Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Disaster
People’s hearts are lost in the most beautiful village of Japan
For more than three decades, a pack of groceries has arrived at the front of my house. A driver of local Coop, a door-to-door delivery service, kindly brings a stack of food from the local areas to the third floor. The areas include Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima for years, well-known prefectures demolished by the catastrophe on March 11, 2011. A long ten year period has passed for locals as well as Tokyoites who eat food from those areas. Last March, lessons of Fukushima strike my family with grief, frustration, and somewhat despair for the resurrection efforts in Fukushima. For residents in Fukushima, it is certain that they continue to live in the aftermath of the disaster but more importantly what the rest of Japan would remember and help them back to a quiet and stable home.
An episode of the Economist, “The Fukushima disaster, Nuclear decay”, came to my attention. The coverage of the story reflects my reactions with grief, frustration, and despair in 15 minutes of read. The first-half of it covers Fukushima residents, followed by nuclear decontamination efforts, and energy policy in the second-half. It was really heart-breaking to read it.
The magnitude of impact is still huge to remember. 2,317 residents died after the earthquake, more than the 1,606 deceased during the quake. A paper reports that 36,811 or 2.1% of the population remain unable to return home. As a nationwide ageing country, Japan has been seeing itself with a loss of 100,000 people in rural areas. For Fukushima in nine years since the preceding disaster, the prefecture has lost the average of 180,000 locals a year. Fewer and fewer forks continue to live in the disaster relief from slow progress. In the 35km north-west of the nuclear plant of TEPCO, only 1,500 or one fourth of habitants returned to a village of Iitate with the original population of 6,200.
Both decontamination of land and decommissioning nuclear plant cast a dark shadow to increase my frustration. The contaminated soil piled up in black bags equivalent to 2 mil 10t trucks to dump. The government insisted that all the bags must be moved out of the prefecture by 2030, a less than two decades from now. Yet some say that ten years is just the starting point, a British newspaper quotes. The worse area of concern lies in the removal of 900 tones of melted fuel from the three reactors. TEPCO, an owner of the utility in Tokyo area, thinks that it takes 30–40 years. TEPCO filters the plant to remove radioactive particles and move contaminated water to the storage space, which run out next year. The standard practice of the removal is to dump the dirty materials into the ocean. Worries in fishermen and farmers deepen for public health as well as sales of proceeds.
Decommissioning nuclear plants complicates the situation further. 10 years ago, Japan operated 54 reactors, generating a third of country’s electricity with generous subsidies for hosting the plants to locals. After the disaster, most nuclear reactors were shut down. Currently 9 reactors operate to provide just 6% electricity of the entire nation. The electricity cost in Tokyo stays very high along with other utility charge. TEPCO charges my three member family in a small sized 2 bedroom with more than $100 in the summer. The total size of room is less than half of the apartment my family lived in Atlanta, Georgia three decades ago. They charged less than $40 a month for the electricity with water included in the rent.
Anti-nuclear activists oppose the plant to turn on the reactors back to the original level of 30%. But the coal and oil usage stands at 30% to meet climate change activist because the source is not climate friendly to produce unbearable carbon dioxides. Renewable energy source gradually take over others to generate more electricity to share 20%. In other words, Japan’s electricity generation is high-cost and dirty. It is almost impossible to become optimistic under these circumstances.
For years to come, March 11 is a day to remember for most Tokyoites. It is more than likely that my family, especially my wife, remembers the impact of the earthquake. A delivery of local food will come to the door on Tuesdays, more frequent but farther southwest of Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Food and electricity are things humans consume everyday. It is time to dedicate the discussion to those necessities of beautiful village of Fukushima in the future.