A Visit in the Stricken Areas of Fukushima Prefecture
On December 12 and 13, 2014, 24 SVCF members visited the “So-so” region (so-called Soma and Futaba areas together) in Fukushima prefecture with an aim of monitoring and observing candid views, opinions, and wishes of local people who have striven to restore and reconstruct their home towns after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident.
On December 12, 2014 we left Iwaki city and visited the towns: Hirono Machi, Naraha Machi, Tomioka Machi and Namie Machi respectively, under the guidance of Mr. Akihiro Yoshikawa, representative of AFW: “Affiliate Fukushima Workers” on behalf of all workers engaged in the stricken nuclear power plant. We could understand something of the actual regenerating process after the accident. Below is a report by a participant, Mr. Hiroshi Fukuda.
The remains of the JR Tomioka Station
In front of the JR Tomioka station, we saw, as if in a time-freeze, the devastation and dereliction, even 3 years and 9 months after the accident. We were surprised and horribly shocked to see a small epitaph with a bunch of seasonal flowers offered for the dead. When I heard Mr. Yoshikawa, who had worked for TEPCO and resigned, say “I used to eat at this restaurant and enjoyed it,” we felt his firm resolution to go beyond “the lost homeland” toward “recreate a new one”
AFV and SVCF
In the evening of December 12, 2014 we had a meeting with Mr. Yoshikawa for a candid talk regardless of our stance, capacity and so forth, regarding the clean-up of the stricken Fukushima Nuclear Power plant. Though we noted several differences in our respective viewpoints, it was a really meaningful exchange. AFV’s aim is to improve working conditions for people who have struggled in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and to bolster residents who live around the plant in view of on-going aggravation in their living environment. SVCF has the aim to undertake severe tasks in the heavy radiation conditions, in place of young workers, toward the completion of the clean-up of the stricken plant. I believe these organizations have much in common with each other.
AFV studies possibilities to reconstruct the area, not to be a hub of decommissioning business but to be an ideal society in which a variety of choices are available in various work for everybody. I also believe we can share this profound plan with people who support Fukushima trying to establish self-sustaining development on a local basis.
Fukushima Restoration Society (Iidate village)
On December 13, 2014 we visited Mr. Muneo Sugano’s premises, located in the arena which still is designated to be fully evacuated. We heard a number of various stories and we observed various scientific experiments. Mr. Sugano’s main house has served as a firm base for the drive to restore and rebuild healthy life and local industries as before the nuclear fallout. Inside the main house, various measuring equipment and devices are set up and networked into internet, to provide real-time, precious information to local people and nation-wide supporters.
“Accurate measurement” in order to clarify actual radiation exposure on a current basis and “Experiment trying to decontaminate in farms, fields, and forests” to restore the previously unharmed agricultural environment are two pillars of their activities through cooperating with local people and nation-wide volunteers. Under a slogan of “Sympathy and Coaction”, villagers, volunteers, professionals and scientists work together. They manage 3 bases in Fukushima, a secretariat in metropolitan Tokyo and a branch office within the Faculty of Agriculture, National Tokyo University.
They supply results of all experiments, actual status, and ambitious challenges in their internet service not only in Japan but also throughout the world. These results have proved a substantial degree of decline in the radiation level. They are boldly taking on a grander plan to revitalize their village in the field of agriculture, industries and medical treatment.
Soma Haragama Morning Fair Club
In the afternoon of December 13, when we took lunch at “Hotoku An” in Soma Haragama Morning Fair Club, we met and exchanged views with Mr. Nagamasa Takahashi, President of the NPO: “Soma Haragama Morning Fair Club”. He cheerfully introduced his successful business by offering a regular morning fair to sell and deliver safe, fresh, and delicious fish throughout Japan. His grand aim is to restore fishery off the Fukushima coast.
The importance of first hand knowledge of the site.
I thought the inspection of the Soso district, which is near Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant, would be a great opportunity to relay to people in Kyushu the real situation at the site.
On the first day of the inspection, the view looking out the bus window going northward from Iwaki-shi to Hamadori was at a first glance a typical underpopulated country town. However, other than the groups who were working on the decontamination work, there was nobody else around, and the wild expanses of what used to be rice paddies, but now overgrown with Japanese silvergrass, was an alarming sight.
The large temporary storage place for decontamination waste that is in front of the Hirono thermal power plant looked as if it was symbolizing the endlessness of the decontamination work.
The Tomioka JR station and the small shopping center in front of the station have been left untouched because of the high air radioactive dosage rate. Only one road separates that area, which is considered “difficult to return to”, from the “restricted habitation area,” and the two areas meet in Tomioka-cho. This is truly indicative of how difficult the reconstruction efforts have been since the nuclear disaster.
