Category Archives: Fukushima

FUKUSHIMA UPDATE: KNOWLEDGE, DISCRIMINATION, AND SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

LINK TO PETITION

ISSUE

On March 20th, 2018 the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced plans to remove approximately 2,400, or 66%, of the 3,600 radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima prefecture by March 2021.[1] This was announced as part of an effort to refocus government radiation monitoring on the evacuation zone.

Explanatory image on March 23, 2018 materials issued by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Pink dots represent real-time radiation dose monitoring posts; shaded areas bounded in green represent areas where evacuation orders have been lifted; red and yellow areas represent areas where they are still in effect.

Note on Evacuation Zones

“Non-mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from outside zone B (shaded yellow). The national government, Fukushima prefecture, and TEPCO have recognized non-mandatory evacuees from 23 municipalities in the prefecture.[2] All other non-mandatory evacuees do not qualify for state aid. For maps providing an overview of fallout, see the following: ① Soil contamination levels: see the most recent map from the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project (EN) (日本語); Chernobyl comparison map (EN);[3] ② Atmospheric radiation levels: see radiation plume maps created by Yukio Hayakawa (9/11/2011; 2/1/2013) and the Safecast tile map.

“Mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from zone B. State-mandated evacuation happened in waves. Evacuation from Iitate village, Katsurao village, northern Namie town, and part of Kawamata town was not mandatory until May 2011. Areas only shaded yellow were told to prepare to evacuate—they were not mandated to evacuate by the national government, but may have been advised to do so by their municipal government. Evacuation orders have been lifted for all areas within zone B besides areas 1-3. As evacuation orders have been lifted and aid to evacuees from these areas has been cut off, some evacuees find themselves in a state of unrecognized displacement similar to that experienced by non-mandatory evacuees.

Note on Radiation Monitoring System in Fukushima Prefecture

Like other mass exposure events,[4] the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been characterized by the delayed release of information, the falsification or inadequate collection of data, underestimating the scale of damage, and the coordinated production of pseudoscientific misinformation.[5] The government has sought to maintain its control of the ensuing struggle over health, wages, and welfare by controlling information and paternalistically discrediting forms of knowledge or evidence that threaten its narrative. Slashing monitoring post infrastructure is another development in this pattern: it further consolidates the government’s position as the only entity with the right to know what radiation levels are, and the only entity acknowledged as being capable of assessing the circumstances, while displacing risks onto the public by symbolically shrinking the scale of the disaster.

Plans to remove these 2,400 monitoring posts are part of a broader reduction in government measures to address the nuclear disaster. Not unlike the 2008 bailout of American finance capital, the Japanese government has chosen to bail out TEPCO and pass on the risks and consequences of the nuclear disaster onto the public.[6]Health. In April 2016, residents were given the choice to opt out of the the Fukushima prefectural health survey (県民健康調査)—the only large-scale study being conducted on the health effects of the disaster.[7] Though framed as an implementation of informed consent, antinuclear groups have voiced concerns that this is part of “self-responsibility” (自己責任) discourse, which has framed reductions in government protections and services as protecting residents’ freedom of choice.[8] In December 2016, a member of the Oversight Committee for the survey suddenly proposed adding an external international oversight committee to the survey to “deepen prefectural residents’ understanding.” This followed a convention of experts from international agencies such as the ICRP, UNSCEAR, and WHO in Fukushima city, and appeared to be a request to implement their recommendations to reduce the scale of the survey and strengthen their oversight of it.[9] These organizations have played key roles in downplaying the health consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.[10]Housing. In March 2017, Fukushima prefecture cut off housing subsidies to non-mandatory evacuees—the only form of government support they were offered, and even then only to evacuees from Fukushima prefecture.[11] Many non-mandatory evacuees are barely making ends meet from a combination of mortgages on the homes they left behind, doubled rents for family members living separately, and gender-based employment discrimination affecting evacuee women, who are reported to constitute 60% of non-mandatory evacuees.[12] A month after housing aid was cut off, the Reconstruction Agency stopped counting non-mandatory evacuees in evacuee statistics, making the full scale and consequences of displacement from the nuclear disaster more difficult to assess.[13] Aid to mandatory evacuees from areas where evacuation orders were lifted were cut off just one year later, in March 2018.[14] Both non-mandatory and mandatory evacuees have reported being sued for remaining in evacuation housing.[15]Wages. In January 2018, citing improved working conditions, TEPCO announced that from April, risk allowances (危険手当) paid to contractors for decommissioning work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant would be reduced by as much as 50 percent.[16] It has subsequently been reported that workers are receiving risk allowances as meager as 3000 yen (30 USD) per day (they should be receiving the full amount, which was 20,000 yen (200 USD)).[17] As numerous reports have documented, these allowances are mostly skimmed off by general contractors and their direct subcontractors, who then hire further subcontractors to do the actual work.[18] In this instance, it appears that the reduction in risk allowances has been passed off onto workers. There are also concerns that TEPCO’s assertion that “working conditions have improved” at Fukushima Daiichi will lead to justifying the use of lighter protective gear—in other words, that workers will be paid less to work in more dangerous conditions.[19]

EXPLANATIONS

The NRA has provided several justifications for its plans to reduce radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture:

  1. Radiation levels are generally low and stable, and decontamination and recovery are progressing, so there is little need to continue radiation monitoring on a large scale.[20]
  2. The reduction of the real-time radiation dose monitoring system will be part of an effort to refocus attention on the recovery of areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, and removed monitoring posts “will be used for such things as fulfilling requests for monitoring posts by municipalities” in such areas.[21]
  3. The national government will discontinue its recovery budget in March 2021.[22]

SCARCITY NARRATIVES

Monitoring Posts Will Not Be Relocated

When explaining the shift to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency on March 20th, 2018, Matsuji Takeyama (head of the Monitoring Information Division) emphasized that there would still be a need for radiation monitoring at key “key recovery points” (fukkō kyoten) in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted. However, when he was asked by another committee member how many monitoring posts would be appropriate, he replied that there is no specific goal. Rather, it would be up to municipal governments to request that monitoring posts be placed around schools or public locations.[23] FOIA requests and negotiations with the NRA by the Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring (CGCRM) have revealed that there are currently no such requests. This suggests that rather than redistributing existing infrastructure to suit new community needs, the NRA plans to refocus radiation monitoring on the Fukushima coast simply by eliminating most publicly accessible monitoring infrastructure in the rest of the prefecture.

Costs

According to the Monitoring and Information Division (監視情報課) of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, annual maintenance costs for the real-time radiation dose monitoring system total 500 million yen.[24] Most maintenance costs are due to repairs. Though English-language news reports on the subject have led with discussion of 4,000 monitoring post malfunctions, this number appears to refer to initial adjustments made when the monitoring posts were first installed.[25] The total cost of all radiation monitoring activities is approximately 1 billion yen annually, and mostly comes out of the environmental radiation measuring agency budget (環境放射線測定等庁費). By comparison, the Reconstruction Agency’s 2018 budget allotts 5 billion yen to support tourism (観光復興関連事業), 69 billion yen to build key recovery spots in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted (特定復興再生拠点整備事業), and 209 billion yen on recovery roads (復興道路・復興支援道路の整備).[26] The Reconstruction Agency (復興庁) has allotted a total of 1.6 trillion yen for recovery efforts in 2018. Costs to maintain the real-time radiation dose monitoring system amount to 0.03% of that budget.

THE POLITICS OF RADIATION MAPS

Averaging Unevenness

In materials for its February 10, 2016 meeting, the NRA demonstrates the stability of low radiation levels by averaging data from all real-time radiation monitoring posts in a given area, the smallest of which is 475 square miles (1,200km2). This is supplemented by displaying the monthly averages for one real-time monitoring post from each area. However, one cannot assume that residents spend equal amounts of time in hotspots and areas with lower fallout levels, nor that they regularly commute across a 475 square-mile area. Everyday life happens on a smaller scale.[27] Furthermore, it is unclear why one monitoring post is being used to represent levels for regions where radiation levels can vary from 0.08~0.8µSv/hr, or even in areas with a range of 0.06~0.23µSv/hr.

Dark blue = 0.05µSv/hr; blue = 0.1µSv/hr; teal = 0.15µSv/hr; lavender = 0.3µSv/hr. Based on data presented by NRA to demonstrate that radiation levels are low and stable. Areas with evacuation orders are outlined in red. This map uses the same color key as the Safecast map below.

Safecast Map (May 18, 2018):

The regions featured in the NRA-based map above were superimposed on a recent Safecast map, which are made by crowd-sourcing data from standardized portable radiation monitors that volunteers install on cars. Areas outside the Fukushima border were lightened for clarity.

While the Safecast map documents significant variation in air dose rates, especially in central Fukushima and Tochigi prefecture, there is often significant variation at smaller scales as well. This 2017 map of Hobara town, Date city has readings ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr (0.5~1.8mSv/yr).

Above the Limit

There are also many places outside of the mandatory evacuation zone where radiation levels are higher than the government standard of 0.23µSv/hr.[28] One resident of Hobara town, Date city stated that radiation levels in the neighborhood have remained at 0.3µSv/hr.[29] We can also see from the Safecast map that radiation levels above the post-disaster standard of 0.23µSv/hr are not limited to Fukushima prefecture, nor are air dose rates above the 1991 Chernobyl law standard of 1 mSv/year (2.74µSv/day = 0.19µSv/yr).[30] One should also note that the devices used to create these maps only measure gamma radiation, and moreover do not account for internal radiation exposure from inhalation and consumption of radioactive food. Cesium-137, Cs-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131, and Plutonium isotopes emit beta particles in addition to gamma radiation, and Plutonium also emits alpha particles. These are especially damaging when they get inside the body, as they emit intense radiation until the isotope leaves the body (anywhere from a few days to several years, depending on the isotope).

A map compiled by the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project suggests that soil contamination levels across the fallout area, especially in Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Miyagi, and Chiba prefectures, remain high. Greenpeace also reports that despite decontamination, Iitate village and Namie town continue to have radiation levels well above the government standard.

Stability

According to TEPCO, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to release 91,000 Becquerels of radiation per hour (as of April 25, 2018). Though plant decommissioning is scheduled to end in 40 years, officials have admitted that decommissioning at that pace is not feasible, with some estimating that it could take as long as 200 years before radiation levels subside enough to allow work to progress.[31] So long as decommissioning is not complete, the risk of another monumental atmospheric release of radiation remains a possibility.[32]

The routine way in which the government has continued to hide information and leave residents to be exposed to radiation during accidents was explained well by Ms. Wada, a resident of Harano area:

During the nuclear accident, residents were exposed to serious levels of radiation because SPEEDI data was kept from us. I think there has been no trace of regret or change about this from the national government. And there have been frequent accidents at the Monju plant, and there was the JCO accident [1999]. TEPCO has also hidden problems many times. We don’t know how often because of what has not been made public. And during such incidents, every time, there has been a pattern where information has been hidden from residents and they have been exposed to radiation.

