I recently watched a Dateline story about Fukishima and how it’s being rebuilt (Coming Home To A Nuclear Wasteland). What struck me is how little people care about the event in the present tense.
Despite warnings of ongoing radiation and danger, it’s forgotten. Over. A has been. The impacted people are left alone while cameras and newsreaders chase the next triggering event.
Let’s be honest. We can only pay attention for so long to an event that didn’t impact us personally. Long term destruction and possible death by radiation isn’t scary. The only thing that scares us is immediacy and not having a choice in how and when bad things happen.
Although Fukishima may have been handled more proactively and slightly less disastorous than Chernobyl, people are still being sent back to a place that’s barely safe, if that.
Six years ago, 18,500 died during a Tsunami which cost a quarter trillion dollars in repair bills, the largest cleanup in history.
Now, doctors claim there’s no risk from radiation and the older generation are preparing to return to a life they’ve always known. The younger generation isn’t so sure that it’s a good idea.
“They’re saying it’s safe,” a young woman says, “But they haven’t shown us specific figures and the effects. That still leaves me concerned. Living at what radiation level, for how long, causes what effects?”
Housing subsidies for evacuees are set to be discontinued a year after the reopening of ghost towns such as Namie around Fukishima. Families split as older members return and younger members stay away, worried about the risk of cancer causing radiation for their young children. Only areas surrounding the towns have been decontaminated; mountains and other areas are still full of radiation.
Robots being sent in to clean up the nuclear waste have died, environmental activists are pointing out that radiation levels are still too high and one report indicated that there’s a higher level of radiation now than in 2011 in a plant that will take as long as 4 decades to decommission.
In the meantime, crops are already being planted and there are plans for several events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be held in Fukishima.
Compared to other disasters where people can finally move back, assured of at least a semblance of a safe and normal life, these people are being pushed back into a dangerous situation and it feels as if there are so many unanswered questions. Why does it feel as if no one is willing to give those answers?