14 – 15 December 2019, Fukushima Dialogue "Talking about the 9-year trajectory"
The theme of this Fukushima Dialogue, held in Fukushima city the first time in some years, was to reflect on the time flow of eight years and seven months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident up to now.
We will have the tenth anniversary of the disaster in March 2021, and expect that various events will be organized to look back the ten years around the day. This theme was set because we thought now is the time we may be able to reflect in tranquility before such busy time arrives, while people are generally becoming less interested in the nuclear accident.
Day 1: December 14th (Saturday)
In the morning of 14th, we visited Sasaki Farm, a dairy farm in Fukushima city. The farm started about 60 years ago and now they keep about 30 Holstein cows. It has been the only farm in Fukushima city which produces milk, processes and sells it within own farm. Almost all of their customers are in Fukushima city.
At the time of the disaster in 2011, shipping of milk was suspended and milked milk had to be thrown away for about a month. After a month, as a result of inspection, suspension of shipping was lifted and they could resume producing and shipping.
Now they have a café in their premise and sell soft ice cream made from their own milk. This year they started selling cheese made in the farm. Though only
influence of the nuclear disaster on production which still remains is regular inspection of radioactive material,
the number of customers of milk delivery within Fukushima city is less compared with that of before disaster, and the sales has not recovered yet even if the ones of newly started business is included.
In the afternoon of the 14th, participants made presentation in a room on the 3rd floor of Corasse Fukushima.
We invited those who joined in the past dialogue so that we would be able to know the changes in situation between then and now.
Mr. Muneo Kanno of ‘Fukushima Saisei no Kai’ (Resurrection of Fukushima) of Iitate village, established the organization in 2012. There many people gather for activities, including those from outside prefecture and researchers from Tokyo.
They carried out demonstration tests of agricultural products before evacuation order was lifted, and have made steady progress. Many people including those from abroad and outside the prefecture still gather for learning and training even after the evacuation order was lifted.
However, the stark reality that 75% of former residents live outside the village after the evacuation order lifting, and registered number of residents decreased by 700 (as of the end of September 2019) compared with the time when the order was lifted was also spoken. He said with passion that he will continue his challenge with cooperation of the members for reconstruction of the village.
Then Ms. Yoshimi Arai of Life for Mothers, Date city, talked about her. Right after the accident, when she returned to home from evacuation outside Fukushima prefecture, she had concerns about radiation and distrust for administration and specialists, and she felt isolated as she could not find anyone to share her feelings. Later she established ‘Date mama clover no Kai,’ a circle for mothers who returned from evacuation. There having many gatherings she was able to share her concerns and thoughts with others and became relieved as it was not only her who had such feelings.
Ms. Arai’s home is located in the ‘C’ area which was not subject of decontamination by Date City, and her home was not decontaminated even if she presented a petition. Therefore, she decontaminated her home by herself with cooperation of friends. “How brighten up I felt when it was completed!” said she.
Later she became to be involved in operation of ‘Date-monmo no Ie,’ salon for mothers who returned from evacuation, as staff of NPO Ryozen Satoyama Gakko. In her activities, she had opportunities to exchange with staff of Date city hall and specialists. Talking frankly with administration staff those who she used to distrusted, she began to feel that they are also residents of the city like her. She measures radiation dose herself, and according to the self-determined criteria, she is now able to live without concerns. ‘Date-monmo no Ie’ published a booklet
“In order to raise children in Fukushima”
with experiences of mothers who returned from evacuation.
There is an episode in the booklet that a specialist they invited as a lecturer described their evacuation ‘valued action trying to protect children’ and mothers cried feeling that their efforts were recognized for the first time. Then they asked questions to their satisfaction and as a result their distrust disappeared.
I realized once again that one-sided explanation, forced conclusion, and persuasion for understanding have only the opposite effects on mutual understanding.
Speech of Mr. Akihiro Yoshikawa of general incorporated association AFW followed.
He was working for TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at the time of accident. Sometime after the accident, he left the company for some reason and started activity in the private sector. He was living in Namie town when the accident happened, and he had a guilty conscience as he used to tell people around him that there would never happen any accidents, and which became a lie.
He used to attend visits to FDNPP and organize events for exchange of people of different positions, and he now would like to organize ‘conversation (会話)’ not dialogue (対話).