Explosions have happened at incinerators (焼却炉). At incinerators burning [radioactive] waste from decontamination. There was an explosion [at such a facility] in Samegawa village. A resident has testified that the radiation levels of the monitoring post nearby increased, but they were not able to document any evidence, so the matter was left unsettled. And at the incinerator in Tomioka town, a small fire broke out. There were issues in Warabidaira in Iitate village, and [the facility there] has been stopped for 5 months. At an intermediate treatment facility in Kōriyama city, a fire broke out in the storage area for highly contaminated materials. It was quite a scene, but that time, too, residents were not told anything. One person was working in their field right next to it. I negotiated with the Ministry of Environment [concerning this matter] multiple times, but not a single warning was issued. In Namie town, Minamisōma city, and Date city, there have been wildfires. In those instances as well, residents were not notified. There are also disabled persons who cannot hear, and who need to check [circumstances] with their eyes. So I think the monitoring posts are absolutely necessary.

[…] You have said that after removing the monitoring posts, you would like to have an exchange with residents and decide what to do, but over the course of these events we have unfortunately had to learn that if something happens, the government will not protect us. How are we supposed to believe you?[33]

WHOSE RIGHT TO KNOW: GOVERNMENT PATERNALISM

Because radiation is imperceptible to the five senses, insofar as people are driven into remaining in the fallout zone,[34] maps can be important sources of information for reducing exposure levels. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. It is cumulative, and the probability of developing an illness directly increases with every increase in exposure.[35] Insofar as the government continues to coerce residents to return or remain in the fallout zone, the public needs accessible information on their condition in real-time. As Terumi Kataoka from CGCRM said in an interview, “Why is our right to know being taken away when we are being forced to be exposed to radiation?”[36]

Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division[37] of the NRA, has explained the purpose of the real-time monitoring system:

Rather than assessing the situation, the main purpose of the system is for people who are living there to instantly see and understand [radiation levels in the area]. So I believe that moving forward, it is not necessary to have so many [real-time radiation dose monitoring posts].[38]

He assumed a similar stance in April 16, 2018 negotiations with CGCRM:

The reason we are removing [the monitoring posts] is because the radiation levels have stabilized enough. That is speaking scientifically. […] However, we understand that you are worried, and, uh, I think it is a question of emotions. I think there is unease, so… In principle, where [radiation levels are] low, [the monitoring posts] serve no purpose—are not necessary, but we will ultimately decide after listening to your opinions. […] We explained our policy. We will make the final decision after talking with municipal governments.

(A mother who evacuated from Iwaki city provided a good counterargument):

[…] The first thing I would like to say is that you have been using the words, “scientifically, scientifically,” but [saying that something is] “low enough” is not scientific, right? To what is it “low enough” in comparison? If you want to speak of science, then that means continuously comparing the [current] radiation levels to pre-accident levels. […] I don’t think [radiation levels] are stable by any means, or that they are the level they were before. […] That is why I have continued to evacuate with my children. I don’t think you should use the unscientific phrase, “low enough,” and I can’t believe that you plan to remove [the monitoring posts] because “[radiation levels] are stable” even though circumstances are still completely different from pre-accident conditions. Also, you said, “[we will hold] explanatory meetings [with residents] moving forward.” You said, “[you will] get [residents] to understand.” I have been to many explanatory meetings until now, but I always had the bitter experience of having [a policy] forced on me because “it’s already been decided.” Please listen to the voices of those who have been directly affected—to us and the municipalities.

Takeyama’s statement suggests that residents’ efforts to understand their own environmental circumstances do not count as assessments—that they are neither agentive nor important. His statement assumes that the very action of seeing and interpreting radiation levels in one’s immediate surroundings is not a way that residents assess the situation in which they are living. It furthermore suggests that he does not value residents’ right to access information about potentially harmful circumstances in which they are living. He presumes that the only entity capable of making assessments is the NRA, and not the people who are living with the consequences of government and corporate negligence. Such paternalism was also present at other points during the negotiations, where Takeyama repeatedly offered lukewarm acknowledgements of residents’ statements while emphasizing that “scientifically” speaking, radiation levels were “stable and low” and that the NRA would abide by its removal policy.

Woman from Kōriyama city:

I believe this has been explained several times already, but phrases such as, “prefectural residents should understand correctly to prevent unnecessary worry,” appear 20 times in these materials. So then I think, what are we? I am concerned that we are being taken as prefectural residents who do not “understand correctly” and are “unnecessarily worried.” What do you think about this point?

Matsuji Takeyama:

I don’t particularly think that it is strange that you feel worried. Of course, the radiation levels have decreased from high levels, but I understand that you are worried. […]

This dismissiveness follows a trend present since the disaster’s inception, where a coordinated effort by the Cabinet; Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare; Fukushima prefecture; TEPCO; mass media; and appointed intellectuals has dismissed residents’ insistence on their right to knowledge and information by characterizing them as “hysterical,” “spreading harmful rumors,” “emotional,” and “subjective.”[39] Thus, while post-disaster government pamphlets about radiation emphasized the public’s need to “learn correctly,”[40] the presentation of evidence that contradicts its narrative of safety has been characterized as “harmful rumor.” For these government bodies, “knowledge” seems to mean feeling reassured that the circumstances residents are being coerced into are tolerable, not harmful. As scholars such as Ann Kimura have pointed out, the misogynistic idea that women are incapable of rational thought—not to mention the idea that rationalism constitutes the only valid form of thought—have been instrumental in the “harmful rumor” discourse.

Women have resisted such narratives by validating different emotional responses to radioactive fallout and emphasizing the logical nature of such feelings. For example, during negotiations Terumi Kataoka stated:

In other words, decommissioning is not over—it’s just begun—and moreover, the declaration of nuclear emergency (原子炉緊急事態宣言) still hasn’t been lifted. And yet in spite of this, why do you have to do something unreasonable, something illogical? Why do you have to take the monitoring posts from our daily lives? This is the voice of residents. Additionally, there have been many negotiations with the national government and prefectural government until now, but the thing that is absolutely different about this one is that, starting with Fukushima prefecture, municipal governments from the prefecture are saying that it is too sudden, or that they do not want [the removal]. These kinds of things are really being voiced here [pointing to NRA report]. So in spite of all of that, why are you lining up only these same explanations, that you want to get rid of residents’ “unnecessary anxiety” (無用な不安), or to [have us] “understand correctly” (正しく理解してもらう)? I really don’t understand it. I absolutely don’t understand it. Is it strange for us to feel uneasy? The nuclear accident that was supposed to never occur, happened. It is natural to feel uneasy. I think it is strange not to be worried about that. We have been living in this kind of circumstance every day for seven years. And yet you are going to take away the monitoring posts that we look at wondering, “What is the situation like today?” We do not understand this at all.

 

Government Reassurance

The NRA has reassured residents opposed to the removal of monitoring posts by pointing out that it has a separate radiation monitoring system for emergency situations (consisting of 51 monitoring posts), and that it will take appropriate steps in the event of an emergency. However, these monitoring posts do not visually display their data. The 3,000 real-time radiation monitors and the 600 portable radiation monitors in the prefecture are the only meters that display their readings. Yumi Chiba (CGCRM) has expressed that the NRA’s emergency plan is unrealistic:

As people who have experienced the panic of that time [during the nuclear meltdown], I cannot express how distant the portable radiation monitoring posts—placed every 5km—are for us. You said that we could borrow portable devices [i.e. geiger counters] [in the event of an emergency], but having experienced such a situation before, we can tell you that should such a situation arise, it is not going to be possible for us to run into town hall [to ask for a geiger counter]. That is the reality.

A mother from the Aizu region said,

We didn’t have geiger counters in 2011. People individually bought them, or didn’t. They were out of stock, so it was hard to get them, and SPEEDI turned out to be of no use. And once we finally got a geiger counter, the plume had already passed. What are we supposed to do if something like that happens again?

Why Trust Government Radiation Monitoring Posts?

Prior to the NRA’s announcement, the sentiment that the government radiation monitoring system was untrustworthy was widespread among evacuees and those with antinuclear sentiments. Several studies were conducted confirming that government monitoring posts were systematically displaying figures 40%-60% lower than readings that could be taken with geiger counters.[41] In some cases, monitoring posts were installed with sheets of iron under them, effectively preventing gamma rays from the soil (the main source of radiation) from being measured. In other cases, the immediate surroundings of monitoring posts were decontaminated.[42] Much like the prefectural health survey, the radiation monitoring system is both flawed and the only solution that the government appears willing to offer. Even as both instruments produce the appearance of safety and a gradual decline in the disaster’s effects, their reduction would further expand the realm of unknowns, making it increasingly difficult to establish when potentially harmful incidents occur, their consequences, and who is responsible.

SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

“Chernobyl did not simply disappear; it was extinguished in waves as a result of particular types of framing that set the health effects of the fallout outside the scope of immediate concern. Before that, the greatest public salience of Chernobyl did not begin until about three years after the accident, a period of great political transformation only two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union” —Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, p.66.

Underestimating the scope and consequences of radiation fallout has been a consistent characteristic of the nuclear industry and associated research on the health effects of radiation exposure. In particular, the similarities between the reductions taking place in Japan and the Belarussian government’s management of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster are striking.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly formed Belarus implemented fairly comprehensive measures to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster. However, these measures ended up costing a full 20% of the national budget. In 1993, a special working group was formed to revise its policies.[43] Soon after, government measures to address the disasters’ consequences began to shrink, and began to emphasize economic recovery. The government declared an end to emergency measures and said that residents needed to learn to live with radiation.[44] It changed the criteria for determining radiation doses, so that instead of being measured, they were estimated through controversial and non-transparent techniques. Areas where average doses were estimated to be under 1 mSv/year lost their social protections, and had no additional protective measures.[45] After 1996, the area deemed contaminated enough to matter was gradually shrunk through changes in evaluative criteria.[46] In 2003, a presidential decree relocated all Chernobyl-related institutions to Gomel on the premise that research should be concentrated “in the most affected area.”[47] This resulted in a drastic reduction in personnel (from 165 to 75 faculty), and the loss of continuity in data collection and analysis, making it difficult to more fully assess the impacts of the disaster.

