By Trisha Pritikin
The Fukushima victims are demanding criminal prosecution of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and relevant government officials for criminal negligence for not safeguarding the reactors and the often catastrophic mishandling and misinformation during and after the disaster.
The innocent people whose lives were devastated by an arguably preventable nuclear disaster believe a successful investigation and prosecution will result in more stringent regulations, more cautious and responsible corporations and ultimately the protection of future generations. All this is crucial. But a public accounting of the tragedy is just as urgent not only to Fukushima victims but also to the disenfranchised victims of radiation exposure around the world.
I feel a personal connection to the downwind victims of Fukushima. I, too, have felt disempowered and invisible, longing to see those responsible for my radiation-induced health damage to finally be brought to justice. Just as Fukushima’s children could have been protected from thyroid cancer, thousands of people, including me, were exposed to radiation discharged decades ago from the (still leaking) Hanford nuclear weapon production facility near my childhood home in Richland, Washington. As in Richland, the children of Fukushima were not given potassium iodide tablets to block the uptake by our developing thyroid glands of radioiodine in contaminated milk and food — a simple protective measure understood since the dawn of the atomic age. Both Hanford and Fukushima communities put their trust in authorities who violated that trust and put their lives in danger.
To bring global attention to their cause, in April 2015, Fukushima victims will publish an English translation of select statements from their complaint as a book, available to the English-speaking world, “Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed?” Their goal, according to Ruiko Muto, the chairwoman of the Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, is to let the world “know that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not been brought under control, that it continues to spread harm and that the nation of Japan is choosing to abandon the victims.”
The book’s personal stories are compelling. Their statements offer a rare glimpse into their deep sense of betrayal. They tell of mortgages still being paid on contaminated homes that they can never inhabit. Livelihoods have been lost, families torn apart. They are under constant stress, uncertain whether the food they are eating or the air that they breathe is poisoned, unable to trust the authorities to tell them the truth.
“With no one taking responsibility for the nuclear accident, what we have is a situation of paradise for the perpetrators, hell for the victims. I cannot go to my grave like this,” says complainant No. 48, age 68.