The tragedy of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster took place almost three years ago. Since then, radiation has forced thousands out of their homes and led to the deaths of many. It took great effort to prevent the ultimate meltdown of the plant – but are the after effects completely gone? Tokyo says yes; it also claims the government is doing everything it can for those who suffered in the disaster. However, disturbing facts sometimes rise to the surface. To shed a bit of light on the mystery of the Fukushima aftermath, Sophie Shevardnadze talks to the former mayor of one of the disaster-struck cities. Katsutaka Idogawa is on SophieCo today.
Sophie Shevardnadze:Mr. Idogawa, welcome to the program. Your town of Futaba was heavily dependent on cash coming in from the nuclear reactors and you yourself approved building more reactors. Did you believe back then, that something could go wrong?
Katsutaka Idogawa: Yes, I suspected it might, but I didn’t expect an accident of such proportions.
SS:Your town is moving to a new location, to the neighboring city of Iwaki. Is it safe there? Do you see this as a new start for the people?
KI: I’d like to show you a table with radiation levels around Chernobyl. Radiation levels around Fukushima are four times higher than in Chernobyl, so I think it’s too early for people to come back to Fukushima Prefecture. Here you can see radiation levels in our region, Tohoku. This is ground zero, and the radiation radius is 50-100km, even 200km in fact. Fukushima Prefecture is at the very center. The city of Iwaki, where Futaba citizens moved, is also in Fukushima Prefecture. It is by no means safe, no matter what the government says. Exposing people to the current levels of radiation in Fukushima is a violation of human rights. It’s terrible.
SS:Evacuation advisories are being lifted for some cities in the Fukushima area, but you’re saying that the government is allowing this, despite the danger of radiation?
KI: Fukushima Prefecture has launched the Come Home campaign. In many cases, evacuees are forced to return. Here is a map of Fukushima Prefecture, with areas hit by radiation highlighted in yellow, and you can see that the color covers almost the entire map. Air contamination decreased a little, but soil contamination remains the same. And there are still about two million people living in the prefecture, who have all sorts of medical issues. The authorities claim this has nothing to do with the fallout. I demanded that the authorities substantiate their claim in writing but they ignored my request. There are some terrible things going on in Fukushima. I remember feeling so deeply for the victims of the Chernobyl tragedy that I could barely hold back the tears whenever I heard any reports on it. And now that a similar tragedy happened in Fukushima, the biggest problem is that there is no one to help us. They say it’s safe to go back. But we must not forget the lessons of Chernobyl. We must protect our children. I talked to local authorities in different places in Fukushima, but no one would listen to me. They believe what the government says, while in reality the radiation is still there. This is killing children. They die of heart conditions, asthma, leukemia, thyroiditis…Lots of kids are extremely exhausted after school; others are simply unable to attend PE classes. But the authorities still hide the truth from us, and I don’t know why. Don’t they have children of their own? It hurts so much to know they can’t protect our children.
SS:Now, Japan’s homeless are among those recruited to take part in the major cleanup – are they a viable workforce in this case? Is this because there’s a lack of qualified workers, or because those people are considered sort of ‘disposable?’ Is this even true?
KI: Unfortunately, it’s true. If you use workers on a one-off basis, you don’t need to watch radiation; you don’t need to care about their health. We must respect people, care about them. When talking about the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Prime Minister Abe likes to talk about Japanese hospitality, and he uses this Japanese word “omotenashi,” which literally means that you should treat people with an open heart. But we don’t see that in our situation. While Prime Minister Noda was preoccupied with self-promotion, authorities started caring less about people who worked at the Fukushima plant. Their equipment was getting worse; preparation was getting worse. So people had to think about their safety first. That’s why those who understood the real danger of radiation began to quit. Now we have unprofessional people working there. They don’t really understand what they’re doing. That’s the kind of people who use the wrong pump, who make mistakes like that. I’m particularly concerned about their leaders. It seems to me their crew leaders aren’t real professionals. They don’t know what they’re doing. I’m really ashamed for my country, but I have to speak the truth for the sake of keeping our planet clean in the future.
SS:The United Nations report on the radiation fallout from Fukushima says no radiation-related deaths or acute diseases have been observed among the workers and general public exposed – so it’s not that dangerous after all? Or is there not enough information available to make proper assessments? What do you think?
KI: This report is completely false. The report was made by a representative of Japan – Professor Hayano. Representing Japan, he lied to the whole world. When I was mayor, I knew many people who died from a heart attack, and then there were many people in Fukushima who died suddenly, even among young people. It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.
Read more and watch the video at Fukushima disaster: Tokyo hides truth as children die, become ill from radiation – ex-mayor
SS:You’ve said before that you knew right away that the government, that TEPCO – the plant’s operator, would lie about the consequences of the accident at Fukushima. When did you lose trust in the authorities?
KI: This was even before the accident, when I first came to see the management of the power plant. I asked them about potential accidents at a nuclear power plant, pretending I didn’t know anything about it, and it turned out they were unable to answer many of my questions. Frankly, that’s when it first crossed my mind that their management didn’t have a contingency plan. It was then that I realized the facility could be dangerous.