As sociologist Olga Kuchinskaya notes, infrastructures and practices created to address the effects of radiation often come to stand in for the presence of radiation itself. She writes, “Administrative practices meant to mitigate various effects of radioactive contamination thus come to constitute the visibility of the problem of radioactive contamination; they become the signs of the contamination.”[48]

It seems likely that removing two-thirds of the public radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture will be instrumental in reshaping the landscape into one where radioactive fallout is not an active concern. Now that many of the bags of radioactive soil that were scattered across the prefecture have been transferred to storage facilities, the radiation monitoring posts are the primary reminder in the landscape that radioactive fallout is still present, and that the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is far from guaranteed. As one mother put it, “Once even the monitoring posts are gone, it will really be as though [the nuclear disaster] never happened. People’s feelings will fade away.”[48.5] The radiation monitoring posts thus also play an important symbolic role, and this drastic reduction would mean another premature reframing of the disaster as coming to a neat close.

CONCERNING “HARMFUL RUMOR”

The author does not intend to suggest that residents in the fallout zone, especially in Fukushima prefecture, have not been stigmatized, discriminated against, or that people in primary industries have not suffered from consumer politics in the wake of the nuclear disaster. In fact, the systematic prevalence of bullying has been an important force pushing evacuees back to more dangerous areas, along with government and academic gaslighting and reductions in aid. The question is why bullying and stigmatization is so prevalent. How are people taught to feel about radiation exposure, and how are they directed to act upon those feelings?

Making discussion of radiation exposure a taboo subject turns it into something shameful and something to fear. It also turns the blatantly obvious fact that the government has allowed some people to be exposed to more radiation than others—illustrated, for example, by the April 2011 notice to schools in Fukushima prefecture that it would consider 20 mSv/year of exposure admissible there, while the standard for the rest of the country remained 1 mSv/year[49]—into an issue of “self-responsibility” for which victims can be blamed. In other words, the government itself quickly assumed a discriminatory stance in its post-disaster measures, and then turned dissent against that discrimination into a taboo subject by declaring it “harmful rumor” and then spreading misinformation about radiation. It is not difficult to infer that this enforces an unspoken understanding that those who resist discrimination from the state (by evacuating, for example) should be punished. And this is in fact what is happening. School children who bullied their classmates for wearing masks or otherwise protecting themselves from internal radiation exposure were often reported saying, “You think you’re the only one who gets to be spared? (お前だけ助かる気か?)” “Culture of poverty”-type narratives of mandatory evacuees mismanaging compensation money also stem from the logic that they have not experienced any form of structural discrimination. We need to think more about how the atmosphere created by government policies and narratives spread by the media relates to widespread bullying and stigmatization of evacuees.

Bullying also seems undoubtedly tied up with eugenicism and the stranglehold that ableism, transphobia, and misogyny continue to have on social life in Japan. The forced sterilization of the disabled is still legal, though there is more public outcry against it recently, and transgender people are required to undergo sterilization to gain legal recognition.[50] Many women are worried they will face marriage discrimination for having been exposed to radiation—in other words, that they will be refused marriage because other people do not want to risk having a disabled child.[51]

CONCLUSION

As the Fukushima nuclear disaster progresses, unevenness, the systematic production of ignorance and uncertainty, and the connections between containment and discrimination remain central issues. From the standpoint of care work, it seems clear that we need to think much more deeply about who is vulnerable and what we can do to make sure their dignity is respected. Even while the Japanese government and “nuclear village” have done serious damage in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, mainstream antinuclear narratives mostly ignore nuclear workers, farmers, fishermen, woodcutters, working-class women, and they fail to offer serious answers about how to create a national economy that does not require the destruction of rural communities, making them vulnerable to toxic facilities.

Liberal antinuclear feminisms have played a critical role in resistance to these trends. They have created discourses that emphasize validation of emotional/experiential truths, articulated evacuation as a human right, created community-controlled radiation monitoring technology, and created mental and physical health care through support groups and a vast network of volunteer-based recuperation camps.[52] These efforts have created space to struggle against the Japanese state’s maneuvers to pretend that the effects of the nuclear disaster have been safely contained within administrative boundaries. Most notably, widespread mobilization by women, especially mothers, led to the passing of the Disaster Victims’ Support Act (被災者支援法) in 2012, though it was subsequently mostly gutted.[53]

We need to keep thinking about how these feminisms can connect with nuclear labor organizing and social movements by people in primary industries who have been disenfranchised by “modernizing” economic policies, to create a more transformative antinuclear politics.

TIMELINE

August 2, 2011: Plans for radiation monitoring announced. Real-time radiation dose monitoring system is included in these plans: “establish a real-time radiation monitoring system, installing integrated dosimeters able to send data in schools, parks, etc. in Fukushima prefecture.”[54] 

February 21, 2012: MEXT radiation mapping webpage, based on data from the “real-time radiation monitoring system,” comes online. There are 2,700 monitoring posts comprising the real-time monitoring system at this time.[55]

December 2013: An additional 336 real-time radiation monitoring posts and 33 portable monitoring posts installed in coastal Fukushima.[56]

October 6, 2015: the Nuclear Regulation Authority (原子力規制委員会) instructs the Nuclear Regulation Agency (原子力規制庁) to issue a summary of radiation monitoring activities since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, and to make necessary revisions to the monitoring system.[57]

Early 2016: 38 monitoring posts transferred from relatively low-level radiation areas to (presumably) the former evacuation zone.

February 10, 2016: The Nuclear Regulation Agency reported back to the NRA about the monitoring results and their subsequent revisions to the monitoring system.

March 2017: 39 monitoring posts removed from across the prefecture. The NRA has yet to clarify whether they have been reinstalled elsewhere, as residents were informed they would be.[58]

December 2017: the  Nuclear Regulation Agency solicited opinions from municipal governments on the revisions.

March 20, 2018: the NRA announced its plans to revise the monitoring system.

April 2018: Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring established. They deliver letters with demands to the mayors of Kōriyama, Fukushima city, Iwaki city (April), Date city, Aizuwakamatsu city, Miharu town, and Shirakawa city (May).

April 16, 2018: CGCRM delivers letter with demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

<July 13, 2018: CGCRM plans to deliver further demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority>


[1]Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division of the NRA, specifies that real-time radiation monitoring posts displaying radiation levels of less than 0.23µSv/hr will be removed, and states that there are approximately 2,400 such monitoring posts. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224599.pdf. Portable monitoring posts have a distribution of one post per 10km in the westernmost Aizu region, one post per 5km in other regions, and 80 posts near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf, p.1.

[2]http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/kaihatu/016/shiryo/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2012/02/23/1317043_4_1.pdf

[3] You can find more information on this project here (EN), and an explanation of what the different radiation levels mean here (日本語).

[4] C.f. the Flint water crisis (see as well this report); the Bhopal disaster (1984; what some call the world’s worst industrial disaster, which took place in India); Church Rock (1979; the largest radioactive disaster in the United States); the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986).

[5] For delayed release of information, see SPEEDI issues and TEPCO’s confirmation that it covered up the meltdown of three reactors. For falsification, see discussions of radiation exposure records for nuclear workers. For an overview of inadequate data collection and misinformation, see Piers Williamson’s comprehensive article on thyroid cancer screenings by Fukushima Medical University and p.44-7 in the 2017 report, Genpatsu Zero Shakai e no Michi: Datsu Genshiryoku Seisaku no Jitsugen no Tame Ni. As this pertains to decontamination and decommissioning workers, see Hibaku Rōdō wo Kangaeru Nettowāku, Josen Rōdō, p.56-7; Genpatsu Jiko to Hibaku Rōdō.

[6]Special Report – Inside Tepco’s Bailout: Japan Inc Saves Its OwnReuters, 5/23/2011. For more on the 2008 financial crisis, c.f. We All Fall Down: the American Mortgage Crisis (2009); Elvin Wyly, C. S. Ponder, Pierson Nettling, Bosco Ho, Sophie Ellen Fung, Zachary Liebowitz, and Dan Hammel, “New Racial Meanings of Housing in America.” American Quarterly 64(3) 2012: 571-604.

[7] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See also 鈴木博喜 「【県民健康調査】「県民の理解深めたい」。星座長が第三者委の設置を提案。背景に日本財団の提言、検査体制縮小の布石か~甲状腺ガンは9人増えて183人に」民の声新聞 12/28/2016.

[8] C.f.「甲状腺検査のあり方」検討はじまる〜国際がん研究機関」Our Planet TV 10/25/2017; 「第53回 甲状腺検査縮小求める「県民の声」なし」Days Japan 10/20/2016.

[9] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See (English) (日本語) for convention participants.

[10] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-99.html; http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/feature/tohokujisin/fukushima_report/list/CK2017011702000158.html. For the role of ICRP, UNSCEAR, WHO in the underestimation of health effects from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, see Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility, p.117-126; Alexey Nesterenko, Vassily Nesterenko, and Alexey Yablokov, “Chapter II. Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe for Public Health,” in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 2009. Vassily Nesterenko was the former head of the Institute of Nuclear Energy, and former chief designer of mobile nuclear power plant Pamir (Kuchinskaya, p.109).

[11] Non-mandatory evacuees eligible for aid from Fukushima prefecture must be from one of the 23 designated “voluntary evacuee etc. target areas” (自主的避難等対象区域) in Fukushima prefecture, ranging as far west as Tenei village.

[12] C.f. the 2015 Waseda Institute of Medical Anthropology (早稲田大学災害復興医療人類学研究所) and NHK survey of 11,377 mandatory and non-mandatory evacuee households. Based on responses from 622 non-mandatory households, 60% of non-mandatory evacuees are women, and tend to be in their 30s and 40s (戸田典樹 『福島原発事故・漂流する自主避難者たち』東京:明石書店, 2016, p.28-34). See also Tokyo metropolitan government report on current issues faced by non-mandatory evacuees in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

[13] http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708280053.html

[14] http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3855

[15] For non-mandatory evacuees, c.f. Tami no Koe blog by independent journalist Suzuki Hiroki (http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-236.html) and the Cooperation Center for 3.11 (https://www.change.org/p/原発事故避難者の強制立ち退きに反対します). Information on mandatory evacuee lawsuits was relayed from Hirono town representative Abe Kenichi, personal communication.

[16] Katayama Natsuko, 「東電、4月から敷地の95%対象福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ「危険手当」 半減にも「これ以上なら通常工事水準に」, Tokyo shimbun, 1/22/2018.

