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PSR in Japan: Lessons from Fukushima

Posted by Mathias Pollock, MPH on August 29, 2012

There is no safe world in which either nuclear weapons capabilities or reliance on nuclear energy can exist. They are inextricably linked both through the science of supply and the politics of power. And as modern history has continually reaffirmed, since the very inception of the nuclear age, the human race is both unequipped to safeguard against this awesome force and unprepared to deal with the consequences.

Nowhere has this been more evident recently than in Japan, a country with a tragic nuclear legacy that continues to be written. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011 had profound impacts on not only the lives of local victims, but on the society as a whole.

Since then more than 100,000 people have had their lives shattered and are still living in temporary housing because of evacuation. It will take more than 30 years to remove the contaminated debris from the site. And while direct casualties from this accident have been mercifully limited, the latent effects from radiation exposure on the people of Japan may not be seen for decades. And as we have heard all week from the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the physical and psychological damage of living with a permanent poison of unknown effects can be like swallowing a time bomb. No one should have to bear this unnecessary and utterly preventable burden.

While the overwhelming majority of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain offline, the reactivation of a couple plants earlier this year in an effort to meet the country’s electricity demands was met with tens of thousands of protesters in the streets of Tokyo. While accident reports and investigative committees continue to deliberate cause, fault, and lessons learned from the tragedy, the people of the country (and many around the world) are speaking out. They are unwilling to jeopardize the safety of their communities and the health of their children for corporate power and greed.

I have heard too many heartbreaking stories of survivors this week, both of the 1945 bombings and the 2011 meltdown. Even sadder are the stories that were never written, those of the people who didn’t survive, and tragically there is little we can do to change that. What we CAN do is work to create a world where these stories cease to be written, and become a part of only our past and not of our future.


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