Statements Archive
Mar 11, 2014 - Three Years On: The Power of Civil Society to Rebuild Lives and Create a Nuclear Free Society
Three years have now passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Over 18,000 lost their lives in the massive earthquake and tsunami, including those still registered as missing persons. Once again, we would like to offer our prayers to the departed and send our condolences to the family members and those affected who remain behind.

Since 3.11, Peace Boat has been working on civil society disaster relief activities. Amid activities connecting survivors with many volunteers both from Japan and abroad who contributed over 80,000 working days, we have keenly felt that it is these connections among citizens that are the driving force to overcome all sorts of difficulties. Furthermore, the great amount of aid received from all over the world, including from our neighbours in Asia, has taught us just how important such connections that transcend national borders, are.

Due to the triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant, more than 260,000 people are now forced to live in evacuation. Among them are over 130,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture who suffered as a result of the nuclear disaster. The number of disaster-related deaths due to suicide or health problems caused by the stress and hardship of living in evacuation has risen to 3000, with more than half of these being people from Fukushima. The Government's support for survivors is insufficient and lacking in consistency, thereby preventing people from being able to rebuild their lives.

Central and local governments have launched various reconstruction projects, however ensuring that survivors' livelihoods can be rebuilt sustainably is more important than the budgets or scale of these projects. Aside from sufficient compensation, which is a must, there must also be guarantees for employment, educational opportunities, family and community life, psychological care, along with fundamental human rights and dignity. Those affected by the disaster must also have full and central participation in the decision-making process related to reconstruction projects.

The Nuclear Disaster Victims' Support Act which was passed by cross-party lawmakers in June 2012 aimed to protect equal rights and ensure that all those affected can avoid further exposure to radiation regardless of whether they opt to evacuate, remain in the affected areas, or return at a later stage. However, the principles expressed in the Act have been distorted, and can only be applied in a limited way. Even looking at the results of tests carried out on the thyroids of children in Fukushima, the effect of radiation exposure remains unclear, and further testing, diagnosis and follow-up is necessary, not only in Fukushima but also in surrounding prefectures.

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains serious. TEPCO and the Japanese Government have still not been able to come up with an effective way to deal with the contaminated water. There are also problems relating to the health management regime for plant workers, who carry out their jobs while being exposed to high levels of radiation. It is no longer feasible to entrust TEPCO with stabilizing and decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The Japanese Government must take the lead, mobilizing expertise from all over the world to bring the disaster to a close, while at the same time making information fully available both in Japan and abroad.

Amid this plethora of issues which need to be dealt with, the Government of Japan is not only failing to fulfill its responsibilities, but is in fact pushing for a return to nuclear power. Since the disaster at Fukushima, many countries around the world including Germany have decided to abandon the use of nuclear energy. Under the weight of overwhelming public opinion, a new strategy to achieve 'zero nuclear power' was decided in September 2012. However, the Abe administration overturned this and is now attempting to obtain cabinet approval for a basic plan which designates nuclear energy as an "an important base-load power source" and aims to restart the nuclear power plants. Not only this, but the Japanese Government is also desperately pushing sales to export nuclear power plants to other counties. We cannot accept such moves.

As can be seen in the determination of local government leaders and the civic movement that has spread across the country, creating a nuclear power-free society is the wish of the people of Japan, who have experienced this grave disaster. Today, there are no operating nuclear power plants in Japan, and yet the economy and society are still functioning. Now more than ever, we must break out of the economic development model dependent on the centralized system that is symbolized by nuclear energy, and shift to building a new recycling-oriented society rooted in local communities and centred around renewable energy. Leading researchers, entrepreneurs and civil society activists from around the world have demonstrated the power of renewable energy.

In collaboration with Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those affected by nuclear testing in the Pacific including at Bikini Atoll 60 years ago and in Tahiti, and indigenous communities who have suffered due to uranium mining, Peace Boat has called for 'A Nuclear-Free World'. The fact that the Japanese Government is still trying to continue its nuclear fuel cycle policy represents an insidious challenge to these efforts taking place on a global scale. We urge for the withdrawal of this plan.

The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is scheduled to take place in the city of Sendai in March 2015. We plan to use this opportunity to tell the world about the lessons of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Today, March 11, there will be memorial services for victims of the disaster and actions calling for an end to the use of nuclear energy taking place in various countries all over the globe. Joining hands with concerned and active citizens around the world, we pledge to strive forward and use the power of civil society to together create a new future.

March 11, 2014
Peace Boat

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