[17] Workers are also now required to pay for subpar meals at company cafeterias, while they have been effectively barred from bringing their own hot lunches. Katayama Natsuko, “Taigū dondon waruku naru,” Fukushima Sagyōin Nisshi, June 2, 2018,  http://38300902.at.webry.info/201806/article_4.html

[18] C.f. 原子力資料情報室「被ばく労働を考えるネットワーク」の取り組みと「被曝労働者春闘」統一行動 4/1/2014 (English); 渡辺博之「現場からの報告」前掲『検証原発労働』P.52-63; 被ばく労働ネットワーク『原発事故と被曝労働』東京:三一書房, 2012. See especially 高木和美 『原発被曝労働者の労働・生活実態分析―原発林立地域・若狭における聴き取り調査から』明石書店, 2017 for the most comprehensive study of the Japanese nuclear labor system thus far. For English reports, c.f. “Nuclear Workers Kept in Dark on Fukushima Hazard PayReuters, 10/8/2014.

[19] 片山夏子「東電、4月から敷地の95%対象 – 福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ – 「危険手当」 半減にも – 「これ以上なら通常工事水準に」」東京新聞 1/22/2018.

[20] 原子力規制委員会「リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて(案)」3/20/2018.

[21] 今後、住民の帰還が見込まれる地域の復興に重点を 置くためにも、撤去したリアルタイム線量測定システムは、モニタリングポストの設置要望のある避難指示・解除区域市町村への移設などに活用します。(“リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて”,http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224088.pdf )

[22] C.f. “Radiation Monitors In Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times,” The Mainichi, 5/20/2018.

[23] His full response:「原発からの事故の監視というより、むしろ汚染の状況について、汚染したもの、の土地においてどのくらいの線量のレベルなのかっていうことを常に住民の方が見るというものが目的なんですけれども、2400台くらいが対象ですので、それをまあ、移すわけですけれども、幾つが適正かというのは実はあんまりないと思っています。つまりこれは、学校とかですね、または人が集まるようなところに自治体の要望に応じて設置して行きたいと考えていますので、ちょっとまあ、これから帰還困難区域等も復興拠点を中心にだんだん進展して行くと思いますので、それに応じて適切に設置をして行くということになるのではないかと思います。」https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGL8ehkXa48

[24] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-237.html

[25] Personal communication, June 12, 2018. See “Radiation Monitors in Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times” for statistics.

[26] http://www.reconstruction.go.jp/topics/main-cat8/sub-cat8-3/2912_1shiropanpoint.pdf

[27] See Yabu Shiro, “Radiation Exposure is Unequal” for early discussion of the unevenness of radioactive fallout.

[28] The government formula uses the Japanese national average background radiation rate of 0.04µSv/hr in its formula, and assumes 8 hours of outdoor exposure and 12 hours of indoor exposure in a wooden building, which is assumed to reduce the exposure rate to 40% of the outdoor rate. The Japanese government calculated the hourly rate of 0.23µSv/hr as a rate of exposure that results in an additional 1 mSv/year beyond exposure to background radiation. To keep total exposure levels under the international standard of 1 mSv/year, by these calculations, the limit would be 0.19µSv/hr.

[29] See map for Hobara town, Date city. For more recent readings, you can zoom into the area on the Safecast Tilemap. Both maps show radiation levels ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr.

[30] Calculated using the Japanese government formula, assuming residents are living in wood buildings. This does not account for the exposure levels of the homeless, nor for people who work outdoors, such as farmers, woodcutters, construction workers, traffic directors, deliverymen, security guards, etc.

[31] Richard Lloyd Parry, “Japan Faces 200 Year Wait For Fukushima Clean Up.” Times of London, 5/28/2015.

[32] See esp. reporting by Oshidori Mako on the fractured exhaust stack (排気筒) on reactor 2. Though there have been reports on the progression of fractures since the 2011 meltdown, the tower’s extremely high radiation levels (2 Sv/hr as of 2015, which is enough to kill someone instantly) have prevented workers from dismantling it. There are concerns that it could release high levels of radiation into the atmosphere should it collapse. TEPCO has announced that it will cut the tower into pieces and remove it.

[33] Transcribed from recording of April 16, 2018 negotiations between CGCRM and NRA. All subsequent transcribed statements are from the same unless otherwise indicated.

[34] In addition to the reduction of government aid, bullying and discrimination may be a large factor in returning evacuees. A survey of evacuee households conducted by Asahi newspaper and Professor Imai (Fukushima University) has found that 62% experienced bullying in the places to which they evacuated. This is corroborated by stories from personal interviews with evacuees. Many Okuma residents who have evacuated to Niigata prefecture, Iwaki city, and elsewhere hide their origins due to bullying. Some residents have also returned to coastal Fukushima because of bullying by residents of the places to which they evacuated.

[35] The “linear no-threshold hypothesis” has been accepted in international scientific communities. For a brief review of low-level radiation exposure and increased cancer mortality, see「低線量電離放射線被ばくのリスクに関する二本松宣言」『科学』87(3): 253-4. For another brief review in English, see Sakiyama Hisako, “What Was Clarified By The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission? Focusing On Low-level Radiation Exposure Risk” Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center, and “Protecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own HandsAsia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 9(25.1) 2011. (日本語). See also the National Academy of Sciences (2016) Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR-VII – Phase 2. Washington, D.C. Public Summary, p.10.

[36] May 22, 2018. 「被ばくさせられているのに、なんで知る権利を取るの?」

[37]  監視情報課

[38] 3/20/18 video. 「状況把握というよりは、そこに生活されている方がパッと見て分かるっていうのが特徴なので、それほど台数的には今後多くはないのではないかと思います。」

[39] 神経質、風評被害、感情的、個人的な意見・主観的

[40] 正しく知る・理解する

[41] C.f. 2012 reportback from  Iitate and Namie from Professor Hasegawa (Gunma University), who reported that the monitoring posts only shows 24% to 39% of the actual radiation levels; a similar 2012 report ; and systematic surveys conducted by Greenpeace.

[42] See (日本語) or Safecast’s comprehensive blog posts on these debates (Part 1) (Part 2) for an overview.

[43] Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, p.105.

[44] Ibid., 106.

[45] Ibid., 106.

[46] Ibid., 107.

[47] Ibid., 145.

[48] Ibid., 31-2.

[48.5] Conversation, May 26, 2018.

[49] http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/saigaijohou/syousai/1305173.htm

[50] Human Rights Watch, “Japan Forces Sterilization on Transgender People: Government Shouldn’t Require Surgery for Rights Protection” 11/29/2017. Human Rights Watch states, “the procedure [to gain legal recognition of their gender] is discriminatory, requiring applicants to be single and without children under 20, undergo a psychiatric evaluation to receive a diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID), and be sterilized.”

[51] C.f. http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/Uequal-impact-en.pdf

[52] C.f. evacuee statements compiled in 東日本大震災避難者の会「3.11避難者の声:当事者自身がアーカイブ」Thanks & Dream, 2017; 疋田香澄『保養ルポ』 forthcoming; David Slater, Rika Morioka, Haruka Danzuka “Micro-politics of Radiation: Young Mothers Looking for a Voice in Post-3.11 Fukushima” Critical Asian Studies 46:3 (2014): 485-508.

[53] The full name is, Act Concerning The Promotion Of Measures To Provide Living Support To The Victims, Including The Children Who Were Affected By The Tepco Nuclear Accident In Order To Protect And Support Their Lives. http://www.foejapan.org/energy/fukushima/pdf/170620_mitsuta.pdf, p.4. See here for English translation of the act.

[54] 「福島県内の学校等、公園等にデータ転送機能を備えた積算線量計を整備し、リアルタイム放射線監視システムを構築する」http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/1000/117/24/1001_082410_2.pdf

[55] 「文科省がネットで福島の線量公開」産経新聞 2/22/2012.

[56] http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/9000/8646/24/203_20140109.pdf

[57] 昨年11月25日及び先月6日に開催された原子力規制委員会において、東電福島第一原発事故から5年が経過しようとする中で、モニタリングについてこれまでの取組を整理し、必要な見直しを行うよう原子力規制庁に指示があった。http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf

[58] Phone call by CGCRM to Fukushima prefecture Office of Radiation Monitoring (福島県放射線監視室) on April 13, 2018.


PARTIAL TRANSCRIPTION from NEGOTIATIONS WITH NUCLEAR REGULATORY AGENCY (APRIL 16, 2018)

4/16/18 規制委員会交渉(一部記録)

 

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Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?

Update: 
We regret to inform that Matsudaira Koichi, the author of this post, has passed on in August 2017, after his battle with colon cancer. He was 39 years old. Let us continue to fight against nuclear and its divisive power, remembering Matsudaira Koichi’s voice. 

—–

Translators’ Notes:

The article below began circulating in Japanese just a few days after we found out that Chikanobu Michiba (道場親信), a well known sociologist who wrote on Japanese social movements, had passed away. He was the partner of Mari Matsumoto, who has been a long-time inspiration for us through her work on the radiological effects of 3.11. We felt it was important to translate the article into English because it articulates a dimension of the disaster that has been difficult to put into words, but which we believe is critical to intervening in the “myth of safety” (安全神話) – a widespread discourse that attempts to mitigate the consequences of the 3.11 nuclear disaster.

The Japanese state and nuclear industry’s implementation of the “myth of safety,” which has been supported by international regulatory agencies such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and World Health Organization (WHO), has been very successful both domestically and internationally. In part, this may be due to the previous successes of similar discourses in the wake of extensive nuclear weapons testing, [1] nuclear war, [2] and other nuclear disasters such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. [3] In the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in New Mexico, a short panel on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster reads:

“There were no deaths caused by the immediate exposure to radiation, while approximately 18,500 people died due to the earthquake and tsunami. Future cancer deaths from accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are predicted to be extremely low to none. In 2013 (two years after the incident), the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that the residents of the area, who were evacuated, were exposed to so little radiation that radiation induced health impacts are likely to be below detectable levels. Plant workers and emergency responders received radiation doses which increased their risk of developing cancer in the future.”

While we believe that avoiding radiation exposure should be a focus for anti-nuclear struggles, we recognize that it is, at the moment, one of the most difficult aspects to fight, especially for low-income and working class people. Invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive isotopes attack the human body at the cellular level, manifesting as innumerable illnesses across time. Few people, including Matsumoto and Matsudaira, who is fighting late-stage cancer, have publicly spoken out about health damage (健康被害) as everyday people living the consequences of the 3.11 disaster. It may be useful for readers to familiarize themselves with a number of state policies and state-supported public discourses that emerged in post-3.11 Japanese society:

– Support by Eating program

A state-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (the northeastern region of Japan, including Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.

