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But, five years on... the wounds have far from healed for those who lived through the
tragedy. On the ground, the crisis is not of the past,
but a very much ongoing one that they struggle to cope with.
Five years since Fukushima, 30 years since Chernobyl.
The last of my two part series from Japan. 2.46 p.m., March 11, 2011.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake rattles Japan... triggering a major tsunami which devastates
the northeast coast. Then, the tsunami waves reach the Fukushima
Daiichi Nuclear Power Station... resulting in a triple core meltdown... explosions...
the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.
On the day five years ago... nearly 19-thousand people were killed or left missing and 160-thousand
lost their homes and livelihoods.
Tokyo Electric Power Company... is the operator of Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power
plant and has often been under fire for not only its handling of the disaster.
We wanted to ask if the company believed the area surrounding the wrecked plant was safe
enough for residents to move back.
"The radiation measurement our company is responsible for is limited to the area of
the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Not only the government but the general public
has access to these measurements by visiting our website."
Tepco is fighting a battle of its own... as five years on, the operator continues to struggle
with clean up work on site. They still don't know how bad the situation
is at three of the four crippled reactors.
"We are trying to find ways to locate the missing melted fuel rods in three reactos
at the plant. We don't exactly know what the condition is like there. The radiation is
too powerful for humans to extract and remove the melted fuel rods. We plan to use remote-controlled
robots to do the job."
Tepco expects decommissioning work to take another 30 to 40 years.
Ghost towns surround the plant now, but five years later, there are still more than 6-thousand
workers on ground zero... all of them wearing layers of protection.
They're not producing any electricity. They are just cleaning up.
"Is the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima under control today?"
"It's not completely under control. We cannot say that."
Yoichi Funabashi, a former newspaper editor, headed an investigation into the Fukushima
nuclear disaster back in 2011... the only investigation not sponsored by the government.
Since then he's been sharing his conclusions at various global events.
"We still have three melted nuclear reactors. We have to keep cooling that. We have to keep
injecting water. As a result, we have a lot of accumulated contaminated water. We have
to keep purifying that. It make take years. During that process we will be all exposed
to serious risks."
Out of 300,000 children up to 18 years of age in Fukushima Prefecture, 116 were diagnosed
with thyroid cancer months after the nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
Health experts say this is much higher than the normal rate.
But, after effects aren't limited to health issues.
"There are still nearly one-hundred thousands people living in shelters. They are forced
to live in shelters. So, the impact of the evacuation is so huge. Nobody expected the
evacuation to have such a huge impact, you know."
Five years later, many of those people have still been unable to return home. Some live
in temporary housing units just outside the exclusion zone... that were only designed
to last up to 24 months.
"My son's family, my grandchildren evacuated far, far away. They won't come back. They
have already settled there. There aren't any young people around here. I don't know a single
child living in this zone."
"There aren't any young people here. Only old people like myself. Younger people will
never come back to Fukushima. It'll just be us, the aged."
Tomiyo Kokubun has been studying the social impact the nuclear meltdown has left on the
people of Fukushima. He says mass evacuation uprooted entire communities,
divided families and resulted in the loss of social support networks.
"It's also had a profound impact on married couples. Mothers desperate to save their children
from radiation poisoning evacuated far away. Men had to stay behind because they had jobs
here. That collapsed families and divorce rate soared in this area in the last five
year."
Japan's leading daily, Asahi Shimbun estimates that more than 70-thousand people remain prohibited
from returning home due to the Fukushima disaster, and another 18-thousand have voluntarily chosen
not to return.
One of the symbols of anti-nuclear movements in Japan is this tent at a small corner in
Tokyo's government office district. It was erected immediately after the Fukushima
nuclear disaster... and since then... rain or shine, day and night, there hasn't been
a single day it wasn't occupied by protesters.
"All we want is a complete halt of nuclear power plants. We want the world to know what
happened in Japan because of nuclear plants and join in anti-nuclear movement. It's not
just about Japan. Nuclear plants are all over the world. This is a global problem."
But, apart from the few days around the March 11th commemorations when global media run
features on papers and TV... Fukushima remains largely forgotten in the minds of most Japanese
outside the region.
"Five years since the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter century, life seems
back to normal here in the Japanese capital. Japan has even restarted some of its nuclear
power plants as hundreds of thousands still continue to struggle to cope with the aftermath
of the crisis. Is nuclear energy the only way out? It's a question not limited to this
country."
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Fukushima: Five Years On. The Forgotten.

882 Folder Collection
Hao published on March 24, 2016
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