Then we listened to Ms. Yoko Sugimoto of the Information Center of the Specified Waste (‘Reprun Fukushima’) and Ms. Risa Sato of Fukushima Prefecture Environment Creation Center Exchange Building (‘Comutan Fukushima’). Reprun Fukushima was opened in August 2018 in Tomioka town, and Comutan Fukushima in 2016 in Miharu town, and both facilities are used for knowing and learning about radiation besides for informing situations in the Fukushima prefecture. Not only receiving visitors from schools and other groups, it is also used as a venue of education through hands-on learning and various events. Regarding group visits at Reprun, there are more visitors from outside of prefecture at present, and it is recognized as a place to visit for people outside the prefecture can learn about Fukushima.
Before the earthquake, the life of both Ms. Sugimoto and Ms. Sato were not related with radiation or nuclear power. They learned about radiation after the disaster, and now they are providing information to the visitors of each facility. It was an episode that made us feel the lapse of time.
Mr.(Dr.) Yasuhiro Uezu of JAEA and Mr. Takashi Hara of Azumi High School made a presentation about an opinion exchange meeting of high school students in the Fukushima prefecture that they organized together after they met at the Dialogue before last. 20 students who applied from different high schools participated in the event and visited the related facilities in the Hamadori area such as TEPCO decommissioning archive center, and then had an exchange session among students. At present, there are few opportunities at high schools in Fukushima for students to discuss topics related to the radiation disaster. It was pointed that the opportunities are not sufficiently provided as students wish to know and talk. It was reported that students’ satisfaction with the discussion session was very high. It was also mentioned that to offer learning opportunities which are not one-sided would be necessary in order to develop human resources for the future.
Mr. Jean-Francois Lecomte of IRSN, France, talked about what he learned at the Dialogues. Dialogue started in November 2011, and he has attended all but the very first one. IRSN is an organization with about 1800 employees, specialized in research and implementation of nuclear and radiation safety and protection in France. Their wide area of research covers safety management of nuclear facility, radioactive waste of normal time, research of and measures for radioactive materials which exist in natural environment such as radon.
He attends Fukushima Dialogue to prepare for nuclear power plant incidents which might happen in France.
He learned that like in the Chernobyl accident, the accident in Fukushima has greatly affected the human aspect and includes the social, economic and ethical effect. According to him, specialists from overseas are like boatman and may have been able to contribute to pass past experience (Chernobyl, etc.) to present (Fukushima) across national borders.
Before closing, Mr. Chris Clement, the scientific secretary of ICRP, announced that an international conference to discuss the recovery after the nuclear accident will be held by ICRP in Fukushima city, at Corasse Fukushima from November 30 to December 4, 2020.
Day 2: December 15th (Sunday)
In the Fukushima Dialogue, Talking about the 9-year trajectory, Mr. Seiichi Kazumata of JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) Fukushima Mirai talked about the status of recovery of agriculture in Fukushima after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Though agriculture in the Fukushima prefecture was heavily affected by the nuclear accident, it is recovering year by year from the influence including harmful rumors, thanks to the efforts and measures such as decontamination. The present price gap from other areas of agricultural production is difficult to generalize since it varies according to the items and their share in the market. It seems that the prices of luxury gift items such as Anpogaki, partially dried persimmons, and peaches, are not recovering easily. In addition, it is considered that the reduced number of shelves to sell products of Fukushima in shops and supermarkets may have a big impact. Regarding Anpogaki, JA built a large-scale production facility and implemented production control to start their challenge to produce the products of stable quality. At fields where the owners are too old to restart farming or the radiation dose is too high, the present goal is to cut down trees and weeds and clean up the field.
