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One year after Fukushima -- Japanese people appeal: 'Take action for a nuclear-free world!'
Appeals from Japan
By the All Japan 3.11 Action Committee
March 11, 2012 -- Soon it will be one year since the 3.11 [March 11, 2011] TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor accident. Many people were forced to evacuate and still continue to live under hardship without sufficient compensation. Despite the fact that an increasing number of people (as high as 70%) in Japan now wish to put an end to nuclear power, the Japanese government is obsessively promoting nuclear power even after the Fukushima accident.
An unrealistic declaration made by Prime Minister Noda that the nuclear reactors had reached a state of cold shutdown and that this element of the power station accident had thus been brought to a conclusion; an inhuman policy which exposes children in Fukushima to the high level of 20mSV as a level for evacuation; the hiding of proceedings of initial government emergency meetings on handling the nuclear power accident; the ratification of the export of nuclear reactors through a majority vote by parliament members; and a strong push to restart nuclear power without any provision of appropriate safety measures ... Such policies are possible because “The Nuclear Village” is still holding power over nuclear policy in Japan, even after 3.11. What is at stake today is democracy in Japan.
While the government is unable to make a decision to put an end to nuclear power, the shock of the 3.11 accident has definitely changed the the minds of the Japanese people about nuclear power. At the moment, only two out of 54 nuclear power reactors are operating. If we manage to stop the restart of these reactors, all the nuclear reactors will be stopped in Japan by the beginning of May. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity, which is made possible by the immense damage suffered by people in Fukushima due to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
If we manage to realise zero nuclear power in Japan now, it will certainly speed up the process of putting an end to nuclear power not only in Japan but also the world.
Those who have been promoting nuclear power, such as electricity companies, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), are stepping up their pressure to restart Oi Unit 3 and 4 in Fukui prefecture. They intend to restart Oi Unit 3 an 4 as early as April. They are using a stress test which is a mere computer simulation exercise as a method to check the safety level of nuclear reactors. Such a process is supported by the experts, who have received donations from nuclear industries. It is also supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is a nuclear power-promoting UN agency. Old standards on earthquake resistance and safety measures have been invalidated. To us, in absence of a thorough investigation of the causes of Fukushima Daiichi accident, a restart of any nuclear reactor is simply out of the question.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima. Human life cannot co-exist with nuclear power. The best way to prevent more nuclear disasters is to finally put an end to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. 3.11, a year after the Fukushima accident, is an opportunity for all of us – the citizens of the world to demonstrate our will to put an end to nuclear power.
On 3.11, a mass meeting will be held in Fukushima, and meetings and demonstrations will be held all over in Japan, including a human chain to surround the Diet [parliament] building. With our combined efforts, let’s force the Japanese government to not only take the political decision to not restart, but to immediately abolish nuclear power. Let’s move all of our governments to put an end to nuclear power. We appeal to all citizens in the world to come out on the streets, make a human chain and participate in this creative action. With one voice: “Let’s support Fukushima! ” and “Goodbye to nukes!".
'From Fukushima, we change the world'
By Sachiko Sato, Fukushima, translated by Kaori Izumi
[This appeal was prepared for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference, New York, February 24-March 9, 2012.]
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident affected the lives of 2 million people in Fukushima prefecture, including myself. It was not our own choice. Even a year later we are still agonised as we are not able to accept what happened to us on March 11, 2011.
The same goes for my children who were evacuated to Yamagata prefecture. My eldest daughter had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary when the earthquake hit. When her husband refused to evacuate from Fukushima, she told him that she would not bear children if she were to stay in Fukushima with him. Her husband came around to her point of view, and the two moved to Yamagata. But their moving had negative effects on their relationship with my daughter's in-laws, with whom they had just started living together.
My 14-year-old daughter has been refusing to go to a new school in Yamagata as a protest against having been separated from her best friends back in Fukushima. At her primary school she had had no other girls in her class, and then she finally had for the first time girl schoolmates in her junior high school in Fukushima. Today, she still stays at home.
My third son, who is now 18, used to help on our family farm and worked at the social-care facility that I run. But as we were no longer able to grow vegetables on contaminated soil and it became illegal for me to hire minors to work at the “radiation controlled area”, I had no choice but to fire him. He has some learning difficulties which complicates his situation. It is difficult for him to find a job in other places. He is still unemployed today.
At my workplace, we suggested that young staff members and those with small children evacuate. As a result three families have left. Among the remaining staff members there are still some who cannot accept the change, which is still affecting our relationship at the workplace. Those who left and remained were not only colleagues but personally very close friends.
