Fukushima: Everyday Normality Has Disappeared

Naho Dietrich-Nemoto

The Normality of Everyday Life Has Disappeared

[Naho is a Japanese woman from Fukushima living in Germany with her husband and child. These are extracts from an article she wrote on the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster; I have translated them from Graswurzelrevolution 367, March 2012; a previous speech of Naho’s was posted at memengineering just after the meltdown in March 2011]

I come from Fukushima City. I was born and grew up there. Since the 11th of March 2011 I wish I didn’t have to say where I come from when I meet someone for the first time. And that despite the fact that Fukushima is my only, beautiful home and possesses a bio-diverse and beautiful natural landscape.

Huge amounts of radioactive material that were released in the Fukushima Daiichi region are still there. They are still there in the rivers, ocean, mountains and soil. Radioactivity does not stop at the food chain.

The normality of everyday life has disappeared. To go for walks in the mountains and along the rivers, to touch the grass and trees with a deep feeling of peace in the heart. To touch the snow when it snows. To eat the fruit of the region and vegetables of the season. Such normal things cannot be brought back. And that is not only the case for the people within the 20 km danger zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. It is frightening that the reactor is still not safe, still in a dangerous state today.

My father said: ‘We’re not eating mushrooms this year. We got a message. The radioactive levels are too high. I’ve checked the area with my own Geiger counter. But I can’t simply tell anyone what the levels are. The local council representatives have told us we shouldn’t measure the drains or street gutters, i.e. there where the levels are highest. The governments is administering everything, we are not supposed to do anything ourselves. We are not allowed to remove contaminated soil ourselves and take it somewhere else. […] You can’t simply clean the soil. There’s nowhere to take it.’

‘The people from the 5-10 km danger zone around the reactor can’t return home. But no one can tell them. And if one does tell them, they get very defensive. Although their soil is strongly contaminated they believe that they will certainly return at some time.
No child is playing outside here, including my grandchildren since the 11 of March.’

I said: ‘Even 25 years after the Chernobyl meltdown you still can’t eat mushrooms from parts of the Bavarian Forest, a few thousand km away.’ My father said: ‘The radioactivity won’t disappear, not even after many years. ‘

Why Fukushima? What did the people do? The people there love the mountains and nature. How much more are they going to be made to suffer? The people in Fukushima haven’t done anything. There are now too many things they have to give up, throw away. But how can you leave the land and the mountains you have inherited over many generations? What will happen to the forest, the extensive fields, the domestic animals and the coast? How can the people there be compensated? The sacrifice is too large a sacrifice. Words can’t be found for what is happening there.

If this situation were to last only a few years, then one could probably bear it. But the radioactivity won’t disappear, not even after twenty years.

Monday 14 March 2011

I asked my father [on the phone] whether the family in Fukushima City could move to safety as far as possible from the reactor. My father first said: ‘The government is only evacuating within 20km, not 65 km. Fukushima City is still OK, so we haven’t thought about moving away.’

Obviously in Japan not everything is being reported in the news. For example what actually happens when a reactor explodes, how radioactive substances are released and what effects they can have on human bodies. The explosion, the release of radioactive gases, the differing reactions to the event in Japan and Germany confuse me.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

It rained heavily in Fukushima. The wind turned northwest. Thus highly radioactive particles were widely distributed, in the direction of Fukushima City. Between 3 and 5 pm the official levels in Fukushima City increased from 0.10 iSv to 20 iSv. But this information was only released a week later.

I later heard from my sister that in Fukushima City people stood in line with their kids for hours to buy food. [..] The government remained silent about the truth, the dangers. If people had been able to at least stay inside the whole day their dose would have been a little less.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

The TV news is constantly stressing how there is nothing to worry about. A professor from Nagasaki said with total conviction in the media that ‘100 millisievert per year are no problem.’

