacuees will be unable to escape their anxieties about whether or not their homes are safe, and this situation continues to bring sorrow and hardship to the evacuees.

Even in this situation, Japan continues to approve the restart of nuclear power plants, some with operating permits for more than 40 years, despite the fact that the ruined plants have not yet been cleaned up, compensation for the accident is still not complete, and many people are still forced to live away from their hometowns. Each of us needs to think about the seriousness of nuclear accidents and the responsibilities that come with using nuclear power.


Fukushima Radiation is not safe

A repost of a December 2011 video from  Goddard’s Journal


Studies cited in order presented:
National Academy of Sciences Low-Dose Radiation Report
Data tables used, 12D-1 and 12D-2:
How to scale that data to unique exposure scenarios, Annex 12D, Example 1:

15-country study of nuclear-worker cancer risk
Table 5 shown is from Part II of the study

Jacob et al. (2009) meta-analysis of nuclear-worker studies
Editorial on Jacob et al. quoted

Chromosomal translocations are associated with cancer

Boffetta et al. (2007) more chromoHarm entails more cancer

Bhatti et al. (2010) meta-analysis of chromosomal damage

# Addendum #

Since I posted this video, the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ published a special edition on low-dose radiation, the lead article of which matches and thereby corroborates the case I present in this video. It also covers additional research and nuclear-industry efforts to derail scientific investigation of radiation risks http://bos.sagepub.com/content/68/3/10.full.pdf

Some friends created PDF files of this video available here

In English


In Japanese


Japan Earthquake: Social Aftershocks of Fukushima Disaster are Still Being Felt


A fishing boat washed inland by the 2011 Tsunami next to a shrine inside the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone.

At 5.59am local time on November 22, Fukushima was hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami warning. For residents in the same region of Japan devastated by the major 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and its tsunami, the threat of a renewed disaster was very real.

The tsunami warning was lifted a few hours later, and the earthquake was later declared a long-term aftershock from the larger quake five years ago. But for people still coming to terms with that disaster and its aftermath, this new earthquake will severely test their resilience once again.

On March 11 2011, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake created a 15-metre tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima I) nuclear power station. Power was disabled to three reactors, which caused a serious nuclear accident as cooling systems failed. Large quantities of radiation were immediately released into the environment and approximately 100,000 people were evacuated.

The long-term social consequences of the original Fukushima Daiichi accident have been broad and far-reaching. Perception of risk, the likelihood of exposure to danger, has been at the heart of social controversy after the 2011 disaster. Radiation is invisible, and it is challenging to understand or percieve a threat that can only be detected by specialist scientific equipment. Often women and children are hit the hardest by this, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The concept of Fūhyōhigai, or the “harmful rumour”, was initially used by the media and local government to dismiss local women’s concerns about radiation exposure as weak and unscientific. However, this led to a cultural shift by women known as Fukushima’s “radiation brain moms”, who purchased monitoring equipment and took matters into their own hands, forming citizen radiation monitoring organisations (CRMOs).

By forming these groups of resistance, self-help and support, women rejected their culture’s social norms of obedience and subservience, that could have suppressed them from cultivating outrage over injustice and inequality. Participation in CRMOs has decreased over time, as the social memory of Fukushima Daiichi fades, but citizen science initiatives such as Safecast still provide useful information to many.

The recent earthquake temporarily halted the cooling system at the nearby Fukushima Daini (Fukushima II) reactor, and so there is likely to be a resurgence in monitoring, and a reunion of these support networks. Regardless of what happens now, there has already been a positive seismic shift in attitudes by both the government and scientists toward concerned mothers and community monitoring.

Living in ‘temporary’ permanence

Many impacts of the 2011 disaster have been hidden away in the private spaces of everyday life, with the tragedy putting enormous strain on family relations. Not only were thousands of families displaced from their homes, evacuation has meant the separation of family groups.


Two girls play on a swing next to a radiation monitor and their temporary housing in Minamisōma, Fukushima prefecture.

