Four years have passed since the tragic triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants, and the hits keep on coming as massive amounts of radioactively contaminated water continue to flow into the Pacific Ocean and no solution exists for safely containing the ongoing accumulation of radioactive debris contaminating the prefecture. Created in two parts, Fairewinds Energy Education presents you with a 5-minute retrospective followed by a 25-minute in-depth reflection on the Fukushima Meltdown 4 Years Later.
Fairewinds Energy Education Board Member Chiho Kaneko and Arnie Gundersen discuss Chiho’s recent visit to her homeland of Japan. Born and raised in the neighboring prefecture of Iwate, she traveled to the evacuated and decimated area near the plant and met with displaced victims of this nuclear travesty.
As she shares heartbreaking stories, Chiho describes her trip through the ruins of the Fukushima Prefecture. She observed rusting vehicles flipped over on the side of the road, destroyed homes waiting to be cared for amidst a string of empty towns marked by devastation from the 2011 tsunami and resulting nuclear power catastrophe. Despite Prime Minister Abe’s assurances to the contrary, everything remains too contaminated by radiation for residents to return home. Warning signs along the radiation contaminated roadways instruct drivers not to leave their vehicles, not to roll down any windows, and not expose themselves to the outside air.
Attempts to clean up the once fertile farmland surrounding the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site are seen along road after road in huge trash bag bundles stacked like fortresses. These bundles contain the radioactive top layer of soil, branches, bushes, and other land debris slowly being cleared in a futile effort to decontaminate the soil and possibly make the prefecture habitable again. More than 70,000 of these debris-laden sites are spread throughout the Fukushima Prefecture with no permanent method for disposal of this waste that is temporarily stuffed into deteriorating trash bags littering the once fertile and pristine countryside.
The catastrophic nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi decimated communities and dislocated an entire population from their homes and families. It exposed innocent people to extreme doses of toxic radiation that cause cancer and carry a death sentence, and it forcibly removed those people from the mountains, ocean, rivers, forests, and land that they loved. “No disaster like this should ever be allowed to happen,”a victim told Chiho. “But, as long as nuclear power plants are allowed to operate, we cannot guarantee that a disaster like this will never happen. You cannot guarantee.”
– Book of the Month
A Bluish White Light by Yasunaga Tatsumi and Sato Yutei
The Fairewinds office was honored to receive a copy of A Bluish White Light as a gift from co-author Yasunaga Tatsumi. These powerful short poems are written in the classical Japanese style of “tanka”, a major genre of Japanese literature. Sato Yutei, author and farmer of the Fukushima Prefect, started writing tanka poems during the early operation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the 1980s. By 1988, Yutei foretells a chilling end to farming in the region and advises his son to leave the family business behind and pursue a different life path. Years go by, radiation leaks from the reactor and neighbors get sick, and die from poisoning. A voice like those of so many living in the radioactive shadow of a nuclear plant, Yutei’s tanka style like a personal diary takes us through the decades leading up to Fukushima’s meltdown capturing the uncertainty and vulnerability of the Japanese people whose lives already greatly affected by nuclear in the 1940s are hit once again with the nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.
Samples of Yutei's Tanka Poems:
Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy by Phillip L. Franklin
The lingering effects of radiation are severe and devastating for the victims exposed to the radioactive substances released during a nuclear meltdown like the one at Fukushima Daiichi. The consequences of exposure are well known by the nuclear industry and include various life threatening cancers and DNA mutations. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy is a harrowing story of nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s, and the subsequent health effects of the unknowing innocents affected downwind in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Phillip Franklin attended the 1982 trial from which these stories of cancer victims and their survivors were uncovered. This book is particularly relevant with the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi where radioactive particles spread far and wide, creating an expansive fallout umbrella.
Japan's former Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for the abolishment of nuclear power plants and decreed the 21st century the “age of solar power” in a speech delivered last Tuesday in Paris. His experience as leader of Japan during the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 forced Prime Minister Kan to contemplate the evacuation of 40% of Japan’s population due to the nuclear disaster.
An album composed of poems written by people affected by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi will be released on March 11 to mark the four-year anniversary of the nuclear tragedy. Actress Sayuri Yoshinaga is the featured recorded voice reading the compiled poetry for the album. Since 1986, Yoshinaga has been well known in Japan for her recitation of poetry about the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This newest installment to be released on the 11th is the fourth in a series of atomic poems created in 1997 with the title “Second Movement”. Yoshinaga does not want people to forget the devastation and destruction nuclear power has had on Japan. As current Japan Prime Minister Abe pushes to restart nuclear power plants and the Japanese government focuses on the economy, Yoshinaga fears that the disaster at Fukushima is fading from people’s minds. Fukushima poet Ryoichi Wago, children who attended Wago’s poetry workshop, and Shigeko Sato an evacuated resident of Tomioka are the authors of the poems Yoshinaga recites in the latest “Second Movement: Thoughts for Fukushima” album. To prepare for the poetry readings, Yoshinaga visited the evacuated Fukushima prefecture: "I was more shocked than I could have ever imagined," she said. "I cannot fully express in my readings the sadness of being completely unable to return to one's home."
Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner of the nuclear meltdown site Fukushima Daiichi, shared too little too late. Since last April, TEPCO has been withholding vital information regarding an ongoing release of contaminated water into the sea. Last week when contaminant levels reached a ludicrous height, TEPCO finally admitted to the public leaking high levels of Cesium, Strontium-90, and other radioactive substances by way of a draining system that sends contaminated water from the roof of destroyed reactor No. 2 straight into the Pacific Ocean. On Thursday, the company announced that they are sorry for destroying the public’s trust, particularly the trust of Japanese fishermen whose approval is necessary for TEPCO’s cleanup plans for the site. TEPCO was hoping to make an agreement with local fishermen and dump treated groundwater from the meltdown site into the ocean. TEPCO’s incompetence and dishonesty has proven self-destructive at every turn.
Japan’s atomic regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority is afraid that a mandatory review of its performance could lead to the loss of its independence. “A lack of independent regulatory oversight of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was to blame for the meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami, an official inquiry into the disaster found.” Should the NRA lose its independence, the Cabinet Office, a “place of wisdom” for the current Prime Minister Abe that deals with all policy issues of “crucial national importance,” would assume oversight. The Cabinet Office under Prime Minister Abe is an even stronger supporter of nuclear power than the NRA.
Fairewinds in the News:
Entergy Corp. Vice President Mike Twomey danced a little side step in an interview last week stating that he needed to elaborate on his February 11th comment to the Vermont State Legislature concerning Entergy’s plans to refuse financial responsibility for the entire cleanup of its recently shutdown Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should decommissioning take longer than 60-years. Stressing that Entergy’s plan to take its time to decommission Vermont Yankee using SAFSTOR, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission acceptable option, allows for the growth of funds over the course of 60-years to fully decommission the plant. "Twomey said again, though, that he did not want Entergy committed to a promise that it would cover the cost if the project isn’t done before the 2070s and funds are still short.” Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen points out that Entergy has a corporate structure with layers of limited-liability corporations intermingled between Vermont Yankee (VY) and its parent corporation Entergy that is cause for serious financial concern for Vermont’s ratepayers. Arnie also points out that according to Fairewinds’ analysis, Entergy should be able to begin decommissioning VY as early as 2025. This Associated Press article by Dave Gram was featured in the Washington Times, Rutland Herald, and Burlington Free Press.