Fukushima water a Japan-wide problem, 12 years after nuclear disaster
Tokyo, Mar 11 (EFE).- The northern prefecture of Fukushima on Saturday was commemorating the 12th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast and caused the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Much of the region is still recovering from the disaster, and the Fukushima governor used the anniversary to warn that problems with contaminated water discharge relating to the accident affect the whole of the country.
“I know there are voices of concern not only in Japan and Fukushima, but in more places around the world. What we have been telling the central government is that this is not a Fukushima problem, but a problem for all of Japan,” Masao Uchibori said during a press conference at the Foreign Press Center of Japan.
Twelve years after the natural disaster, which left 15,900 people dead and 2,523 missing, Fukushima continues to face “major challenges”, including the future discharge of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, which has stirred controversy among the local population and neighboring countries.
“Recovery and reconstruction after a nuclear accident is a situation for which we had no precedent and is very difficult. What we are asking the government to do is to act responsibly and share science-based information,” Uchibori added.
The governor’s reaction comes after the Japanese government approved in early January a revised plan to release contaminated and treated water accumulating at the plant into the Pacific in the coming months.
That water is currently being treated in circuits called ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) to remove 62 types of radioactive material.
Residents of the area and several Pacific countries have protested the decision on the grounds that the data provided by Japan “are insufficient” to be able to assess the effects on human health and the marine environment.
A FADING MEMORY
A decade after the disaster, the region is also concerned that the memory of the disaster will fade following the recent announcement of a change in government policy relating to the reactivation of power plants and extending the life of their reactors beyond 60 years.
“For the past 12 years, we have been fighting this set of disasters, but we feel that the memory of what happened has begun to fade,” said Uchibori, referring to the physical effects of the earthquake and tsunami, the nuclear disaster and also the bad reputation that has been associated with the area.
In recent years, several countries including the United States and the United Kingdom have lifted sanctions on imports of products from Fukushima, and the region is also making efforts to develop its agricultural and livestock sector.
But more than 300 square kilometers of land in six localities in the prefecture are still considered “areas of difficult return.”
“The use of nuclear power and nuclear policy is something the government should consider under its own volition, but with lessons learned from the 2011 accident and putting people’s safety first above all else,” the governor explained.
Solving the water spill, fully decommissioning the plant, revitalizing the region’s economy and the return of former residents remain some of the challenges facing the prefecture.
“Twelve years ago, the people who lived in this area had to leave their homes suddenly. Some were very old and others had no means of transportation or relatives nearby, so they suffered great hardship. Some 27,000 people are still displaced,” Uchibori concluded. EFE