March 11, 2012: Fukushima Essays

On the Anniversary of the 3-11 triple disasters, some of our members submitted essays looking at the disaster, the last year and what lies ahead. This essay by group member Nancy:


Every media outlet has done a “one year later” story on Fukushima and the triple disaster in Japan. Many seem to wrap up the past year as if the disaster is “done”, those who have been following closely know it is far from done or over.

Some areas in Miyagi,  far north of the nuclear disaster still don’t have electricity restored. Red Cross rebuilding funds have been tied up in government planning limbo for the entire year. Thousands still live in temporary housing with no idea if or when the evacuation zone would be safe to return to. Millions wonder about their radiation exposure level but can’t obtain proper tests. Confusion about what is and isn’t safe still abounds.

The plant sits in a tenuous situation of damaged yet cooled with rigged systems. Spent fuel sits in unstable pools waiting to be removed. Reactors 1-3 are still too dangerous for entry of more than a few minutes.  Deadly hot spots still exist around the plant. Work at the plant will take at least 40 years and requires techniques and equipment yet to be invented.

We came together from around the world in the information vacuum of the first days of the disaster. We found a horrible lack of information, conflicting stories, mis-information being put out by groups with agendas and people in desperate need of facts right now. In the first days people in Japan were looking outward for the answers they could not get at home. We did all we could to try to give answers that were urgently needed about radiation, evacuation routes, personal safety and the true status of the reactors. As the disaster evolved we realized that the story of what was really going on in Japan was still not being told. The version being played out in the media in the rest of the world was quite different than what we were seeing for ourselves. If we could do nothing else, we could bear witness to what was going on and tell the rest of the world the real story.

Our work is far from over. The events of the last year deserve proper recording for posterity. What comes in the next year and the many after that, will need investigation and factual analysis. People will continue to struggle to regain their lives, seek compensation and deal with the health uncertainties caused by the disaster. Work at the plant will continue to give up evidence of the accident.

All of this is at risk of being lost as a part of the worldwide public mind. If we can continue to make things known and assure the facts come out, people will better understand the true nature and consequences of the disaster. As long as the world is watching, victims stand a better chance of having their needs met and it puts more pressure on governments to implement real meaningful safety changes.

If there is anything we can do to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives is to assure this never happens again. While we can’t control nature, we can control how we approach risk and safety. We can change how we prepare for disasters and what risks are truly acceptable and what are not.

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