Where once three generations could live together in Fukushima’s close-knit rural villages, relocation to cramped prefabricated temporary housing has meant many are forced to live apart. Today, five years after the disaster, 174,000 people are still displaced in a state of “temporary” permanence. Disconnection from the familiarity of place and family, as well as the constant worry about radiation risk, even threatens marital relationships. “Atomic divorce” (Genpatsu rikon) is on the rise, with disagreements on radiation safety, or whether to relocate back to territory now deemed “decontaminated”. News of the recent earthquake will doubtless have jogged memories and resurfaced hidden tensions.

The Japanese government is gradually declaring sections of the 20km nuclear exclusion zone safe and habitable. Despite this, the desire to move back to previously contaminated land has been underwhelming. For example, four months after Naraha Town was declared safe in September last year, only 6% of former inhabitants decided to move home to one of Fukushima’s many atomic “ghost towns”.

In the town of Minamisōma, on the northern edge of the exclusion zone, thousands of mothers and children have refused to return, despite societal pressure not to “betray” their home communities.

Nuclear uncertainty

While Japan’s tsunami warning system worked well, there is still considerable uncertainty surrounding the consequences and likelihood of a further natural hazard causing a nuclear accident in Japan.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident had already permanently changed the Japanese nuclear landscape. The government has undergone a process of gradual nuclear decommissioning since October 2011, and Fukushima Daaichi and Dai-ni no longer produce energy. Yet, Japan is still heavily reliant on nuclear energy and since 2015 has restarted two of its nuclear reactors, with 24 other reactors in the process of restart approvals.

While social resilience to emergencies has improved since 2011 in Japan, the social aftershocks of Fukushima Daaichi are ongoing. Though many advances have been made that emancipate vulnerable populations and provide increased connectivity, it remains to be seen how much these new technologies and attitudes have improved social resilience and reduced the likelihood of anxiety within the community of Fukushima.


Fukushima: A Second Chernobyl?

By Arkadiusz Podniesiński

With an introduction by David McNeill

Waiting for the Future in Fukushima

As the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster approaches, the area around the hulking corpse of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant continues to exude a horrible fascination. Arkadiusz Podniesinski is one of thousands of photographers and journalists drawn there since the crisis began in March 2011. In 2015 his first photo report from the area attracted millions of views around the world.

Podniesinski brought to Japan his experience of chronicling the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl, which he first visited in 2008. It was, he noted, people, not technology that was responsible for both disasters. Japanese politicians, he adds, are offended by comparisons with Chernobyl. Still, rarely for a foreign report on Fukushima, his work was picked up by Japanese television (on the liberal channel TBS), suggesting there is a hunger for this comparative perspective.

Podniesinski’s first trip strengthened his belief in the “catastrophic consequences of nuclear disasters.” Apart from the suffering caused by the disruption of so many lives (160,000 people remain homeless or displaced), there is the struggle to return contaminated cities and towns to a state where people can live in them again. Billions of dollars have already been spent on this cleanup and much more is to come: The latest rehabilitation plan by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. puts the total bill for compensation alone at 7.08 trillion yen, or nearly $60 billion.

Thirty years after Chernobyl’s reactor exploded, Ukrainians have long come to terms with the tragedy that befell them, he writes. The dead and injured have been forgotten. A 2-billion-Euro sarcophagus covering the damaged reactor is nearly complete. The media returns to the story only on major anniversaries. What, he wonders, will become of Fukushima? Last year, Naraha became the first town in Fukushima Prefecture to completely lift an evacuation order imposed after the triple meltdown. But despite rebuilding much of the town’s infrastructure and spending millions of dollars to reduce radiation, the local authorities have persuaded only a small number of people to permanently return there.

Radiation is only part of the problem, of course. “The evacuees worry about the lack of schools, hospitals and shops,” says Podniesinski. “About the public infrastructure, which has not been sufficiently rebuilt. It must be adapted to the needs of older people, who, after the departure of so many young people from the zone, will now be the majority. However, the evacuees are most afraid of loneliness, as few of their family members, friends and neighbors have decided to return.”