– Lack of financial assistance for evacuation

Tens of thousands of people who lived outside the state-mandated evacuation zone fled without much financial assistance, and continue to live away from home to this day. A mother of two shared that she decided to move from Fukushima because she witnessed her son suffering heavy nosebleeds on multiple occasions. He asked in tears if he would be okay living in Fukushima. [4] In March 2017, the government of Japan will be ending subsidies to support housing costs for those they call “voluntary evacuees” (自主避難者). These evacuees will ultimately be given two options: bear the financial burden of living in their new homes (many of these evacuees already face poverty and have been forced to live on welfare programs), or be forced to return to their hometowns in Fukushima contaminated by radiation still today. Because of the lack of governmental assistance, most of the population in Eastern Japan, including Tokyo, never moved out of the area.

– Recovery programs & businesses

This includes implementation of festive events on a national scale (i.e. the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo) to actively turn population’s attention toward positive activities and away from the gloomy state of affairs that has dominated the country since March of 2011. This was also the case internationally. In 2012, the Japan National Tourism Organization began hosting an annual “Japan Week” in New York City on the anniversary of 3.11. Their 2016 exhibit was themed around the revival of Tohoku to “commemorate” the disaster. Global nuclear capitalists have begun attacking the population through rezoning and development, which also corners poor people into further marginalized positions.

It is also important to note that even liberal NGOs and civic groups have participated in government-led recovery programs and uncritically endorsed standards and information on radiation disseminated by the government and TEPCO.

In this context, Matsumoto and Matsudaira’s statements about the policing of discussions about radiation, and the difficulty of deciding whether they have experienced tangible effects/losses/damages from radiation exposure, are especially critical. Accounts that emphasize the health consequences of the disaster tend to focus on identifiable syndromes or illnesses that can be directly linked to the triple meltdown. Who should decide whether these are “real” injuries or not? Should that even be up for debate? Members of the 3.11 Health Victims Group are speaking out to us.

We’d like to thank the authors Matsudaira Kōichi, Matsumoto Mari, and the magazine Jyōkyō for letting us translate the article.

Support the activities of 3.11 Radiation Health Victims! We are running a fundraiser to support Matsudaira Kōichi’s medical expenses. You can send him food items and more through his amazon wishlist (in Japanese) or donate through our paypal (credit cards accepted):

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Can 3.11 Radiation Victims Speak?

by Matsudaira Kōichi

Original text: 3.11被曝被害者は語ることができるか

English translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State & Friends: Tomoki Birkett, Joshua Rogers, Neo Sora, Lita Hakoda

What, and who, are the “radiation [5] victims of 3.11?” I want to raise this question. The Fukushima nuclear accident [6] caused untold damage to Fukushima prefecture’s local residents and the workers at Fukushima nuclear power plant, yet we still do not understand the true extent of the disaster. The term “disaster victims” [7] of the Fukushima nuclear accident refers mainly to residents of the government’s mandatory evacuation zone in Fukushima prefecture. And when speaking of the “health victims” of the accident, the focus today is on laborers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and on young patients with thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture. However, I would like to broaden the denotation of “3.11 radiation victims” here. All beings residing in the prefectures neighboring Fukushima, or eastern Japan including even the Kantō area, [8] could potentially be “3.11 radiation victims.” And many people living in eastern Japan who have fallen ill could, in fact, be potential “health victims.” However, in order to argue that specific patients residing in eastern Japan could be “radiation victims” or “health victims,” epidemiological and scientific examination becomes necessary. If this is carelessly argued, one runs the chance of being denounced and criticized as having “radiation brain.” [9]

Radioactive contamination was observed in many areas of eastern Japan after the nuclear accident. According to the ICRP’s 2007 recommendation, [10] the annual radiation exposure limit was set at one millisievert (mSv) or less. However, there is a terrifying number of people who were exposed to radiation beyond this limit in eastern Japan.

If we rethink what damage from radiation exposure should really mean, we can say that people who received even a tiny amount of radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident, excepting natural radiation, should all be defined as “3.11 radiation victims.” In this sense, I can say that I, Matsudaira Kōichi, born and raised a Tokyo-ite these 38 years, am surely a 3.11 radiation victim.

And now the name Matsudaira has been added to the list of people with an illness that is unremarkable these days. And, there is a possibility that I, Matsudaira, am also a health victim of the Fukushima nuclear accident. In other words I —or we, the afflicted residing in eastern Japan— can identify ourselves as “3.11 radiation victims.” But at the same time, as for whether we can say we are “health victims of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” brute courage is sometimes necessary. In this cultural criticism column [11] I hope to use the imaginative potential of language to shift from the position of “3.11 radiation victims” to the position of “health victims from the nuclear accident,” and to thereby reexamine the historical role that health victims should take. In order to do so, I would like to cite the following report.

Interview with Matsumoto Mari

“Thinking About Radiation Damage Five Years After the Accident from a Feminist Perspective”

(This piece was formed by editing the comments that Matsumoto Mari delivered at the May 5, 2016 assembly of Health Victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (below, Health Victims Group), Kantō Area Radiation Damage Vol. 2: Expanding Damage, Connections, the Hope of Evacuation. They were edited into the format of an interview with Matsumoto Mari.) [12]

The Health Victims Group was a gathering started by people who met each other through the anti-nuclear movement after 3.11, or during demonstrations in front of the Diet. [13] Originally, we were protesting to reveal the state and TEPCO’s responsibility for the nuclear accident, and to push for support for Fukushima children who had suffered health damages and for struggling evacuees. However, five years have passed since the accident, and it was in the fifth year after the 1986 Chernobyl accident when various types of damage to people’s health began to increase explosively. In this context, we began discussing whether we noticed various health damages appearing around us. We then realized anew that we had many friends suffering from illnesses like colon cancer, heart problems, thyroid abnormalities, the aggravation of skin diseases and allergies, exacerbated inflammation of the esophagus, and the aggravation of multiple-chemical sensitivity syndrome. We are also aware of exactly how hard it is to talk about health damage from Fukushima, or about wanting to evacuate. To change these conditions, those of us suffering health damages in Kantō, young and old, have to raise our voices. We hope to create a climate where people can openly say that anyone can suffer health damages from radiation exposure, and that the state and TEPCO must fulfill their responsibilities for this.

Today, we would like to speak with Matsumoto Mari from the Health Victims Group. Matsumoto-san was originally publishing feminist research and articles in the field of contemporary philosophy. Since the nuclear accident, she has been writing articles precisely on this problem of radiation exposure. What is necessary for us, as people who suffer from health damage and those who are concerned?

Matsumoto:

In the past I was wrote on feminism and various issues related to women. After 3.11, at first I wrote a few pieces about the nuclear disaster. However, after that, I became sick. I had argued in my writings that [protection from] radiation exposure should be our main objective, but the response from those around me was so cold and indifferent—when I reflect on why I became sick, it was because of this indifference about radiation that was normalized around me. [14]

There were a lot of simplistic criticisms that portrayed mothers trying to protect their children from radiation exposure as “maternalistic.” I felt it was horrible that even the left and feminists were heavily criticizing them. Looking back, given that health damages are manifesting today, these criticisms actually benefited the discourse of the “reassurance wing” [15] which basically ended up benefiting from insulting mothers as being “overprotective”.

This is a somewhat personal story, but in 1985 I was in Kiev for a short while, just one year before Chernobyl. Afterwards I kept in touch with some of the people who were studying Japanese there, but we slowly fell out of touch. There were issues with the postal system, but I remember being shocked, even though I was still young, when one time a young person said that she had developed cataracts. I had no idea that young people could get them. Of course now I know better. But I think I remembered it so clearly because I felt like that society, a society that had experienced a nuclear accident, was slowly beginning to crumble.

Because of this, the first thing I thought about after the nuclear meltdown on 3.11 was radiation exposure. But in the metropolis in particular—and let me say first that I don’t want to criticize this outright, and that I am certainly against restarting [the nuclear power plants]—most people at that point were still mainly talking about opposition to restarting the nuclear power plants. There were lots of protests and gatherings organized around this issue. But I felt like something was getting left behind in the midst of this, that there was something that we needed to say that was getting bottled up while people were getting involved in movements and political activities, that we were going forward while ignoring the thing that we should actually be seriously focusing on. I couldn’t talk about that thing directly, and even if I say something I can’t reject [people’s need] to say things like, “It’s fine,” or, “I just want to think positively.” I can’t deny that people want to think that it will be ok as long as they are careful.

But because I was suppressing this unease somewhere deep down in my heart, I started to be harsh to people sometimes. For five years, people around me didn’t understand what was wrong, and I also put up walls of my own.

During all of this, I kept in touch with mothers who had evacuated. There are also lots of people, probably across the entire country, who evacuated voluntarily and are now doing their best to make themselves heard, or who have started their own autonomous activities in their new homes. I do feel more connected with people who are doing work based on their experience of this diaspora. It’s like I can’t talk to those close to me, but can with those far away, which makes me feel like I’m experiencing this strange kind of recalibration of distance that’s been produced by the nuclear accident. You can’t see it, and you can’t reduce it to something economic or physical, but this breakdown of relationality is, to some degree, another injury caused by the nuclear accident, and is part of the current situation.

In the meantime, in January of this year my partner was suddenly diagnosed with an intractable form of cancer at the age of 48. There were no signs whatsoever beforehand, and it’s a difficult type to detect in the first place. He’s in treatment now, but it was already in stage four when it was discovered. This is hard to understand unless you experience it yourself, but I knew from the beginning, at least on an intellectual level, that thyroid cancer would be more common because there was a nuclear disaster. But now we’re fighting a completely different battle than something as simple as having the statistical knowledge that the number of cancer patients will increase. As someone who now provides care and nursing, I’ve realized what it means for an individual human to get cancer, and I’m in the process of learning. While I can accept that indeed statistically the number of health problems will increase, I also feel resistance to thinking about things only from a statistical perspective. I feel like I’m still not quite able to express this feeling.

Our bodies are all individual, and our illnesses and symptoms are individual. With cancer, a child’s thyroid cancer is different from a 48-year-old’s, which is different from an elderly person’s. It’s different for men and women. Each person’s treatment and the problems that they face and must overcome are all radically different. So even though it is not wrong to say things like, “The number of cancer cases increases after a nuclear accident,” or, “More people get sick,” I feel that today we need different language, a different approach, words that can help people who are sick connect with each other. We need an environment in which people who are sick, people who care for them, and people who are offering support can speak more easily.

For myself, when I speak about my partner’s cancer, it’s not that he is thinking, “This is an effect of radiation exposure.” In other words he hasn’t concluded that radiation exposure was the only influence, and there are no materials [to prove] that either. But, he and I think it is probably one cause among many; we don’t “deny” it. That is our position.

