The Guardian • Issue #1954

The legacy hanging over Fukushima ten years on from disaster

Japan entered into a state of emergency when the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami swept across the country in 2011. Water flooded the sea wall protecting the nuclear powerplant and triggered three meltdowns and three hydrogen explosions.

Radioactive contamination leaked from the plant and caused approximately 154,000 residents in a 20 km radius to be evacuated. No one died as a direct result of the plant’s destruction; however, the impacts of the disaster were felt by all the people uprooted from their communities. Some 2000 elderly people eventually died according to a report titled “Increase in disaster-related deaths: risks and social impacts of evacuation”.

In this report, author M Hayakawa writes “disaster-related death is caused by stress, exhaustion, and worsening of pre-existing illnesses due to evacuation.”

“It is said that insufficient response measures were taken, in particular, during the transitional period between the emergency phase and the reconstruction phase. There is a need to apply the lessons learned in planning for evacuation after a nuclear hazard, considering radiological protection as well as risks associated with evacuation.”

Over the course of nuclear history, there are any number of case studies that have proved to be cautionary tales. Ones that have resulted in loss of life and, as shown above in the example of Fukushima, caused huge distress to people in the affected areas.

It is the policy of the CPA that Australia must “transfer … government subsidies from fossil and nuclear fuel sectors to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transition programs.”

Clean and safe energy renewable energy would minimise these impacts on the environment and people.

Hayakawa ends the report, saying “the residents of Fukushima were thrown into this disastrous event, and are now making extraordinary sacrifices in the form of disaster-related deaths. This experience cannot be wasted.”

It is crucial that this disaster is learned from and only by ending the fossil fuel and nuclear conglomerates can this be fully achieved. No company or people should be able to build capital on energy. Certainly not if doing so causes environmental and social disasters, whether that be an oil spill or a nuclear meltdown.

CPA policy states that “the environmental crisis has been largely created by the rapacious exploitation of the Earth’s resources by the capitalist ruling class. Ignoring scientific evidence, this class continues to aggravate the crisis with a disregard for the consequences of its activities. The response of governments in the developed capitalist countries to the climate crisis shows greater interest in safeguarding corporate profits than the environment.”

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