The sense of life suspended, of waiting for the future to arrive, resonates in Tomioka, once home to nearly 16,000 people, now a ghost town. Podniesinski arrives just as its famous cheery blossoms bloom, but there is nobody to see them. The irony of fate, he writes, means that this Japanese symbol of new, nascent life blooms in contaminated and lifeless streets. “Will the city and its residents be reborn? Undoubtedly, the last word shall belong to them alone.” DM

Fukushima: A Second Chernobyl?

Exactly a year has passed since my first visit to Fukushima. A visit which strengthened my belief of how catastrophic the consequences of nuclear disasters can be. A visit that also highlighted how great the human and financial efforts to return contaminated and destroyed cities to a state suitable for re-habitation can be.

The report on the Fukushima zone through the eyes of a person who knows and regularly visits Chernobyl received a great deal of interest in the international community. Viewed several million times and soon picked up by traditional media around the world, it became for a moment the most important topic on Fukushima. I was most pleased, however, by the news that the coverage also reached Japan, where it not only caused quite a stir (more on that another time) but also made me realise just how miniscule Japanese knowledge about the current situation in Fukushima is.

As a result, over the last year I started to go to Fukushima more often than to Chernobyl. This is hardly surprising for another reason. 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl disaster, so the majority of Ukrainians have long since come to terms with the tragedy. The dead and injured have been forgotten. The same is true for media interest, which is only revived on the occasion of the round, 30th anniversary of the disaster. In addition, after nearly 10 years and 2 billion euros, work on the new sarcophagus is finally coming to an end, and soon a storage site for radioactive waste and a 227-ha radiological biosphere reserve will be established.

Will the decommissioning of the power plant in Fukushima also take 30 years and end with the construction of a sarcophagus? Will the contaminated and deserted towns located around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power plant be called ghost towns and resemble Chernobyl’s Pripyat? Finally, will Fukushima become a popular place for dark tourism like Chernobyl and be visited by thousands of tourists every year?

I Never Want to Return Alone

The Japanese, particularly politicians and officials, do not like and are even offended by comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl. It is, however, difficult not to do so when analogies are visible everywhere. While the fact that the direct causes of the disasters are different, the result is almost identical. A tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of evacuated residents, hundreds of thousands of hectares of land contaminated, and decades of time and billions of dollars devoted to eliminating the results of the disaster. And the first cases of thyroid cancer.

The situation in Fukushima resembles a fight against time or a test of strength. The government has devoted billions of dollars to decontaminating the area and restoring residents to their homes. They must hurry before the residents completely lose hope or the desire to return. Before the houses collapse or people are too old to return to. In addition, the authorities soon intend to stop the compensation paid to residents, which according to many of them will be an even more effective “encouragement” for them to return. Deprived of financial support, many residents will have no other choice but to return. Many young families are not waiting for any government assistance. They decided long ago to leave in search of a new life free of radioactive isotopes. They will surely never return.


Landfill bags with contaminated soil in Tomioka


Decontamination of personal possessions

But radiation is not the only problem that the authorities must worry about. The evacuated residents worry about the lack of schools, hospitals and shops. About the public infrastructure, which has not been sufficiently rebuilt. It must be adapted to the needs of older people, who, after the departure of so many young people from the zone, will now be the majority. However, the evacuees are most afraid of loneliness, as few of their family members, friends and neighbours have decided to return.


Deserted streets in the town of Okuma, closest to the destroyed power plant

Can the authorities manage to convince the residents to return? Has critical mass been exceeded, after which evacuees will learn from others and return? The authorities are doing everything they can to convince residents that the sites are safe for people. They open towns, roads and railway stations one after another. Unfortunately, despite this, residents still do not want to return. A recent survey confirms that there is a huge gap between the government’s current policies and the will of the affected residents. Only 17.8% want to return, 31.5% are unsure and 48% never intend to return.

It Became Chernobyl Here

During my first visit to Fukushima, I met Naoto Matsumura, who defied official bans and returned to the closed zone to take care of the animals abandoned there by farmers fleeing radiation. Matsumura has taken in hundreds of animals, saving them from inevitable death by starvation or at the hands of the merciless officials forcing farmers to agree to kill them. Thanks to his courage and sacrifice, Matsumura soon became known as the Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals.