On the second day, at the meeting of the Fukushima Restoration Society in Iidate village, where farmers and scientists joined efforts to bring about regionally autonomous restoration helped me see that while there is still a lot to do, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
There is something that I heard from everybody I encountered at the disaster site. It was that instead of support or sympathy, we want people to visit the site. “Please come and see the site.”
There are a lot of people in Fukushima who believe that restoration in Fukushima is already complete. I don’t have the technological skills relevant to nuclear power, but I think my mission is to relay to everybody the real situation in Fukushima. (Akira Koga, Fukuoka-shi)
Continual support of the disaster area
When I knew about the onsite inspection to Fukushima, two things made me want to participate. The first is that I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get to know and learn about what is going on at the site. The other is that by staying overnight with them, I would be able to discuss with SVCF core members about their future direction. I thought I would be able to reexamine my involvement with SVCF on this precious occasion.
Both of my thoughts became clearer as a result of the trip, so I thought it was a very worthwhile two days. I would like to thank Mr. Sugiyama, who put the trip together, and everybody else in the office. My experiences are described below.
From the 4 people I spoke to at the onsite inspection, including Mr. Yoshikawa and 3 others, it is difficult to describe the entire area as simply the “nuclear disaster site,” and I was able to hear the raw voices of different perspectives,; I have come to understand how complex this disaster (human disaster) really was. There is a Japanese saying, “seeing is worth a hundred words.” This experience has made me question the SVCF organization as well.
The goal that was set forth at the birth of SVCF has by now been deemed impossible, and so what is desirable is continual support of the disaster area (including monitoring). Therefore, I think that instead of limiting the efforts to be done by the elderly, I think that the organization should enlist the help of the general public at large.
Just like the name has changed from “preventing nuclear power,” which was what the organization was called in the beginning, to the “nuclear power task force,” I believe we need to update our activities and reorganize the entire organization in order to continue the support that will be required for years to come. This may seem a bit extreme (absurd), but if that means that we can no longer call ourselves a “public interest incorporated association,” so be it.
We participated as a couple, but I found it unfortunate that so few women participated. This was another reason I think it’s time to rethink the efforts of the SVCF. (Masao and Mieko Nishimura)
Beyond Discontinuation and toward Restoration
It was a two-day live-in inspection tour. It must have been a minor or major accident for the unfortunate member who could not come in time at JR Iwaki station, and was left behind as a result. Nevertheless, I may say that this tour, as a whole, turned out to be a very meaningful and nice experience for all attendees.
I sincerely appreciate Mr. Sugiyama, overall manager, Mr. Yoshikawa, guide on the second day, Mr. Miura, chef, and Mr. Watanabe in charge of providing meals.
I joined up with my expectation under the bombastic name of “Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima”: “What type of people show up with what kind of outlooks and thoughts. Why did they come – with what motivation?”
Some came from Morioka in the north of the main island. Others came from Fukuoka in the south Kyushu island. A group of 21 members, who stayed overnight, including myself, frankly discussed with Mr. Yoshioka, representative of AFW. This was my best experience.
On the second day we heard a noble story in the two sites toward “reconstruction”, even though they differ in their stance. It was not a story of being deprived of house and occupation by tsunami and nuclear accident but of emerging from their inmost desire for “reconstruction” in the context of a sense of deeper loss and discontinuation. It was in the process of rehabilitation.
We heard it really happened in the stricken area that some had boasted about getting a large amount of compensation. Unlike the sufferers, do we, the unaffected, foster a sense of speaking up against such an unfair case, asserting “it is unbecoming.”?
I realized again the meaning of “Don’t forget Fukushima” should root not in the discontinued sufferers but in us and should restore sound and normal morale in ourselves. This tour made me aware of how we engage in reconstruction of Fukushima in a broader perspective.
By the way, I’m the one who was left behind at the beginning on the first day. (Shigeru Makita)
38th Regular Diet Meeting
At 11:00 a.m. on November 28 (Fri) 2014, the SVCF 38th regular Diet meeting was held in meeting room No. 102 of the House of Councilors Hall. The theme of the day was to get an understanding of the actual on-site situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. To this end, we had invited responsible officers to act as official sources from the Resources and Energy Agency and TEPCO. Seven panelists showed up with their answers to our previously submitted questions.
These seven speakers reported one after another on the current status and problems in the process of reactor decommissioning, fatal accidents and safety measures, labor management, securing necessary manpower, development of human resources, and so forth.
In the subsequent Q and A session, discussions were solely focused on worker’s conditions at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.