And in January 2016, when we were informed [of the cancer diagnosis] and were running around pell-mell, the 3.11 Thyroid Cancer Families’ Society was established in Fukushima. When I saw an interview with them—and let me say young children getting cancer is different from getting it one’s 40s—but I thought, on the verge of tears, “This kind of [message] is really needed.” Apparently there were extremely few cases of children’s thyroid cancer until then. Rare cases.

Now there are self-help groups and organizations for patients at hospitals and other places. That is something that’s really great. But there have been few cases of rare cancers, rare cases until now, so it is difficult [for people] to connect. I was impressed by people’s efforts to get on their feet by at least connecting at first, to do necessary mutual aid kinds of things, in such circumstances.

At the same time, reading articles on blogs like “Health Victims’ Group,” I was also moved by passages like, “Instead of the rallies, now our own bodies and hospitals are becoming the site of struggle.” It made me realize that this is a crucial awareness to have in a society in which a nuclear accident, with its irreversible impact, has occurred.

This is what I wanted to say right after the accident. Until now radioactive material has been falling on the metropolis, which is both a political issue and simultaneously a problem that individuals must face. At the same time, voluntary evacuation and relocation are problems that are being “individualized.” While these issues must be fought on the individual level, we should also hold on to their political and social aspects. And although damage to health is something that affects people of all genders, it’s also true that care and nursing generally end up being women’s issues.

Right after the nuclear accident, I wrote about mothers’ care for their children from the perspective of “reproductive labor” and “care work” within the context of capitalism. The issue is who has to bear the liability for massive environmental disasters. This is also a sphere that can’t be converted into currency. Some feminists said that this was “simple maternalism” or that it would “strengthen familism,” but they are missing the point. These days such people have stopped saying anything at all, maybe because their initial stance is inconvenient for them now. They offer no helping hand regarding the outbreak of pediatric thyroid cancer in Fukushima, and offer no support for the single-mother households of voluntary evacuees. At some point they need to seriously consider their criticism of people tied to the accident, and the incorrect assessments of the situation they made initially.

Thinking back on it now, right after the accident there was a massive surge of both accurate and inaccurate information about the damage to health caused by radiation exposure. Honestly it was a difficult mix of good and bad, a kind of informational anarchy.

Even so, people wisely chose from among the available information, and eventually formed and attained a certain kind of literacy and understanding of the situation. And yet slowly there developed a very clear sense of “moment” or “instance” that silenced this kind of understanding, and which functioned more strongly than the visible forms of systemic censorship. It’s impossible to determinedly say that this sense was manufactured by the media or the government or the Ministry of the Environment. It was an unintended outcome, but it did create a climate in which people hesitate to talk about damage to health.

For instance, you might have heard of the “Oishimbo nosebleed incident.” [16] What I find problematic about this whole fuss—although some might find this sort of expression itself problematic—is that a town in Fukushima went and made a complaint against the comic series, which led to an additional complaint from Fukushima prefecture, which finally led to the Ministry of Environment officially making a conclusive statement that “there is no such thing” as increased nosebleeds in Fukushima.

Since I have grown quite familiar with feminism, I know that historically the repressive authority of dominant discourses has prohibited us from speaking about our own bodies. For example, menstruation has been regarded as an unclean or private matter in different historical periods. Even so, there have been efforts by women to speak up about topics that are difficult to talk about and to gain social recognition on such topics. One such effort was the fight for menstrual sick days, or to gain recognition that symptoms can be unique for different individuals.

As for health concerns and everyday concerns after 3.11, even in political spaces we’ve been coerced to be silent about these concerns and made to accept that even speaking about them is taboo. It isn’t that there is visible censorship or regulations, but there is censorship that arises from people’s own minds; we are all are expected to perform self-censorship. People around you say “That is a very complicated thing to talk about,” or, “Are you still afraid of radiation?” This kind of thing can even make you feel like your worth as a human is being judged.

It is precisely because we are obstructed from each other in this society that we need to speak up about radiation issues. To people who react to me by saying, “Still talking about it?” or, “Still worrying about it?” I’d like to respond immediately and ask, “Have we ever seen any policy or system developed or improved regarding measures against radiation exposure? For compensation for evacuees? There hasn’t been anything, has there?”

Philosopher Paul Virilio has called Chernobyl a “time accident”, meaning that it is one that will last for generations. In this climate too in Japan, we need to carefully watch and observe our society as it is being destroyed over a long time span.

Ryo Omatsu, a scholar of Russia, has studied the Chernobyl [nuclear disaster] and has published work introducing social movements ignited by residents and nuclear cleanup workers at the Chernobyl site. Similarly, we are familiar with a number of movements led by people with illnesses and people who became ill due to different types of industrial contamination.

There have been many lawsuits against nuclear power plants in the past 70 plus years since the end of WWII, and there are still many today. With these facts in mind, we need to carefully create environments and discursive spaces where people who feel that they have been affected are comfortable speaking up and where they can connect. When we refer to post-Chernobyl support systems, we are immediately met with the argument that we can’t replicate them because we have a different social system in Japan. However, I believe that Chernobyl must be studied as a historical reference regarding social support systems for nuclear disasters.

Those who are pro-nuclear can use as their strength the uncertain nature of how radioactive exposure manifests as illness. It is tricky that experiencing a nuclear accident and becoming ill are not in a direct one-to-one relationship. Nevertheless I think people need to not only keep the nuclear accident in their minds but also make some kind of record of their experiences.

The fact that those who suffered damages need to prove the damage is absurd in itself. Nevertheless, you can create records of what you were doing before and after 3.11; where you were; if you are in the Kantō region, then what the radiation levels are in the soil around your home. For instance I participated in a project where I wore a film badge dosimeter [17] to study my radioactive doses for a week (although the dosimeter is only capable of measuring doses on the external surface of your body, not total contamination levels). We could start something like this even now. An accumulation [of this data] could be our strength in the future.

I want to remind everyone that people with cancer and other intractable illnesses have always organized themselves to share their experiences, offer mutual aid, and share information. It is very necessary for people to have this kind of space today. While we hear “radiation exposure is scary” and “radiation exposure is terrible” these phrases are often used as vague images without the concreteness of illness [as it manifests in our bodies].

It has been five years since the accident; we are past the point of arguing about what is right and what is wrong. It is not a question of that. Instead we need to share concrete knowledge about how to protect our bodies, and how to act if we become sick. We need to communicate with, not isolate, each other as much as possible. It should be something like a self-support group. While being a self-support group, it should not settle itself as a closed group—its members should take political stances and open themselves to the wider society. That’s the kind of organization we need.

Mastudaira:

Regarding the Oishimbo incident and other issues, I feel that there is an implicit network of physicists and scientists of all sorts who suppress any statements by those who oppose nuclear energy. What do you think about this?

Matsumoto:

Here we’re talking about where the discourse known as “radiation exposure crushing” (hibaku tsubushi) [18] emerges from. We can consider three possibilities: whether this discourse originates in economic concerns, is linked to power relations, or if it is solely an internal issue. There are many uncertainties on these points, but I think if we look into it deeply enough, we will find some definite conclusions. What I’m concerned about, though, is the the third possibility I raised, that hibaku tsubushi discourse is coming from self-censorship. There are many people who are self-censoring and actively adopting the myth of radiation safety. I am terrified of the power that these acts have on people.

In thinking about who is producing this discourse in an organized way, it’s possible to build a solid argument by finding where exactly the money is coming from. We have seen this in the work of Ryu Honma who investigates public relations in the nuclear industry. Somewhat differently, Takashi Soeda has demonstrated the falsity of the phrase “this accident was unforeseeable” (sōteigai), which is often used by nuclear apologists when describing the nature of the 2011 disaster. There have been many investigative journalists making enormous efforts to bust those myths. Kosuke Hino’s work has also been an indispensable contribution.

We must use these exceptional reports as a guide to fully investigate discourses that have underemphasized radiation exposure post-3.11. Another troubling aspect of this discourse lies within our everyday life; what ruptures our human relations is self-censorship and willing acceptance [of safety myths]. I’d like to suggest that we constantly take note of why we actively participate in reinforcing the discourse of the ruling class.

It’s difficult for nuclear victims to connect and act in solidarity due to the fact that damage can manifest in a wide range of forms both spatially and temporally, which is one characteristic of nuclear disasters. This is especially true in today’s society where, thanks to neoliberalism, we are expected to act at our own risk and work out our own salvation.

This accident was also the first since the development of social networking. In the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC/Euratom), the ways in which social networking performs during a nuclear disaster has already become a research theme and subject of analysis.

In the first two or three years after the accident, I saw my friends and acquaintances start to actively believe in the myth of radiation safety and wondered to myself, “Why are they turning against themselves like that.” But thinking these kinds of thoughts too much just tires me out, and now I catch myself observing them as subjects who are mobilized in the creation of public consensus, when clearly the discourse of hibaku tsubushi actively minimizes the damage of the incident. I observe them to try and understand why people decide to actively conform to such discourse. This is a different case, but I’m sure similar things probably happened with Minamata disease [19] or the atomic bomb. I believe it is necessary to look at these cases and compare them to what is happening today.

It is the sixth year since the accident now. Forces that divide people, along with both tangible and intangible damage—including actualized health damages—will continue to become stronger. In March 2017, the government will terminate financial assistance for voluntary evacuees. More recently, the government began speaking about ending restrictions to the entire “difficult-to-return” [20] zone in 2021. The government of Japan is desperately fabricating the final end of the nuclear disaster, with the help of events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. People say that it is wrong to diminish memories because they are personal, while the social phenomenon of “structural diminishment” is getting stronger and stronger. This phenomenon obscures responsibility for the accident and for the management of its aftermath.

In this context, there is an urgent need to create concrete spaces of mutual aid and rebuild relationality, which includes modifying our own language and thought.

Testimony: Matsudaira Kōichi’s colon cancer—radiation damage and cancer patients

Matsumoto went to Kiev right after the Chernobyl accident, and she became concerned about the issue of radiation damage in the Kantō area very early on. I think she has spoken candidly about her very incisive hesitations regarding those who were indifferent about radiation damage from the Fukushima nuclear accident. Matsumoto says that it is important to document, and the Health Victims Group has argued since its founding that it is important to leave “testimonies as victims.” Members of the Health Victims Group and I tentatively created the following questionnaire to collect testimonies:

1.    Name, age, gender

2.    Where did you live until 3.11? (Please include your prefecture and municipality.)

3.    If your residence changed after 3.11, please tell us the new place and when you moved.

4.    What symptoms do you have, or what is the condition of your health now?

5.    Did you have any symptoms of illnesses listed above before 3.11? If so, were there any differences before and after 3.11?