Matsumura was not able to help all of the animals, however. According to the farmer, a third of them died of thirst, unable to break free of the metal beams in barns, wooden fences or ordinary kennels. Matsumura took me to one such place.


Naoto Matsumura on an abandoned farm


Not all appreciate Matsumura’s sacrifice and courage. Many people believe that helping these animals, which sooner or later would have ended up on a plate, is not worth the risk the farmer is exposing himself to. Matsumura always has the same answer for them – there is a fundamental difference between killing animals for food and killing animals who are no longer needed due to radiation.

Cow Terrorist

I also returned to Masami Yoshizawa, who like Naoto Matsumura decided to illegally return to the closed zone to take care of the abandoned animals. Shortly after the disaster, some of the farmer’s cows began to develop mysterious white spots on their skin. According to Yoshizawa, they are the result of radioactive contamination and the consumption of radioactive feed.

Yoshizawa’s farm is located 14 km from the destroyed power plant. From this distance, the buildings of the plant are not visible, but its chimneys can be seen. And, as Yoshizawa says – one could also see [and hear] explosions in the power plant as well as radioactive clouds that soon pass over his farm. Consequently, nearly half of the nearly 20,000 inhabitants of the town of Namie were evacuated to Tsushima, located high in the nearby mountains. But soon people began to flee from there when it turned out that the wind blowing in that direction contaminated the area even more. As a result of the radioactive contamination in Fukushima, a new generation known as the hibakusha has arisen. Up to now, this name was only given to people who were victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now this concept has also been applied to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As Yoshizawa says – of the 120 surveyed hibakusha, he ranks third in Namie in terms of the amount of radiation doses received.

Defying the completely ignorant authorities, Yoshizawa quickly became a professional activist and his cows got a new mission – they became protestors. And, soon after, he brought one of them in front of the Ministry of Agriculture’s building, demanding that research be undertaken to explain why white spots have appeared on the animals’ skins after the disaster. Yoshizawa says, “I protested [by] bringing a bit of Fukushima to Tokyo. May the cows and I become living proof of the disaster, and the farm a chronicle telling the story of the Fukushima disaster.”

When protesting against the construction and re-starting of subsequent nuclear power plants, Yoshizawa does not bring his cows along anymore. Instead, he has a car festooned with banners that pulls behind it a small trailer with a metal model of a cow. “I have a strong voice and can scream louder than die-hard right wingers!” explains Yoshizawa. “I’m a cowboy, a cow terrorist, a kamikaze!” he adds in a loud voice, presenting an example of his capabilities. “We are not advocating violence, we don’t kill people, we are not aggressive. We are political terrorists,” he concludes calmly. And after a moment, he invites us to a real protest. The occasion of the planned opening of the railway station is to be attended by Prime Minister Sinzo Abe himself.


Yoshizawa on his Farm of Hope. The slogans on the auto read “Solidarity and ready to die” and “TEPCO, government: we demand compensation for our injustices!”

The protest goes peacefully indeed. Yoshizawa first drives round the city to which the Prime Minister is soon to arrive. Driving his car, he shouts into the microphone, “When a fire broke out in the reactors, TEPCO employees fled. The fire was extinguished by the young men of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces. Why were you not able to control the power plant you built?” He continued immediately, “Today the Prime Minister is coming here. Let’s get up and greet Abe. Let’s show Abe not only the beautifully prepared railway station, let him also see the dark side of the city. For 40 years, we supplied electricity to Tokyo. Our region only could support Japan’s economic development. And now we suffer. Tales about the safety of nuclear power plants are a thing of the past,” Yoshizawa concludes. When the moment of the Prime Minister’s arrival approaches and the crowds grow larger, policemen and the Prime Minister’s security detail approach the farmer. They order him to take down his banners and leave the site. Yoshizawa obeys, but carries out their commands without haste. As if deliberately trying to prolong their presence, hoping to have time to meet and “greet” the Prime Minister.


