So how have the Tsunami and the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, affected the lives of people living in the area? The people of Fukushima prefecture have been affected by tragedy in many ways & not all of them are immediately obvious to the rest of us, not only have they had to deal with the loss of loved ones and their homes, they‘ve also had to deal with loss of jobs, community and a way of life that may never be the same again! Through our work as Geographers we can help others understand the devastating effects that events such as these are having, not only on the people in the immediate vicinity, but also how they affect the rest of the World, and ultimately that no matter who we are, we’re responsible for the future of our planet.
Problems facing the people of the region will be on-going for many generations, on top of health problems associated with exposure to radiation; victims are at risk of psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and schizophrenia (Lancet, 2011). Children living in the region have all been issued with dosimeters by Tokyo University as part of a study to establish the effects of long term exposure to radiation (BBC2, 2012), and although studies were carried out following Chernobyl the effects of low dose radiation especially in children remain undetermined (Akabayashi, 2011).
Approximately 80,000 people are still waiting to hear whether or not they’ll be allowed to return home, many of them feel this will never happen and feel that their lives are in limbo (BBC2, 2012). Kakuchi, 2011, claims people no longer trusted the Government or TEPCO (the company that ran Fukushima nuclear power plant) because they weren’t informed immediately when the power plant went into meltdown, exposing everyone to unnecessary health risks.
Locally grown food can no longer be used following contamination, and even food on local supermarket shelves has been contaminated (Kakuchi, 2011). Minori a child evacuee living in Minamosota on the edge of the exclusion zone, 20kms from Fukushima nuclear power plant, says her parents don’t buy anything that’s grown in Fukushima, its contaminated, she says her parents want to move further away, however there aren’t any flats available just emergency housing (BBC2, 2012).
Others struggle to deal with devastating loses they have suffered as a result of this disaster and even children are exhibiting signs of psychological stress such as, Toshiyoki a four year old who hasn’t talked since the Tsunami took place, although he was a capable linguist before the event. (BBC2, 2012)
For these people life has changed forever; Japan had convinced them that nuclear power was safe (Kakuchi, 2011) and a clean alternative to fossil fuels (anonymous 28/03/2012) and as anonymous, 2012 stated “this should give the World pause for thought” what does the future hold? Should we rely on nuclear power to secure our energy needs for the future or are the risks just too great?
For details on the Tsunami and nuclear disaster see my earlier post entitled: The Human Cost of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Disaster
Akabayashi, A, 2011: Fukushima Research Needs World’s Support. Science, 333, pp. 696
Anonymous. 2012: Japan’s nuclear disaster: a long half-life. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/28/japan-nuclear-disaster-fukushima-editorial accessed 01/03/2012
BBC2. 01/03/2012: The children of the Tsunami
Kakuchi, S. 2011: Japanese mothers rise up against nuclear power. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/22/japanese-mothers-rise-nuclear-power accessed 01/03/2012