6.    Please describe your everyday habits.

7.    Were you getting regular health check-ups?

8.    Do you think [your condition] is related to the nuclear accident?

9.    What do you find most difficult since you became ill?

10. What are your current hopes?

In the Health Victims Group, we are seeking people who would like to share their experiences of health damage with each other.”

I responded to these items in the following way. This is my simple self-introduction concerning my condition as a radiation victim, and it is also the health record of one patient. Below is my testimony (taken May 8, 2016) as a member of the Health Victims Group.

How is the condition of your health now?

My name is Matsudaira Kōichi and I’m a cancer patient. I am 38 years old. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in November of last year (2015). It has been almost half a year since I learned that I have cancer. When they found it, it was already stage four and had spread to my liver. I was told that my five-year survival rate is 18%. The cancer has spread widely throughout my body, and surgical resection was not possible. I am receiving chemotherapy, but there has not been much change since the diagnosis. Chemotherapy apparently helps to prolong one’s life, but I understand that it eventually stops working.

Right now, because of the side effects, I always feel unwell, and I often end up sleeping the entire day. I keep going back to the hospital for stomach pain and constipation. My colon is not functioning, so I have a stoma (colostomy). I feel miserable since my problems are related to fecal matter.

How was your health until your illness was discovered?

In November, I was attacked by horrible stomach pain and went to the hospital, where I learned that I had cancer. Until it was discovered, for about a year, there were many times I felt unwell, like having diarrhea. I would have diarrhea 6 or 7 times a day. I thought it was psychological. I felt anxious leaving for work every day. In October and November, I became unable to stand in front of the toilet. It was so painful I stayed curled up on the floor, wondering if I should call an ambulance.

Please describe your everyday habits.

In terms of my habits, I ate at Yoshinoya very frequently. [21] There were some days I would go to Yoshinoya twice in one day. I also went to Saizeriya [22] often. I ate out often from ages 20 to 37.

Where do you live? Where do you work?

I have mostly lived in Fuchū city in Tokyo since I was born. Around the time the nuclear accident occurred, I would stand in the street in Ginza (Chūō ward) every day for work. I worked there from March 2011 to February 2012. From April to June 2012, I worked in Tameikesannō (Chiyoda ward); from November 2012 to October 2015 in Ariake in Kōtō ward. Although I didn’t want to drink the water around there, I drank the tap water. I also tended to drink a good amount of alcohol. When my cancer symptoms became worse, there was one time I felt so sick the day after I went out drinking that I couldn’t get up for the entire day.

Were you getting health checkups?

I got a health check-up once a year. Besides having a low pulse, I didn’t have any abnormalities. In 2015 alone, I had a routine check-up through my job in the summer. Then in October I worked for a clinical trial of new drug and was briefly hospitalized. During the checkup for the drug trial, they did not find any abnormalities. I assume that there must have been a pretty significant cancerous tumor in my body around that time. In May and September, I had two instances of pain below my right chest area, which I had assumed was caused by falling off my bike and bumping my chest.

I felt sick for about 25 days [in May ’15], and about 14 days [in September ’15]. I saw an orthopedist for this pain but they didn’t find anything wrong. Had I received a thorough examination at that time, I think they would have found the cancer. I think my internal organs were probably inflamed from the cancer.

Do you think [your illness] is related to radiation from the nuclear accident?

In my case, I think the causes of cancer were too much intake of beef and food additives, a lifestyle lacking in vegetables, and everyday stress.

But, it is also rare to get cancer at my age, and I think it may be related to the nuclear accident. Yoshinoya and Saizeriya are both “support by eating” [23] companies, so it is possible that radiation from the accident increased my chances of cancer. Right after 3.11 happened, I thought that I would become sick if I did not evacuate, but I didn’t dare evacuate. I think it makes sense that I would get a major life-threatening illness living in Tokyo, where it is possible to be affected by exposure to radiation.

What is the hardest thing about being sick?

I used to like cross-dressing as a woman. I am sad that I can’t anymore because having a stoma and being constantly ill prevents me from doing what I want to do. My hair has fallen out and become thin. I was also interested in marriage and raising children, but sadly I realize that it is probably no longer possible. Lately, I have started watching the anime Assassination Classroom—I cry thinking about the relationality of fate between the students who have to kill their teacher, and the teacher who has been mentoring the students yet becomes their target of assassination.

What are your current hopes?

To destroy TEPCO and Japan.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Minamata disease these days as it’s approaching the 60th year since the disease was officially recognized by the state as an illness caused by industrial pollution. I think the movement led by Minamata disease victims was a really long struggle. But if it is going to take over 10,000 years before radioactive waste is no longer toxic, then for health victims of nuclear power plants, it may take us a “hundred thousand years of war.” We are being shot from somewhere by an invisible gun called radiation, and those who have been hit are dying one by one. We must resist this. We should carry on the ambition of past anti-nuclear movements and of the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and have a “hundred thousand year war” with Japan and with “worldwide nuclear empire.” [24] I will participate in this war, and my hope is that even if I am defeated, I can entrust the spirit of struggle to the future generation.

That is the extent of my testimony. However, I have an unresolved question I must continue to investigate: whether I am a “true” “health victim” “of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” To begin with, historically, the number of cancer patients in Japan has been increasing since before the nuclear accident.

In July 2016, the National Cancer Center of Japan reported its estimates of the number of new cancer diagnoses and the number of people who will die from cancer. The number of diagnoses was 1,010,200 and the number of deaths was 374,000. A tremendous number of Japanese have cancer and are dying. And there certainly isn’t one uniform cause for developing cancer.

Furthermore, although I’ll leave out the full explanation of the evidence here, even if we use a very conservative estimate employing the ICRP model, we can estimate the impact on humans of the radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster will likely lead to thousands of additional deaths from cancer in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone. We should recognize this.

One thing I want to stress in this discussion is that even if “over a million cancer cases emerge” and “thousands end up dying of cancer in Tokyo,” you are talking only in terms of a statistical figure. But each and every cancer patient in that figure struggles in their own different way in their sickbed.

By the way, I did not know this because I hate television and do not watch it, but while I was penning this article, I heard about a person named Shuntaro Torigoe who ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. Like me, he had colon cancer which had spread to his liver. I received encouragement from people who would say that mine “hadn’t spread yet,” and, “Torigoe had cancer even in his lungs but he’s better now and running in the gubernatorial election, so you should keep at it too.” I understand that these people acted with good intentions to help me stay optimistic. But, just because someone else recovered from late-stage colon cancer does not mean that I will too.

After being a cancer patient for a while, I feel that at times there is a kind of “cancer harassment” that happens. It doesn’t matter if someone “has the same colon cancer” or “there are other people with stage four cancer who have survived.” The fate that awaits each person is never bound to be the same.

This is completely irrelevant, but Torigoe was involved in a sex scandal, alleged to have seduced a university student, and I think that he is innocent of this. Anyhow, I got a hernia when I recently had sex for the first time in a while. A slight amount of pressure on my abdomen will cause my intestine to protrude out of the colostomy site on my abdomen. By now, stoma prolapsing is normal, and whenever I raise my body, or have some kind of emotional stress, or after I eat, my intestines spill out like a samurai who has committed harakiri. It will keep spilling out unless I hold it in with my hand. Apparently this is because my intestines are loose inside of my body. My doctor tells me that it may be the side effect of the cancer medicine working, or it could be that my cancer is becoming worse.

In this condition, it scares me to be alone with a woman. My mind goes completely blank whenever I imagine it being like this until I die. I remembered feeling frustrated at my parents who, a few days earlier, told me they “would like to see [their] grandchild’s face.” The symptoms of the hernia get better if I stay laying down, but in that case, I will have to live sideways forever. The struggle against an illness varies from person to person, even among people with colon cancer like me.

Someone compared nuclear power plants to cancer. A malignant tumor pretends that it is a companion to a human and avoids being attacked by immune cells. Malignant tumors then send their own cancerous cells to healthy organs, infect them, spread all over the body, and continue to grow more tumors. One by one, these tumors destroy major organs in the body until the body dies. For the earth, nuclear power plants are a cancer. Pro-nuclear people use flowery words to convince others of the necessity of nuclear power plants and dupe people into the idea of “energy for our bright future.” They rooted the power plants deeply into Japanese society.

The disease of pro-nuclear forces in the world is a serious problem.

I don’t know if I am a “victim of a nuclear accident,” but as a “3.11 radiation victim” there is one thing I want to say: nuclear power can never be forgiven, because it continues to increase the number of people that must die terrible deaths due to cancer.

Cancer irreversibly damages organs one by one in people, causing painful death. Cancer patients who die each have their own life, full of poetry. We cannot allow even one more person to die of cancer because of nuclear policies propelling this old and futureless technology. Enough is enough.