Yoshizawa talks with the police


Yoshizawa leaves the square under police escort, which wants to make sure that the farmer will leave the city


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaving the railway station


No-go Zones

As always, a major part of my trip to Fukushima is devoted to visits to no-go zones. Obtaining permission to enter and photograph the interior is still difficult and very time-consuming. However, it is nothing compared to the search for owners of the abandoned properties, persuade them to come, show their houses and discuss the tragic past.

Sometimes, however, it’s different. Such as in the case of Tatsuo and Kazue Kogure, who with the help of Japanese television agreed to take me to Tomioka, where they ran a small but popular bar. It was not only a place to eat and drink sake, but also to sing karaoke with the bar’s owners.

Unfortunately the city, and with it the bar, stood in the way of the radioactive cloud and had to be closed. Earlier, I saw many similar bars and restaurants. Overgrown, smelly, full of mould, debris and scattered items. This place, however, is different. It is distinguished by its owners, who despite age and the tragedy they experienced, did not give up and opened a new bar outside the radioactive zone. Mr and Mrs Kogure not only showed me the abandoned bar, but also invited me to their new one.


Kazue Kogure inside their abandoned bar in Tomioka


Tatsuo and Kazue Kogure in their new bar in Iwaki

What is unusual and extremely gratifying is the fact that the couple’s efforts to continue the family business are also supported by regular customers from the previous bar. “It’s thanks to their help that we could start all over again,” Kazue Kogure acknowledges. She immediately adds, “By opening the bar again we also wanted to be an example to other evacuated residents. To show that it’s possible.”

The Scale of the Disaster Shocked Us

I also visit the former fire station located in the closed zone in Tomioka. Due to the nuclear power plant neighbouring the city, the firefighters working here were regularly trained in case of a variety of emergencies. I am accompanied by Naoto Suzuki, a firefighter who served here before the disaster. In the middle of the firehouse, my attention is drawn to a large blackboard. “That’s the task scheduler for March 2011,” the firefighter explains. “On 11 March, the day of the disaster, we had nothing planned, but,” he adds with an ironic smile, “the day before we had a training session on responding to radioactive contamination. We practised how to save irradiated people and how to use dosimeters and conduct decontamination.”

Unfortunately, the reality shocked even the firefighters, who had to cope with tasks they had never practised. For example, with cooling the reactors. Even the repeatedly practised evacuation procedures for the residents were often ineffective and resulted in the opposite of the desired effect. It turned out that the data from SPEEDI (System for Predicting Environmental Emergency Dose Information), whose tasks included forecasting the spread of radioactive substances, was useless and did not reach the local authorities. As a result, many residents were evacuated for more contaminated sites and unnecessarily endangered by the additional dose of radiation.

The monthly work schedule at the fire station in Tomioka (no-go zone). Firefighter Naoto Suzuki shows the training session on how to help people exposed to radiation planned for the day before the disaster. A committee meeting to provide information in the event of a fire in the nuclear reactors was planned for 14 March.


Firefighters’ dispatch. Local firefighting tasks in Tomioka were managed from here.


In the spring of this year, thanks to the help and support of many people, particularly the local authorities, evacuated residents and even a monk, I was also able to see many interesting places mostly located in the closed zones in Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie. Although five years have passed since the disaster, most of them still remain closed and many valuable objects can still be found there. Due to this, I have decided not to publish information that could aid in locating them.


Overturned shelves of rental video shop




Izakaya Bar




Swimming pool complex


Main pool


Children’s bikes in the courtyard of the kindergarten




SEGA arcade





Clothing factory




Pachinko arcade


Kindergarten. The dosimeter reading here is 9.3 uSv/h.


Children’s school bags




School library


Nighttime police patrol


Ending my series of travels around Fukushima, I return to Tomioka to see the thing for which the city is most famous and its residents most proud – one of the longest and oldest cherry blossom tunnels in Japan. For the residents of Tomioka, cherry trees have always been something more than just a well-known tourist attraction or the historic symbol of the town. Not only did they admire the aesthetic attributes of the flowers, but they were also part of their lives, organised festivals, meetings and the topic of family conversations.

