Opponents of India-Japan Nuclear Agreement Ask Modi to Visit Fukushima First via The Wire

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts his three-day visit to Japan, the women of Fukushima have invited him to meet the children affected by the nuclear leak of 2011. The open letter is by a group called the Fukushima Women Against Nukes (FWAN), a network formed in September 2012 using various direct actions such as sit-ins, demonstrations and legal petitions to demand justice in the aftermath of the disaster. They are urging Modi to not sign the Indo-Japan Nuclear Agreement (IJNA).

“We are women living in Fukushima prefecture, where a massive accident unparalleled in history occurred in March 2011, at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station,” they wrote in the letter. Many of the women who signed it have evacuated Fukushima (both voluntarily and due to residential restrictions placed by the government because of high radiation levels) and now live scattered across Japan. They convened a meeting on October 29 and finalised the details of the letter addressed to Modi.

“We do not want India to buy nuclear power plants from Japan and therefore, we didn’t want IJNA to be signed,” said an FWAN representative.

“The objectives for the letter are two-fold. One, the Fukushima women strongly desire that no one in the world should face this kind of tragic disaster again,” a signatory to the letter said.“Our homelands have been stolen and we have witnessed our families and communities being divided. Secondly, it is shameful for Japan to attempt to sell its nuclear technology to India. Considering that Japan has not even properly contained the accident or sufficiently addressed the suffering of Fukushima people – some 90,000 of whom still cannot return home – we are asking Prime Minister Modi to personally visit Fukushima to see with his own eyes and learn for himself the actual state in Fukushima.”


The FWAN letter discusses health hazards that the children of the area are facing. “We live surrounded by radioactive debris which emanated from the reactor. Even as our government pushes us to return to our homelands, many people think of their children’s health, and they feel that they cannot return to their original homes. At the current stage, in Fukushima prefecture alone, some 174 children have been found to have contracted thyroid cancer,” it reads.

Major health risks manifest

Thyroid cancer in children has become a controversial matter among scientists in Japan. While some claim that its incidence is higher than normal, others say that it is because of advanced level of screening by the Japanese government.

After consistent demands from civil society, Japanese authorities started screening over 300,000 people aged under 18 years for thyroid cancer in late 2011. According to results published in the journal Epidemiology in May this year, the ailment’s incidence was 605 per million (in this age-group) depending on location. According to Toshihide Tsuda of Okayama University and his colleagues, this was a 30-fold increase over normal childhood cancer rates in Japan.

The claim was contested by others on grounds that the figures were incomparable. According to them, advanced ultrasound machines were used in the Fukushima survey and they were able to pick up on a higher incidence only because they were more sensitive than the conventional diagnostic methods otherwise employed in the rest of the population. And with the conventional methods, the incidence was three per million, they added.

“The scientists continue to debate. There does appear to be a spike in child thyroid cancer rates. But the government and scientists are saying it is because testing has been common and rigorous in Fukushima,” said Caitlin Stronell, who works at the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Tokoyo. “To me, the more important issue is that the Japanese government is trying to make the data unusable through various devious means.”


Drop by Fukushima?

Apart from health hazards, the issue of fixing responsibility is yet to be resolved. Court proceedings are still on to determine the exact cause of the accident, the influence of human errors and whether the accident was handled appropriately after the earthquake and the tsunamis struck.

The cases in the court of Japan are still pending. The report by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation, constituted by the Japanese government, was submitted in 2011. It said that the accident had been avoidable and that the secrecy maintained around safety norms of the plant led to the disaster. However, legal battles for compensation and treatment as well as for holding the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which was responsible for the plant, responsible are pending in courts.

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