Tuesday 12 April 2011

The Japanese Atom Energy Commission pronounces that Fukushima experienced a total meltdown.
Even today I have not overcome this shock. My head was totally empty. My heart as if full of black tar. The government that usually hides all data for the first time publicly declares the nuclear accident in Fukushima is as serious as the one in Chernobyl. When I imagine how much radioactive material has been released and will still be released… It’s simply too horrible to contemplate.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

The annual external acceptable radiation dose for the general public was officially a maximum of 1 mSv. Now it was increased to 20 mSv. [Regional German governments did the same perfidious trick after Chernobyl in 1986, PL-N]. How can you increase an ‘acceptable limit’ by a factor of twenty? Even for young children? Only because of this increase could a number of schools and playgrounds be declared open. The children know nothing and play outside. In Chernobyl areas that had an annual level of 5 mSv were evacuated. The ‘acceptable limit’ in Fukushima is four times that level.

Professor Kosako, expert advisor to the government, resigned his position on 29 June. He held a press conference where he criticised the government for disregarding laws and regulations after the nuclear accident. He especially criticised the 20 mSv acceptable annual dose increase in schools and playgrounds by the Ministry of Education. ‘That is a surprisingly high figure. If I were to accept it, it would mean the end of my scientific career. I would in no case want to leave my children in such a situation.’

Tuesday 14 June 2011

In Fukushima people probably don’t want to know how dangerous the radioactivity and the accident really are. Stay calm and silent is the order of the day. If they got this information they would lose all energy. They want to hear that everything is OK. For how could they continue living with the truth tomorrow?
Everybody is in despair. They are desperately trying to somehow keep the place liveable and worth living in. […] Living in fear about one’s food, water, soil. How can one endure this stress for many years?

Friday 1 July 2011

A man from Fukushima drove his car to Shizuoka prefecture and wanted to get petrol. At the service station there was a sign saying ‘We don’t serve people from Fukushima’. Others could not get service in restaurants and hotels.

Close friends of mine in Fukushima told me: ‘A student carrying a bag with Fukushima High School written on it went to Tokyo. When he was there other youths shouted at him: Don’t come to Tokyo. Stop infecting us with your radioactivity!’ There has been discrimination and bullying of Fukushima kids at new schools. The other kids think radioactivity is infectious. For those forced to go to a new school the stress has been unbearable.

Sometimes the opinions differ among husband and wife and relationships are torn apart. People who flee are condemned as ‘cowards’ and insulted for ‘running away’. The region has a strong feeling of community.

After the accident a government study of more than 1000 children in Fukushima prefecture showed radioactive iodine in the thyroid glands of almost half the children.

We now have to make a life-changing decision: Do you accept the danger of serious diseases and stay in your home? Or do you give up your home and land? But why do we have to make this painful decision at all?

What forces us to such a difficult decision is a nuclear power plant! The people of Fukushima are being sacrificed for a nuclear power plant. If there were no nuclear plants, we would not have to make such decisions. Fukushima is no desert. Two million people live on its 13,782 square kilometres.

Plutonium has been discovered in the village of Iitate. German and Japanese experts have always said plutonium could not fly that far, yet it was discovered in that village 45 km from the Fukushima nuclear plant. What terrible things will yet be found? I almost want to close my eyes and ears.

Who Allowed the Building of Nuclear Power Plants?

Who is responsible? Who pushed for the establishment of nuclear plants? How can you allow these incredibly dangerous plants?

Does it feel safer if the nuclear plant is far away from your own home? Is it OK if you get electricity? Are you happy if your country develops? Water and soil are already contaminated. It’s too late. Our DNA has been damaged too. From now on ever more people will get sick.

Who is responsible for this crime? The lives of many people is being destroyed on an unimaginable scale. A pain in my heart and this reality. I want as many people as possible to realise what the consequences of such a nuclear meltdown are. People who live far away think their lives have nothing to do with nuclear energy. I want precisely these people to learn of the pain and suffering of the people of Fukushima.

Whose turn will it be next? It can hit anyone. This tragedy can happen everywhere. And if it happens, the damage is irreparable. Radioactive contamination does not disappear after a few decades or centuries. Please try to calculate the costs for living things. Think of yourself. Think of your children. Think of your family.

26 April 1986 in Chernobyl, 11 March 2011 Fukushima

What have people done over the last twenty five years? Before it’s too late, before the same catastrophe happens again, what else can we do?
My home and its children were sacrificed. If we have learned nothing from this, we are without hope. I beg everyone to not forget the victims.

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 21, 2012.

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