The natural beauty and powerful symbolism as well as their constant presence in Japanese arts have made cherry trees become an icon of Japanese cultural identity. They signal the arrival of spring, the time for renewal and the emergence of new life. In the spiritual sense, they remind us of how beautiful, yet tragically short and fragile, life is – just like the blooming cherry blossoms that fall from the tree after just a few days.


Entrance gate to the closed zone in Tomioka

The nuclear irony of fate meant that this Japanese symbol of new, nascent life today blooms in the contaminated and lifeless streets of Tomioka. Will the city and its residents be reborn, along with the cherry trees blossoming in solitude and silence? Undoubtedly, the last word shall belong to them alone.


Main street with flowering cherry trees


Fukushima Disaster’s Victims

I decided to translate this particular article because this article for a change talks about the Fukushima disaster victims and in details how their everyday lives have been affected.
In most of the Fukushima related articles from websites and mainstream media, the writers usually focus on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its technical failures, about its continuous leaking into the Pacific ocean etc. but somehow they almost always forget to talk about the plight of the victims, the victims who are at the forefront of this tragedy.

August 12, 2016

Article written by Evelyne Genoulaz, from a lecture given by Kurumi Sugita,

translated by Dun Renard.

Source : Fukushima Blog de Pierre Fetet http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/08/fukushima-les-vies-sinistrees.html

March 11, 2016, Kurumi Sugita, social anthropologist researcher and founding president of the association “Our Far Neighbors 3.11”, gave a lecture entitled “Fukushima disaster’s lives” in the Nature and Environment House (MNEI) in Grenoble, Isere, an inaugural lecture for the commemoration of the “Chernobyl, Fukushima disasters”.

The speaker outlined the concrete and current situation of the victims of the Fukushima disaster, particularly on health issues. Attached to Japan, committed, Kurumi monitored the situation of 60 affected people, for several years, visiting each once a year to collect field data for her associative actions. It is the project “DILEM”, “Displaced and Undecided Left to Themselves”, from the nuclear accident in Japan – the life course and geographical trajectory of the victims outside of the official evacuation zone.

I offer a written return of this conference, courtesy of Kurumi who also was kind enough to add data to date on her return from Japan in June 2016.
Evelyne Genoulaz


I. The contaminated territories

After the disaster the authorities declared a state of emergency and to this day Japan is still “under that declaration of a nuclear emergency state (genshiryoku kinkyu Jitai sengen).” But over time, the zoning of the contaminated territories has been increasingly reduced by the authorities, as shows the chronological overview on these maps (METI).








II The return policy

Starting this month of March 2016, in fact, many areas were “open”. The return to TOMIOKA is programmed by authorities after April 2017; OKUMA partially in 2018. Only FUTABA is labeled “no projection”. Do note that zoning maps were delineated at the beginning of the disaster zoning by concentric circles, while the radioactivity is deposited in “leopard spots” and today, programmed to be returned to areas are gradually getting geographically closer to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant even though these areas are dangerous!

The government is preparing to lift the evacuation order at 20 mSv / year, and areas from 20 to 50 mSv / year will enter the opening schedule after spring 2017 establishing strategic points for reconstruction ( fukkô Kyoten).

To speak only of Iitate, which was the most beautiful village in Japan, its mayor is in favor of return, but today the situation there is poignant: it was decontaminated up to 20 meters of the houses, but as it is surrounded by mountains and forests, the radioactivity will remain dangerous …

Measures delegated to individuals

The control measurement of environmental radioactivity will now be based on the individual rather than on space. Thus, everyone is invited to measure himself or herself, to measure what is consumed, so that if the individual is contaminated it will only be blamed upon his or her own negligence!

The absurd and arbitrary at work in the calculation of dose rates

Official figures on the geographical contamination, dose rates displayed, are using a biased calculation.

Usually to measure in the field a dose rate, we get a figure in mSv / h then multiply it by 24 (hours) x 365 (days) to obtain the annual rate. But this is not the calculation undertaken by the authorities.

The authorities makes first a difference between the level of contamination on one hand inside the housing, and on the other hand on the outside. They decided to consider that an individual spends only 8 hours outside. It is also estimated (official rules) that “the radiation inside a building is reduced to 40% of the radiation reading outside.”