I had to give up my organic farming to which I had devoted 30 years of my life. I began building up this social-care facility on my own in the prospect of a happy retirement plan, but it is uncertain today how long I will be able to keep it going. Most of our good friends who used to farm in our neighborhood are all gone, dispersed across the country. We helped each other, lived modestly and thriftily, but this happy life was taken away from us by nuclear power, which had merely produced electricity. We lost everything because of nuclear power.
Our government and TEPCO repeatedly lied to us by spreading “a nuclear safety myth” and today they refuse to admit that they were at fault in this respect. Furthermore, they are now even trying to spread a new myth, which is “a radiation safety myth”, arguing that radioactive substances are actually safe now, which, however before 3.11, were considered to be so dangerous that it had to be sealed with five-layer walls to protect the environment from any leakage.
Now that they have abandoned the children in Fukushima without protecting them from radiation exposure, and have ignored immense suffering of people in Fukushima, what is our government intending to protect at the cost of our lives? When their economic priorities are this important, it is hard to believe that they have any consideration of human beings at all.
Furthermore, not yet satisfied with their domestic nuclear program, our government is planning to sell nuclear reactors abroad. Are they even going to sacrifice the children of the world? This makes me more and more angry.
The United States introduced nuclear power to Japan under a veil of “Atoms for Peace” while covering up the tragedy of the two atomic bombings. Japan is doing exactly the same to other nations as the US had done, announcing “Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is over, damages from radiation were small enough and decontaminating the land will make everything fine." Poor farming communities in Vietnam and Jordan will not be informed about nuclear power, but will believe that nuclear energy will create more jobs, and they will accept it for a handful people who want to establish a business out of nuclear power. And they will definitely follow the same path as we did in Japan, without knowing any truth about nuclear power.
Who is driving our country to the state where such nonsense prevails?
Who is this country for? Is it only human beings who live on the Earth?
Human beings cannot exist without nature. One per cent of the rich set up nuclear power all over in the world and damage the nature to this extent. Do the other 99 per cent of the people and all other creatures in nature have to bear the damages for the sake of the 1 per cent? No, it is not the case. Nature acts equally upon everyone. And if so, even the 1 per cent will also have to bear the damage caused by nature.
I ask you to please recognise as soon as possible that monetary value is not the most important. That there is something else you and I need to cherish at the moment. That the Earth does not exist only for human beings who are living today.
If we had a time machine, it would be in your imagination. How did theE arth look like a hundred years ago, 10,000 years ago, 100,000 years ago? What were human beings doing in those times? What do you want to leave to the children of a hundred years later, 10,000 years later, and 100,000 years later? Please think with such a time scale. Is it justified to take away invaluable lives just because of the greed of the people who are present today? We were born and are living at this moment because of many lives that had overcome many difficulties and because many lives were tied together. We should not forget to appreciate this fact. Each life is invaluable with its own meaning to exist. There is no single life which can be taken away unnecessarily.
Even after the experiences of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, we failed to stop nuclear power. We should face this history with resentment. All of the activists who were engaged in anti-nuclear movement saw the Fukushima Daiichi accident in regret: “Why were we not able to stop the nuclear power after Chernobyl?” Atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki regretted that their wish to be “the last victims of radiation exposure” had not been realised. Through learning this resentment, the people in Fukushima turned themselves into messengers to reach out to the world and say that the immense sufferings which Fukushima had to experience should never again be experienced by anybody else.
As the word Fukushima says, we used to have many “Fuku" (福: happiness in Japanese) in Fukushima; clean water, air, soil and food harvested here. We cannot allow nuclear power to keep operating after it has taken away all of these happiness from us.
I believe that this message will be passed onto the rest of the world. And if and only if all nuclear power plants on the planet are stopped, then for the first time Fukushima will be able to settle our anguish, grief and anger. Until that moment comes, we are determined to keep Fukushima from being forgotten. We are going to keep Fukushima alive.
On March 11, 2012, we shall commemorate first anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. I appeal to the world to remember Fukushima and to put an end to nuclear power.
Civil society rising
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists -- Tens of thousands filled the square as the echoes of the speaker at the podium boomed through huge speakers. Some came in anger, others in grief, but all agreed: It was time for a change. Many carried banners, others carried drums; some had taken their children out of school to attend. No, this wasn't Tahrir Square; it was Tokyo, Japan, on a chilly Monday last autumn.
