By Andrew R. Marks
During the entire afternoon of driving through the region not a single sign warning of the potential dangers of radioactive contamination was observed in any language other than Japanese. There was no security at most of the contaminated sites, and thousands of plastic bags of contaminated dirt were piled high in areas without any supervision or even a fence to prevent access from the public roadway. Birds flew all through the area, presumably transporting radioactive seeds and leaving contaminated droppings throughout Japan.
Ironically, during my visit to Fukushima on April 14, 2016, an earthquake rocked the Kumamoto region of Japan, ultimately causing at least 42 deaths and displacing thousands. This region contains the only working nuclear reactor remaining in Japan. Too far away to be felt in Fukushima, it was nevertheless a harsh reminder of the continued risk for further damage to the reactors already in meltdown.
The continued high level of radioactivity removal efforts in the Fukushima region (entire hill sides have been denuded of surface soil) indicate that the Japanese government knows the health threat caused by the contamination remains. The lack of security, the failure to provide any of the internationally accepted protective warnings against radioactivity contamination (e.g., the universal three-armed black and yellow sign warning of radioactivity), and the absence of any warning signs for non-Japanese-speaking individuals, despite the active advertising campaign to attract tourists to view the cherry blossoms on this beautiful region of Japan, is disturbing. The possibility that individuals could access enormous amounts of radioactively contaminated dirt and transport it to a sensitive area in Japan or elsewhere is frightening.