Yet, in Minamisoma for example, studies have shown that the contamination inside was at best 10% lower than the outside, sometimes even worse inside!

That is to say that the authorities uses a biased calculation that ultimately determines if we take an example, a dose rate of 20 mSv / year whereas the actually measured dose rate is 33 mSv / year!

Residents who did not evacuate are distressed because they now know fear, for example those of Naraha who no longer recognize their city because it has changed since the disaster: vandalism, insecurity soon as night falls, since it is now black in the streets, some girls were abused …

Furthermore, Naraha is a coastal town with a seaside road and all night – especially at night – they hear the noise of the incessant and disturbing road traffic of the trucks loaded with radioactive waste, without knowing precisely what is carried …

What motivates the return policy? According to Kurumi Sugita, in view of the Olympic Games coming to Japan in 2020, the government pursues a staistics dependent objective: it comes to lowering the numbers! If the evacuees or the self-evacuees leave the “assisted housing”, they are no longer counted as “evacuees”….

III. Works and Waste

The whole territory of Fukushima Prefecture today is littered with waste bags. Everywhere, at the turn of any road you’ll encounters mountains of waste bags, sometimes piled up so high! It is a sorry sight for the residents. And space lacks where to store them, so much that the authorities have even created dumps that they call “temporary intermediary storage areas! “


A “temporary intermediary storage area” in Iitate

A row of uncontaminated sandbags is added around the perimeter of the “square” of the most contaminated bags, so as to reduce the number of the dose rate!

As of March 2016, there were no less than 10 million bags and 128,000 temporary dumpsites in Fukushima Prefecture. Waste bags are omnipresent, despite the residents’ distress; near schools, and even in people’s gardens.


Contaminated waste bags at someone’s house

Short of sufficient storage space, the authorities are forcing residents to an intolerable alternative: if the resident does not want to store the waste on his property, it is his right. But in this case it will not be decontaminated! The resident requesting “decontamination intervention” must keep the waste on his property! This is why we see here and there, everywhere in fact, bags near buildings or in private homes.

Waste incineration

According to the “Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law” (Genshiro tô kiseihô), the recycling threshold of “nuclear waste” is 100 Bq / kg. However, on June 30, 2016, the Ministry of Environment has officially decided to “reuse” waste below 8000 Bq / kg (1).

In practical terms, this waste will be used in public works, covered by cement and land in order to lower the ambient radioactivity.

In order to “reduce the volume” of waste, “temporary incinerators” were built to incinerate nuclear waste and to “vaporize” cesium.


Map of Fukushima prefecture showing the nuclear waste processing establishments locations (shizai-ka center) – Legend: the icons differentiate the various incinerators; red = in operation – blue = under construction – gray / yellow = planned – gray = operation completed

Everywhere on village outskirts there are incinerators of which people know nothing! They often operate at night for two to three months and then everything stops. People wonder what is being burned… Not to mention a rumor about a secret experimentation center where much more contaminated waste would be burned…

Even more frightening, waste processing plants …


At the “Environmental Design Centre”, a poster about the revolving furnace” which decontaminates waste, debris, soil, etc, transforming them into cement”.

For example, the Warabidaira waste processing plant located in the village of Iitate or the Environment Creation Center (Kankyô Sôzô Center) opened in July 2016 in the town of Miharu, treat contaminated waste (ashes above 100 000 Bq/kg) and contaminated soil coming from land decontamination work.

Now these last two categories are not covered by the Waste Management Law (1) so they have no constraints associated with their treatment… To reduce their volume and to make them … “recyclable”!

In addition, these establishments are registered as “research institutes” and, as such, they are exempt from the building permit application commonly mandated in the framework of the waste management law!

We see inconsistencies and even contradictions between laws. We have already seen the contradiction between the limit of 100 Bq / kg set by the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and the 8000 Bq / kg recently adopted by the Ministry of Environment.

IV. Residents, displaced and returned

Citizen radiation measuring. Mothers, and also dads, explore the everyday environment to identify hot spots so as to modify if necessary the route recommended for children, for example “the way to school” (as in Japan all children walk single file).

For that purpose associations use “hot spot finders”. Well aware of the health risk to which children are exposed, they attach sensors connected to GPS on their strollers to walk routes and the way to school or to explore parks.

That system is well thought out: it is a vertical rod 1 meter long that leaves the ground and consists of a measuring device at 10 cm from the ground, another one at 50 cm, and a third at 1 meter to take into account the different sizes of children. If a hot spot is located, others are warned of its location and the children are required to change their route, and authorities are asked to decontaminate. For parents, this work is endless …


Hot spot finders

People organize citizen actions thru Internet. These independent citizen online databases are many,

and one of them is even translated into English since November 2014. It is the “Minna no Data”: ambient radioactivity measures, soil measurements, food analyzes (2).


Some associations’ logos:





V. Protest actions

The trial against the three former TEPCO executives which began in spring 2016 is the first criminal trial to take place; it could last ten years …

However, in Fukushima Prefecture, there are many other trials at different levels also taking place. For example, in March 2016, a lawsuit was initiated by 200 parents brought against the Fukushima Prefecture, to “get children out of contaminated areas.” People protest to have the “thresholds” lowered. In their opinion the issue of “thresholds” go beyond the strict framework of Japan. They fear that the thresholds of Japan will end up being generalized overseas, which is highlighted in some of the maps captions eg “against the generalization and the externalization of the 20 mSv / year threshold”. Some victims require, as after Hiroshima, “an irradiation book” (personal records) to be used for their access to treatment.

Radiation free health holiday

To send children on a health holiday is now more and more difficult, because people tend to believe that the disaster is already over therefore requests for help have become complicated.

In the city of Fukushima, for example, referring to the nuclear disaster is now taboo …

VI. Social and family catastrophe

It causes “conflicts” among neighbors (one example, one person’s place is decontaminated while its adjoining neighbor’s place is not), between beneficiaries and others, between the displaced and the residents of the hosting location (there are misunderstandings on the issue of compensations; the self-evacuated are not receiving any compensation, but the hosting city locals think they are).

So that today many prefer to return their evacuated Fukushima resident card and acquire the resident card of their hosting town (in Japon you are résident of the village from which you keep the residence card) so as to “turn the page” because they can no longer bear to be called “evacuees”. They want to integrate into the community where they moved. Only older people remain unswervingly committed to their original residence; it is mostly the elderly who intend to return.

In many families of the Fukushima Prefecture men stayed by necessity to keep their jobs to provide for their families, while mothers with children evacuated to put them out of danger; but as time has passed, more than five years already, many families have disintegrated… The father visiting the family rarely, often for lack of resources, the marriage falling apart, resulting in many divorces and suicides.

Women are showing remarkable energy, they are on all fronts, openly, and even heavily involved in actions and trials, so that even the articles of the so-called “feminine” press today are often dealing with topics related to the nuclear disaster. Young women in particular are very active in the protests and rallies. This is a significant change in Japanese society.

 (1) Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law, Haikibutsu no shori oyobi seisô ni kansuru hôritsu, law N°137 from 1970, last amendment in 2001 https://www.env.go.jp/en/laws/recycle/01.pdf

Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law (Genshiro tô kiseihô).

“Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors” (kakugenryô busshitsu,kakunenryô busshitsu oyobi genshiro no kisei ni kansuru hôritsu)

law N°166 from 1957(2) –

English translation of Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.


(2) – Minna no Data Site (MDS)http://en.minnanods.net/


After his lecture, I asked a simple question to Kurumi Sugita:

Why has she founded the association « Nos Voisins Lointains 3.11 » (“Our Distant Neighbors 3.11”)? …

In France, where lives Kurumi, several Japanese associations exchange about the disaster.

But Kurumi Sugita founded on January 8, 2013 in Lyon, the association « Nos voisins lointains 3-11 » also to inform the French and francophones who do not read Japanese.

The website of the association publishes valuable and moving testimonies, translated into French.

Thanks to donations, the association helps concretely, as much as possible, some affected families in Japan.

To know more

The website of Kurumi Sugita’s association:


You may find the victims testimonies on her Facebook page:


And general informations on the Fukushima nuclear disaster: