Stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant now a popular destination via 朝日新聞

It may seem surreal, but as work continues to decommission damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant–a project that involves 7,000 or so workers–tours of the complex by outsiders are becoming increasingly popular.

By the end of last September, or four-and-a-half years since the nuclear accident triggered by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster, some 16,000 people had visited.

Initially, visitors to the stricken facility were mainly politicians and specialists. But more recently, ordinary citizens are taking part as radiation levels have fallen at the plant site.

Nineteen university students took a tour last November. The bus they rode took them past large tanks holding contaminated water as well as a massive piece of equipment attached to a reactor building to extract nuclear fuel. Throughout the visit, workers wearing protective clothing and face masks could be seen.

Nana Ohashi, a sophomore at Tokyo’s Keio University, said, “It really hit me that those in my generation will not be able to ignore the alternatives regarding what to do about nuclear energy and decommissioning the reactors.”
The tour was organized by a group called AFW, which stands for Appreciate Fukushima Workers. Led by Akihiro Yoshikawa, 35, a former employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken plant, the group began escorting tours by residents living along the Pacific coast of Fukushima Prefecture from 2015. A major objective of the tours is to show residents what decommissioning involves.

“If ordinary citizens abandon interest, the plant site will be further shut off from the rest of the world,” Yoshikawa said.

He said that 140 or so people had participated in the seven tours organized to date.

Iwaki resident Kaori Suganami, 39, took part in a tour last June.

She said, “It is wrong to think ‘someone else will do the work.'”


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