Aizu Radiation Information Center Representative Terumi Kataoka
On March 11, 2011, the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident erupted following the Great East Japan Earthquake and giant tsunami. While society fell into chaos, citizens who felt the terror of radiation exposure and a heightened distrust in the Japanese government and TEPCO gathered to establish the "Group to Protect Children's Lives from Radiation - Aizu" (May 2011). We formed the "Aizu Radiation Information Center" (July 2011) with the aim of quickly collecting and disseminating various kinds of information. Even now that seven years have passed, we continue to dedicate time and effort to protecting life and regaining human rights. It is evident that we could not do so without the support and existence of people who have connected with the center. I am deeply grateful for their undying encouragement.
■ Reflecting on the Aizu Radiation Information Center's Activities
In the seventh term, staff went out to measure air dose rates with a hotspot finder and created a map of the area’s radiation levels. Please take a look at it when you visit. We will respond to requests to measure an area, so please do not hesitate to ask. At the entrance to the information center, a "Pointcast" monitor that constantly measures the air dose rate was installed. Its measurements can be checked online. You can check its measurements from anywhere, and it is also possible to take stock of everyday circumstances and notice sudden changes in the figures.
While air dose monitoring is ongoing, measurements of food samples etc. are declining. I believe one of the reasons is that our knowledge increased as a result of continuing to measure food, so it became possible to predict the movement of artificial radioactive substances like Cesium-137, but let us continue our monitoring efforts to confirm the facts.
In the seventh term, with the support and cooperation of several organizations, we were able to organize a recuperation program in Okinawa in the spring and in Hokkaido in the summer. Not only did the participants enjoy nature and food, they were able to meet people who are always thinking of them despite the distance. "Niigata House" was reopened after several months of repair work after a pipe burst midwinter. This program, as well as the one-night sleepover for former non-mandatory evacuees, is something that can only be continued because of many people's support.
We have had more visitors than last year. As the years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, many support groups nationwide are stopping their activities, but the number of visitors to the information center is on the rise. During this term, there were nearly 20 groups and individuals who came to the center, with several groups that visit every year. They have said that by continuing to connect with us, living in Fukushima, they are able to confirm that the nuclear accident is not over and to recommit to the belief that nuclear power plants should not be allowed to restart.
It is also worth noting that many domestic and international students and young researchers studying subjects such as sociology and cultural anthropology have visited many times. Tommy Birkett (Columbia University Cultural Anthropology Ph.D. student) has been staying at the information center for about 1 year since January and has been carrying out interviews. Some researchers have come back to visit or will return to Japan soon. The information center is serving as a site of research to create a society that respects human life by investigating the impact of the nuclear power plant disaster on our everyday and personal lives.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Doctor Yamazaki Tomoyuki, Doctor Kobayashi Koji and Doctor Konta Kaoru, with whom we were able to organize health counseling sessions and thyroid examinations during the seventh term. At the community chats facilitated by Dr. Yamazaki and Dr. Kobayashi, people discuss not only their concerns about radioactivity but also other topics close to their heart. The doctors have listened attentively to each of their feelings. For many other activities such as study group sessions with guest lecturers and monthly community chats, please refer to the individual department reports.
■ Reflecting on Government Negotiations
It is well-known that there is growing public sentiment opposed to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA)'s proposal, issued on March 20, 2018, to remove about 2,400 real-time monitoring posts (MP) installed in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of the 2020 fiscal year. Please see "Individual Department Reports: Responding to the Government" for details on petition actions and responses to them.
While voices seeking the continued use of monitoring posts within and outside the prefecture have grown louder, the NRA has made a shocking statement. That is, "Do not evacuate without permission even if an unexpected situation occurs again. You will be unnecessarily exposed to radiation if you go to look at a monitoring post. During the Great East Japan Earthquake, people who did not need to evacuate, evacuated because there was no information. Now we are working with Fukushima Prefecture to build a system that will convey reliable information. In the unlikely event that something happens, please evacuate indoors and act according to that information" (July 20, 2018 Citizen's Association Second Nuclear Regulatory Agency Negotiations). This statement advises the complete opposite of the only radiation protection measure that can be taken in the event of a nuclear accident, which is to take stable iodine and evacuate as far as possible. I was shocked by the government’s will to prevent residents' evacuation should there be another nuclear accident in the future.
On September 26th, the NRA approved the restart permit for the Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Station. However, it is impossible to formulate an emergency evacuation plan for nearly 96 thousand residents. On October 17th, Toyoshi Fuketa, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, stated, "I have decided to use the figure of 100 mSv of radiation exposure to residents within a week from the outbreak of a nuclear power plant accident as the standard to construct evacuation policies and evaluate their effectiveness." This means that in an emergency, you need to accept a lifetime dose of radiation in one week. No doubt because this country recognizes that it cannot evacuate residents during a nuclear power accident, it has raised the exposure limit and has started to speak as though "standby/indoor evacuation" is the most effective policy.
Personally, when I participated in negotiations with TEPCO on September 20, it seemed to me that regarding the discharge of highly contaminated waste water, which contains artificial radioactive substances besides tritium, they were of the opinion that it is impossible to remove radioactive substances besides tritium, and that it can't be helped that these other substances remain. We can say that the Abe administration, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and TEPCO are making the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident "obscure" and "invisible" so they can hide such "things that can not be done."
■ Toward the Eighth Term
Even though we know that radioactive contamination affects multiple generations, we sometimes want to abandon ourselves to the flow of the narrative that "Fukushima is recovering." I am tired from continuing to resist the domineering actions of the state and TEPCO, who refuse to face evacuees' and victims' complaints. But even so, I want to continue on this path to protect life and to restore human rights.
While maintaining the activities of "collecting data and disseminating information" and "holding space for people's sentiments" that form the pillar of the center, we would like to shift from "I decide whether it is safe" to "continue measuring to confirm safety" and from "you are not alone" to "we will connect to protect life." As we enter the eighth term, let's gain the power to recognize facts, to see the truth, and to distinguish what is most important by continuing radiation monitoring at the center, and meeting, talking, and connecting.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the many people who support the information center who were affected by natural disasters this year. As you have remembered us, we pray that your hearts, bodies, and daily lives will be protected.