Mr. Tetsuya Ishikawa from Tominari, Date city, told us about his family’s experience. His wife and children evacuated from Fukushima pref. for some time and then returned to Date city. He was once invited to the dialogue held in August 2014 and talked about his story. After that, he started to join local community’s activities and playing drums, local traditional performing art, and PTA. On the other hand, the local population decreased and depopulation in the area advanced. It was decided that the local Tominari primary school would be closed this year. One year after his family’s return to Date city, his wife developed disease and passed away. “I cannot stop feeling that the situation would have been different if the radiation disaster had not happened, and there had not been evacuation of my family...” However, he told us about the importance of hope and dream with the words that “I would like to pass my experience on to the future generation as a signpost”
In March 2017, Mr. Shin-ichi Tanaka of Futaba town Hosoya district showed us his house before it was demolished, since his land was going to be part of the interim storage facility of radioactive waste. Two and a half years passed since then, and the house was torn down and his land is now a vacant lot. We listened to his story as he showed us the pictures taken when he visited the site in November 2019. The Tanaka family had lived in Hosoya for 150 years, and Mr. Tanaka is the 5th generation of farmers. Because of the radiation disaster, the place where he was born and grew up will be lost as it becomes part of the interim storage facility. He agreed to offer his land, as someone needs to give up one’s land for reconstruction of Fukushima. According to the plan of the ministry of environment, all the radioactive waste from decontamination in Fukushima prefecture will be brought into the facility and moving-in will complete in two years. When such a time comes, he wishes people would remember and keep it in their mind that hundreds or thousands of land owners were obliged to suffer in the same way as he did, and he concluded his words
Then, a documentary film of about 90 minutes called “Chernobyl - Fukushima: Living with Legacy,” which was produced in France, was played. The film focuses on the life of people in Belarus, Norway and Fukushima after the radiation accident as to what kind of experience they had and what feeling they felt as they have lived their lives. There are few dramatic scenes which might be often seen in films on nuclear accidents, but beautiful images and quiet narration visualized the influence of accidents.
The dialogue in the afternoon was carried out having eleven panelists. Reflecting the time they spent after the accident, they spoke in two rounds on the theme as to what they wish to have from now. In the first round, they talked about the present situation in the way they feel. What I felt while I facilitated the dialogue, was that though many of them recovered their peaceful life in terms of the daily life, many might still feel something unclear or uncomfortable remains. As symbolized by the expression that ‘a dividing line’ was drawn, because of the radiation accident, every part of society has cracks and the people’s life was largely affected. The cracks, though invisible, become fixed and may remain in an even stronger way. Mr. Chris Clement, who joined from overseas, pointed that “recovery of humans is essential.” In the second round, panelists mentioned the importance of passing to the next generation, disseminating outside Fukushima, and listening carefully to different opinions.
I found it giving us suggestions when one pointed that if someone was asked what did he/she learn by visiting Hiroshima, it could be answered from a broader point of view that he/she went there to learn about ‘peace’ not about atomic bombs. Could the same thing be said for Fukushima? He wished people would be offered something to enrich their lives by visiting Fukushima, instead of learning about nuclear accidents. A Participant from overseas commented that his stay in Japan after the accident was now more than 400 days. Fukushima is not just a place to visit but it became an emotional place for him. He said he wished to continue his efforts to communicate Fukushima’ s experience worldwide. There was also a comment that one would like to make efforts even if the experience cannot be put into words. I think that, unlike other kinds of disasters, it would be difficult to develop measures on which many of constituent member agree among the society just after the nuclear accident because the damages are invisible. Each person perceive the disaster via one’s deep inside by themselves so that no one can see, hear or smell damages. People are different in their way of sensing and thinking, and therefore it may cause the difference in their own response. I feel that it might lead to the distress in people’s life after the nuclear disaster. It is necessary to communicate in words with each other because it is invisible, and one does not understand from just what appears. However, since we cannot translate everything we think or feel into words, there is a limitation in what we express in words. In this limitation, even if it is not expressed in words, to pay careful attention to each other may continue to be necessary after the nuclear disaster.
In the chaos after the accident, each of us all tried to rebuild own life in one’s own situation. In the present dialogue, staff of Date city hall raised his hand and spoke that the temporary incinerators built in Date city after the accident, completed all its task. At that time, staff of local government had a hard time being criticized by residents although they themselves were residents there. We would like to express our gratitude to them and at the same time, we feel that all people who acted based on certain standpoint were faced with often emotional and harsh criticism from those from another standpoint although they took actions for the best. It seemed that not few people are exhausted with it and shut their mouth. One in the floor mentioned that it became difficult to speak out the concern about radiation as such a remark could be criticized as something which would spoil the recovery efforts. The invisible cracks in the society would be repaired only by listening to each other. Keeping silence to each other would leave something uncomfortable unresolved. We truly hope that by the 10th anniversary of the accident, an atmosphere will be fostered in which everyone can appreciate the great efforts which the others have taken although we are all based on a different standpoint or thought.