Ever since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japanese civil society has become less, well, polite. The compounded disaster has energized segments of Japanese civil society -- long seen by observers as more advanced than their counterparts in other developed nations -- to be more proactive, innovative, vocal, and even contentious about everything from personal safety to nuclear power. These changes in civil society can be seen in four main areas: mass protests, local and national referenda and petitions, renaissance of citizen science, and public uproar instead of rituals of assent.
Protests. Until recently, Japan's large-scale protests were mostly in the past; activists speak nostalgically of the huge rallies against the US-Japan Security Treaty in the 1960s. And back in the mid-1990s, large numbers of residents marched in protest of the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl at the hands of US marines. But over the last year, civil dissent has become a routine feature of Japanese society. Mass, modern-day, anti-nuclear protests have been held countrywide, including large-scale rallies, such as the two-day Nuclear Free World conference that was held in Yokohama in mid-January, which drew more than 12,000 participants, and the semi-regular Tokyo rallies, which draw upward of 40,000 participants, with organizers calling for continued direct action. Protests have also included smaller-scale events, such as the activists who, in the fall of 2011, set up and occupied tents on the properties of the civil servants who regulate and promote nuclear power in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district; they have remained ever since despite threats of eviction. Anti-nuclear groups -- including the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Green Action, Nuclear Power Sayonara Network, and the National Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation -- meanwhile are working to mobilize citizens against nuclear power through formal and informal civic engagement.
Referenda and petitions. More than five million citizens have signed a new petition against nuclear power in Japan, asking the government to shut down all atomic plants permanently. An Osaka-based group has filed for a referendum on nuclear power after collecting the requisite signatures -- more than 2 percent of voters in the city. Along with the Osaka citizens' group, other groups and organizations in Tokyo and in Shizuoka are seeking the approval of local assemblies to hold nuclear referenda. Citizens' referenda have no binding legal power in Japan, but past referenda on nuclear power have still had a lasting effect. In Maki village in the mid-1990s, for example, a referendum resulted in strong anti-nuclear messaging and wins for those who sought to end siting processes in their communities. Along with local-level referenda on nuclear power, some groups and activists have pushed for an advisory-style national referendum on nuclear power based on a similar process held in Sweden in the 1980s. Such a national referendum would be a first, and it could push the government to consider new ways in which citizens can be more fully integrated into decision-making procedures on nuclear power.
Citizen science. Many observers noticed that the radiation data following the accident at Fukushima were released slowly and with little explanation of the consequences. Others took the complaint further, claiming that the government and public utilities deliberately sought to reduce public alarm by withholding critical information. Deciding to take matters into their own hands, a wide swath of citizens across Japan joined together for a creative-commons-based project known as SafeCast. SafeCast encourages citizens to use their own radiation-measuring devices to measure levels of radioactivity and post that data directly to the forum. Personal-radiation devices, like do-it-yourself Geiger counters, can be created with modified smart phones and personal computers along with standard, off-the-shelf radiation detectors. This crowd-sourcing on Japan's radiation levels has resulted in more than 1 million pieces of data published in an open forum that provides a dynamic map of radiation levels throughout the country. This form of democratization of data collection and analysis provides a new channel for citizens to move beyond the opaque nuclear industry institutions of the past.
Dissent. While many scholars have argued that citizens in Japan privatize protest or seek to avoid direct conflict with authorities, the vast disaster at Fukushima has brought out open backlash against bureaucrats in very public forums. Many citizens feel that the government has failed to demonstrate sufficient flexibility, openness, and transparency in its response to public concerns. Residents in Fukushima and elsewhere have vocally expressed their outrage with authorities at heated public exchanges and town-hall-style meetings -- events which are often taped by citizens and then posted to YouTube. Hugh Gusterson, in his book People of the Bomb: Portraits of America's Nuclear Complex, deemed interactions in which scientists and other authorities go through the motions of public forums, but leave little room for questioning from citizens on scientific and technical matters, "rituals of assent." Given that past meetings between Japanese state representatives and civil society on issues of nuclear power often resembled rituals of assent as a matter of course, this public outcry is a sea change in Japan's style of interaction.
These four new methods of state-civil society interaction in Japan illuminate not only an anger about the way that government and private-sector authorities have handled the 3/11 disaster, but also shed light on a broader dissatisfaction with a continued exclusion of civil society from the policy arena over the past decades. Through mass protests, petitions, citizen science, and direct -- and often uncomfortable -- confrontation with the state, Japanese citizens are pushing for a new, more vocal role in policy making. With Japan sitting at the crossroads of energy policy and struggling with the issue of restarting its fleet of nuclear power plants, the voices of citizens who bear the externalities of national energy policy are all the more critical.