The Lessons of the Ongoing Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: International Symposium on March 6, 2022
Today marks 11 years since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and the subsequent disaster at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The disaster is not yet under control, and the impacts are severe.
Many people were deprived of their homes, and over 30,000 people are still displaced today. Decommissioning work at the nuclear plant is facing many challenges, and the plans to remove the melted debris are not yet made. Discharging the ever-growing amount of treated contaminated water into the ocean is a matter of great debate. At the same time, there are now noticeable moves to position nuclear power as a measure against climate change. Meanwhile, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has finally entered into force and the first Meeting of States Parties will be held in 2022.
What have we learned from the disaster? What messages should we convey, and what kind of society should we strive to build?
Peace Boat and international environmental NGO FoE Japan held a symposium on Sunday March 6 to consider these issues, together with people from Fukushima, other parts of Japan and around the world.
Opening the event, Fukushima resident Muto Ruiko presented in her keynote speech seven main challenges ongoing today: the situation on site at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant; evacuees and lifting of evacuation orders; the intentional spread of radioactive materials including the release of contaminated water into the ocean; health impacts including the recently filed 3.11 Children’s Thyroid Cancer Lawsuit; the imposed sense of “reconstruction” and information manipulation through public relations; ongoing legal actions to seek criminal responsibility of TEPCO for the disaster; and the links between the risks of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
Following Ms Muto’s powerful presentation was a series of remarks from a wide range of citizens, including those who have evacuated from Fukushima to other parts of Japan, a mother living in Fukushima today, a former worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and representatives of People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) in Wales, BUND/FoE Germany and MISA 4 the Pacific. This relay talk session emphasised the broad and deep impacts of the nuclear disaster still continuing today, and the many challenges and frustrations of those affected by the disaster.
At the same time, many citizen-initiatives from local community levels to across international borders were also introduced, providing new hopes and opportunities to connect in solidarity and joint action. “In Japan, we will not give up in the future on making the government implement measures to ensure that no one is left behind, whether living in the affected areas or in evacuation centres, and that they can live without fear of housing or health. We will pass on our experiences across borders and generations” said Oga Ayako, who evacuated from Okuma Town in Fukushima.
The second part of the event featured a panel discussion with Kawasaki Akira of Peace Boat/ICAN, Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation/ICAN Australia, Okuno Kako of Fridays for Future Hiroshima/Japan and Chen Shi-Ting of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance in Taipei. This discussion highlighted the interconnectedness of challenges facing our world today, including also the climate crisis, and also nuclear weapons in the face of the heightened nuclear threat following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fallacies of nuclear energy being used as a climate measure, and of nuclear weapons providing security, were clearly demonstrated in the speakers’ presentations.
Dave Sweeney shared a powerful quote by Yvonne Margarula, Mirrar senior traditional owner from Kakadu in Australia, that “none of the promises last, but the problems always do.” At the same time, the power of citizens to make a change in policy and public opinion also came to the fore. As Ms Muto reminded the audience, “the crisis facing the planet today is growing by the day. Yet there are still moments when I think the Earth is so beautiful. I think each and every one of us must think carefully with our own minds about what should be valued most now.”
View the archive of the event here:
Also available in Japanese language here (Youtube).
For regular updates on Fukushima, including data, video testimony in various languages and more, please visit FoE Japan’s site Fukushima Mieruka here.
This event was kindly supported by the Ohdake Foundation and Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung.