Japanese anti-nuclear activist and University of Tokyo professor Tetsuya Takahashi yesterday expounded on Japan’s nuclear policies and the challenges the nation faces as it struggles to recover from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.
Speaking at a forum in Taipei, Takahashi said that about 130,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture have been living in shelters since the accident, about 60 percent of whom have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a survey showed.
He said that nuclear wastewater has continued to leak from the four reactors at the station even though the facility was shut down after the incident — a problem that has dealt irreparable damage to the area’s agriculture, fishing and tourism sectors.
Although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration claimed that all the spent fuel rods had been retrieved from the site, the government is unable to trace the nuclear contaminants since the reactors have undergone a total meltdown, he added.
Despite the far-reaching consequences of the catastrophe and the awareness it raised among governments worldwide to reassess their nuclear policies, Takahashi said that authorities in Japan have since conducted reviews on the nation’s nuclear budget in secret, as Abe’s administration seeks to embrace nuclear power again.
“It seemed as though the tragedy has been forgotten and rationalized by the Japanese government in the name of economic development,” he said, adding that this attitude has led many Japanese to feel that they have been abandoned by their government.
“An unprecedented amount of sacrifice had been made due to the Fukushima disaster, including that of people’s properties, health, lives, dignity and hopes of survival,” he said.
Nuclear disasters are unpredictable, but the Japanese government has adopted an irresponsible attitude by comparing the Fukushima accident to the Chernobyl disaster and saying that Japanese are lucky that the meltodown did not have more catastrophic consequences.
In addition, workers at nuclear power plants have no way of avoiding radiation exposure, but due to a lack of scientific evidence linking radiation with the diseases commonplace among workers, they have no way to highlight their appalling working conditions.
He also addressed the problem of excessive nuclear radiation caused by uranium mining, saying that uranium is usually buried in mountainous areas inhabited by Aborigines; therefore, such mining is, by its very nature, an exploitation of the Aborigines.
On the environmental impact created by nuclear energy, he said that there is not yet any proof that storing nuclear waste underground removes the threat of contamination to the ecosystem.
Citing as an example the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository in Finland, which is meant to store for 100,000 years, he said that by using nuclear energy, humankind is force-feeding pollution to its offspring.
Green Citizens’ Action Alliance secretary-general Tsuei Su-hsin (崔愫欣) said the system of sacrifice is also present in Taiwan, but, unlike Japan, it risks sacrificing its capital.
“There are 5.4 million residents living within a 30km radius of the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant, in Wanli District (萬里), New Taipei City, making evacuation impossible in the case of a nuclear disaster, since all the major hospitals in the Greater Taipei area are within that range,” she said.
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