19-Year-Old Fukushima Woman Says, “Please Let Me Be the One to Decide on My Own Life” via Fukushima Voice version 2e

This is a translation of an interview article posted online on August 30, 2014, by a Japanese freelance journalist, Hiroki Suzuki. Suzuki runs a site called, “Tami no Koe Shimbun,” or “People’s Voice Newspaper,” where he posts interviews of various people in Fukushima. The article was translated with permissions from Suzuki and the interviewee.
【Doubts About “Safety Promotion” at an Early Age】

She has been interested in nuclear power plants since in grade school. School textbooks only showed merits of nuclear power plants, but she says, “I was lucky to have a teacher who also taught us risks of nuclear power plants.” At the time, there were always events held in Fukushima City during summer breaks for “safety promotion.” She went to them every summer, but she never totally believed them. In the ninth grade, one of the summer homework assignments was to collect and summarize newspaper articles. You choose a theme, collect related articles, and summarize them. She chose “pluthermal, or plutonium-thermal use” as her theme. Recycling of uranium and plutonium collected during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. She even read a book about it, and the more she dug into it, the more doubtful she became. She said “Only safety was emphasized. Why are they doing ‘safety promotion’?”

Therefore, it was natural that she began to seal all windows when returning home, in an attempt to protect her family from radiation, to the point where her father said, “Is all that really necessary?” She was pre admitted to high school during the first semester, so she didn’t have to go to the prefectural high school entrance examination result announcement which was held despite high radiation levels. However, she had to go and register for high school entrance, which meant she had to physically go to the prefectural high school she was admitted into. She covered herself with a mask and a muffler, minimizing skin exposure, and she washed her face carefully upon returning home. Even with all the precaution taken, the result of her thyroid ultrasound examination, done in January 2012, nine months after the high school began, was “A2” (nodules equal to or smaller than 5 mm or cysts equal to or smaller than 20 mm).

“I am worried if my future children will be affected when I get married and have babies.”
In the last 3 years, her parents tried various means of avoiding radiation exposure to protect her. She knows it will be difficult to evacuate out of Fukushima Prefecture for a financial reason and also because of caring for her ill grandparent. As her parents have tried hard, she thinks her family might be more protected than the others. She also feels anxious and lonely about living alone.

She thought about it for a bit, and announced, “I was accepted into a particular high school I wanted to get into, in order to be closer to what I want to do in the future. I am afraid of destroying what I have by evacuating. Also, it’s my own life. I should be the one to decide.”

Her dream is to become a space engineer. She says with a smile, “I want to develop an engine for a space probe.” Two years ago she participated in a overnight learning camp at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. She heard stories from an astronaut, Naoko Yamazaki. In order to fulfill her dream, she is studying to get into Tohoku University School of Engineering. “But I haven’t given up my other dream of becoming a dancer. I want to do both.” This year, she didn’t do well on the college entrance examination due to an illness. She commutes to a college preparatory school in Sendai, aiming to gain acceptance into Tohoku University next spring.

“What people think about radiation exposure and evacuation isn’t black and white. It might be gray close to being white, or gray close to being black. Perhaps another color would blend in. Many people think of radiation the same as air, but some people are working very hard to reduce the risk. I would like people outside Fukushima Prefecture to understand that.”

Two and a half year since the last examination, she had a repeat thyroid ultrasound examination at Fukushima Medical University. After the ultrasound examination, she said, “I saw cysts on the monitor.”

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