The man warned the rest of the group to be careful before they entered the small town that things might not be as they seem. He also warned the group to not touch anything and certainly to not wander off alone. Once they were on their way, the group switched on their flashlights and spoke in whispers, anticipating what they would see. The first thing they noticed was that things were dark and eerie, with an almost ominous feel. The second thing was that aside from the group, there were no other people around, and the quiet was deafening. Old houses where people once lived and the toys that children once played with were scattered about, as if they were waiting for those very children to come back and continue playing. The group slowly made its way here and there, looking around and taking it all in. Now, if you thought this was a short horror ride, you would possibly be half right. These people were on a tour of the forbidden zone near Fukushima, Japan.
Although Fukushima has been long gone and forgotten by many in the West and around the world, it still strikes a nerve in Japan. A recent article at the Japan Times noted that — “Like the Nazi concentration camps in Poland or Ground Zero in New York, the areas devastated by the Fukushima disaster have recently become hot spots for “dark tourism” and drawn more than 2,000 visitors keen to see the aftermath of the worst nuclear accident in a quarter century.” That’s right. Thrill seekers are starting to pay good money to see disaster areas. In fact, people aren’t allowed to move back to the areas near Fukushima because of the high radiation and the tour operators must use special equipment to avoid super-contaminated areas because it is still dangerous.
As proof of how the Japanese people feel about holding someone responsible the accident, the BBC recently ran a story that noted that — “A citizen's panel ruled last year the big bosses should face trial, forcing prosecutors to pursue the case.” That’s right, a citizen’s panel. Despite previous claims there was insufficient evidence necessary to prosecute, an interesting part of the country’s legal system allowed citizens to make the final call. As Reuters explained: “Japanese citizens’ panels, made up of residents selected by lottery, are a rarely-used but high-profile feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach. They were given the power to force prosecutions if they called for them a second time.”
And spoken the people have, as — “That panel found the three executives did not exercise sufficient preventive means, despite being warned of the potential effects a tsunami could have on the Fukushima plant.” Reuters noted that — “Those charged include former TEPCO chairman and two former executive vice presidents. As their indictments did not stipulate arrest, none of the trio have been taken into custody, and they are expected to plead not guilty. However, the simple fact that the people have been able to override the national courts in a bid to bring some sort of justice is telling one, attesting to the health of the Japanese society. For instance, has one banker involved in the American financial meltdown in 2007-2008 been arrested yet?
Speaking of America, a recent article at CBS news noted that — “In the past year alone there have been a number of mishaps at the Indian Point nuclear facility, including a power failure in the reactor core, a transformer fire, an alarm failure, and the escape of radiated water into groundwater. The plant sits about 25 miles north of New York City.” That’s right. A number of different issues are plaguing an ageing nuclear facility near a major metropolitan area. And did you catch that? In addition to operating problems, radiated water has escaped into groundwater.
An article at Counterpunch shed more light on this when it wrote — “since at least August 2005, radioactive toxins such as tritium and strontium-90 have been leaking from at least two spent fuel pools at Indian Point into the groundwater and the Hudson River. In January 2007, strontium-90 was detected in four out of twelve Hudson River fish.” It continued by saying — “According to Joseph Mangano, Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, “Despite the assurances from Entergy, the area around Indian Point is a ‘cancer cluster,’ with the local rate of thyroid cancer rates registering at 66% higher than the national average.” A cancer cluster!
Back to Fukushima now, and the New Zealand Herald recently ran a story that noted — “In an interview to mark the fifth anniversary of the disaster, Japan's prime minister described the panic and disarray at the highest levels of the Japanese Government as it fought to control multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.The Prime Minister said he considered evacuating Tokyo and all other areas within 155 miles of the plant, and declaring martial law. He said-“The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake. Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war.” That’s right. The Prime Minister was discussing forcibly moving everyone out of Tokyo and declaring martial law. Now considering that Fukushima was about 180 miles away from Tokyo that speaks to the extent of the accident. And how far away is Indian Point? The nuclear reactor near New York City? About 25 miles away. 25 miles!
In conclusion, the massive nuclear accident at Fukushima should serve as a reminder to humankind that accidents can and do happen, even with the best planning. Although the modern world is in desperate need of energy, maybe it is time to start thinking about things differently, such as closing down nuclear facilities that are near major metropolitan areas. Maybe it is time to re-think the necessity of maintaining older past-prime legacy systems and start with brand-new technology and brand-new facilities. Or maybe it is time to look towards other forms of energy generation, such as renewable wave-energy.
So, what do you think dear listeners- “Have the lessons of Fukushima been learned?”