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1. See Barker and Johnston 2008, The Rongelap Report: Consequential Damages of Nuclear War for a thorough review of research on the effects of American nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands and the systematic censorship of evidence pointing to American culpability for health damages suffered by the Marshallese.
2. See Lindee 1994, Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima.
3. See Stephens 2002, “Bounding Uncertainty: The Post-Chernobyl Culture of Radiation Protection Experts,” in Catastrophe and Culture: the Anthropology of Disaster; Petryna 2006, Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl.
4. See discussions of the “Oishimbo incident” for more information on these politics and the success of the myth of safety, such as Ochiai 2013, “The Manga ‘Oishinbo’ Controversy: Radiation and Nose Bleeding in the Wake of 3.11”.
5. “Radiation exposure” (hibaku) is expressed as one word in Japanese, with the characters for “suffer/receive” (被) and either “bomb” (爆) when referring to exposure from nuclear weapons, or “expose” (曝) when referring to exposure from other sources. Here, the term used is hibaku higaisha (被曝被害者).
6. The official Japanese term uses the word “accident” (事故) rather than “disaster” (災害).
7. The term used here, hisaisha (被災者), can be translated as “victim,” but refers primarily to victims of natural disasters, as opposed to higaisha (被害者), which refers mainly to the victims of accidents. Except for this first instance, higaisha is used throughout this article. In the context of the Chernobyl disaster, the Ukrainian state introduced the legal category of “sufferer” in 1991 to recognize those affected. We have chosen to translate the term higaisha as “victim” to convey the sense in Japanese that harm has been wrongfully caused. For more on Chernobyl “sufferers,” see Petryna 2013 [2002], Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl and Alexievich 2006, Voices From Chernobyl: the Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.
8. The Kantō region comprises the Greater Tokyo Area and the prefectures of Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.
9. This is a reference to the way that concerns about the effects of radiation, or discussion of actual injuries from radiation exposure, have been stigmatized as a psychological or emotional hypersensitivity to (fear of, or anxieties about) radiation. This is conveyed through a play on the word for radiation, hōshanō (放射能), where the last character has been replaced with the character for “brain” or “mind” (脳), which is also read “nō”. C.f. Kimura 2016, Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: the Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. There have also been many cases where those who discuss concerns about “low-level” radiation exposure have been described as “hysterical,” “irrational,” divisive, and unpatriotic. This is similar to attributions of “radiophobia” directed at victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. C.f. Petryna 2013 [2002].
10. See ICRP, The 2007 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
11. The author writes a cultural criticism column for the magazine, Jōkyō (情況).
12. This text is based on the transcription of a speech by Matsumoto Mari. A recording of the event can be found here: https://youtu.be/pU4mjehgcaA
13. The National Diet is Japan’s legislature.
14. Translation adapted to reflect past conversations with the author.
15. Those who endorse the safety of radiation exposure, mostly standardized by the state and nuclear industry interests.
16. The popular comic series Oishimbo ran episodes about Fukushima in which the author portrayed residents in Fukushima claiming that they experienced frequent nosebleeds due to radiation exposure. The series immediately came under fire upon publication, criticized by media and government offices.
17. Referred to as a “glass badge” in Japanese (garasu bajji; ガラスバッジ).
18. Discourses that suppress or “crush” (tsubusu; 潰す) any talk about radiation exposure and its effects, effectively censoring dissident voices post-3.11. Such voices are usually labeled as overly radiophobic, or afraid of radiation.
19. Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning. It received national attention in Japan when the wastewater of a chemical factory in a small fishing village in southern Japan became contaminated with mercury. The disease began to appear first in 1953, and although the government officially recognized it in 1956, it took the factory owner years to acknowledge its liability. The victims’ families have fought for decades, and still continue to fight for recognition and compensation.
20. The official designation of the most contaminated zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with an annual exposure dose exceeding 50 mSv/year. This zone includes areas from seven municipalities declared “difficult to return to” by the Japanese government.
21. Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain serving gyūdon (beef over rice). In 2013 the company established joint venture, Yoshinoya Farm Fukushima Co. in Shirakawa City, 40 miles west of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to grow rice and vegetables for their restaurants.
22. Another chain, referred to as “family restaurants” in Japanese. Comparable to Applebee’s in the U.S.
23. State-led campaign which enlists food businesses to purchase produce from the Tohoku area (around Fukushima). This is a tactic to shift responsibility for the consequences of nuclear disaster onto consumer relations: i.e. the only way to support farmers and others making their livelihoods in affected regions is to consume their products.
24. In Japanese, quotation marks are often used to distinguish a concept. Here, Matsudaira advocates fighting against both actual countries with nuclear power, and with an imperialist system of nation-states/the system that produces them.


Photo: Children’s drawings on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, NM. Photo by Lita Hakoda

原発事故被害者支援策の、論理的根拠と正当性の欠如

宍戸俊則

英訳はこちら:No Legitimacy, No Principle in Japan’s Nuclear Victim Support Policy (in English)

福島県庁は「2017年3月で、区域外避難者に対する住宅支援を打ち切る」と2015年7月に宣言した。2016年2月7日現在、その政策を変えるつもりは全くない。

そして、同じ2017年3月までに、原発事故で避難地域に指定した区域の中で、「50mSv/y以上の外部被ばく線量になる」とされている「帰還困難区域」と名付けられた地域を除き、全ての避難地域指定を解除する。避難指定解除される地域の住民に対しては、1年分の賠償(1人120万円)を追加で支払うだけで、他の特別な防護措置や財政優遇を基本的に打ち切ると決めている。 Continue reading 原発事故被害者支援策の、論理的根拠と正当性の欠如

No Legitimacy, No Principle in Japan’s Nuclear Victim Support Policy

By Toshinori Shishido

原発事故被害者支援策の、論理的根拠と正当性の欠如(日本語)

In July 2015, the Fukushima prefectural government announced its plan to terminate housing assistance for nuclear evacuees who fled areas outside of the restricted zone at the end of March 2017. It has absolutely no intention to change this policy as of this moment in February 2016. Continue reading No Legitimacy, No Principle in Japan’s Nuclear Victim Support Policy

東京電力福島原子力発電所事故発生前後から現在までの、 福島県庁と開沼博氏達による被災者への対応

宍戸 俊則

0 自己紹介

筆者は、2011年7月31日まで約25年半の間、福島県の県立高等学校正規雇用教員とし働きました。最初の4年間は、福島第一原発がある双葉町にある県立双葉高校の教員でした。そこで、原発作業員の過酷な労働条件(例:1日の被曝限度を10分で超えるので、拘束時間は8時間なのに実労働時間は10分で、主に原発配管から漏れる水を雑巾で拭いて集めるのが作業)などの例も聞きました。原発作業員がガンなどで死亡した場合、労災は認められない代わりに、一時金としては異例なほど高額な現金を遺族に支給する例も多数見聞しました。

原発事故発生時は、事故原発から直線距離で53kmの自宅に妻と子ども二人で住み、同じく直線距離で60kmの県立高校の教員でした。 Continue reading 東京電力福島原子力発電所事故発生前後から現在までの、 福島県庁と開沼博氏達による被災者への対応

On Fukushima Prefecture and Hiroshi Kainuma: How Officials and Popular Academics Have Responded to Disaster Victims in the Wake of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident

By Toshinori Shishido

日本語の原文『東京電力福島原子力発電所事故発生前後から現在までの、福島県庁と開沼博氏達による被災者への対応』

  1. About the author

I worked as a full-time teacher at a public high school in Fukushima for about twenty-five-and-a-half years, until July 31, 2011. During the first four years of my career, I taught at Futaba High School in Futaba-machi, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Naturally, I have heard stories about the harsh working conditions of nuclear workers. For example, in a certain area of the power plant, working for 10 minutes would exceed the legal maximum daily radiation exposure limit. So each shift was officially recorded as 10 minutes even though their actual worked shift was 8 hours. The workers would primarily wipe water leaking from the piping surrounding the nuclear reactor. When workers died of illnesses like cancer, their families received unusually high amounts of cash as lump-sum payments, while actual workmen’s compensation insurance was not provided.

At the time of the 2011 nuclear accident, I was living in a city 53 kilometers (33 miles) away from the power plant with my wife and two children. I was working at a public school 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the plant.

After the accident, on the evening of March 15, 2011, the maximum airborne radioactive levels of 23 microsievert/hour was detected in Fukushima City, where I worked. Outside the school the following day, however, the annual school acceptance announcements were held as scheduled. Several faculty, including myself, met with the principal to insist that usual outdoor announcement be cancelled as to avoid having young students exposed to radiation–but the announcement event was forced outdoors.  The principal cited  reasons such as, “the Fukushima Prefecture office strongly supports the outdoor plan” and he “had no choice as the school principal.”

From April 2011 on, aside from the prohibition of outdoor gym classes, neither my school nor the Fukushima Board of Education took any measures to prevent further radiation exposure for students. The school had students practice club activities outdoors as usual. Indoor club athletes were made to run outdoors as well, without any protective measure against radiation exposure. Despite the standard practice, measures such as gargling, washing hands, changing clothes, and showering weren’t deemed necessary for students when returning from outdoor activities. Since I had some knowledge about radiation exposure, I advised the students to take caution to remove potential contamination whenever possible. However, in response to my giving the students advice to prevent radioactive materials from entering the building, I had been cautioned by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, in the form of official “guidance” which forbids me to even talk about radiation and nuclear power plants to the students. Given that I was officially barred from protecting students from radiation exposure, I decided to make my move: along with my family, I evacuated my hometown and relocated to Sapporo city in Hokkaido. Once we evacuated, we found out about a financial system by Fukushima Prefecture which supports voluntary evacuees from the areas outside of the officially restricted zone (though it only approved applications from evacuees pre-December 2012; those who evacuated thereafter would not be financially supported).

I have been teaching part-time in Hokkaido. Since finding out that within the public school system the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education can intervene to oversee public high school relocation anywhere, I have been teaching at private schools only. Aside from my part-time job, I have been involved in a nuclear power plant damages lawsuit as a plaintiff as well as a member of the refugee organization.

 

  1. Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident

The reactors at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, especially Unit 1 and Unit 2, were delivered and installed from the US after the US manufacturer finished all of their construction. As for Units 3, 4, 5, and 6 the Japanese manufacturer added their own “improvements” to the original structure.

I will try to avoid a lengthy explanation. TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant frequently had accidents immediately after beginning operation and the nuclear workers’ exposure levels amounted to twice to ten times the average exposure dose at other nuclear plants. Furthermore, TEPCO kept a lot of serious accidents hidden from Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese government. TEPCO proposed using Unit 3 for so-called pluthermal power generation, utilizing fuel which can contain weapons-grade plutonium in order to reduce the plutonium surplus in Japan. Eisaku Sato, then-governor of Fukushima, strongly objected to the proposal.The Japanese government arrested and convicted Governor Sato on bribery charges with the amount of the bribe recognized as “zero yen.” They drove him to resign, then elected Yuhei Sato as the new governor. As described above, neither the Fukushima governor nor the organization called the Fukushima Prefectural Government had power over TEPCO.

 

  1. Nuclear accident and the Fukushima Prefectural Government

March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake hit a wide area including Fukushima Prefecture, the building of the Fukushima prefectural office (which had been planned to function as a Disaster Response Headquarters) was damaged in the earthquake. The headquarters were set up in a small building next to the main office building to serve temporary functions. The prefectural government has never publicized records of proceedings and documents from over 20 meetings in the beginning. From the 25th meeting, they finally began keeping records of proceedings.

At the time, the temporary disaster response headquarters was believed to have had little to no communication lines, and had reportedly only two satellite mobile phones. Although the communication infrastructure began to be rebuilt gradually, what was happening then still remains largely unknown. There has been no official investigation into the correspondence between the local governments, the central government and TEPCO, and no evacuation orders to the local communities.

As far as public record goes, the only time Fukushima Governor issued an announcement in the first week was on the evening of March 14th. “Follow the instructions and  do not panic,””High school entrance announcements will be held as planned on March 16th,”— these two lines were broadcast repeatedly throughout local media.

From another angle, the recordings of the TEPCO video conference shows that Fukushima Prefecture requested TEPCO make a public announcement saying “the explosion in the Unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi will not cause health damage.” Appalled by the request, thinking they “couldn’t say such an irresponsible thing,” TEPCO decided to “ask the central government to suppress Fukushima Prefecture,”—as evidently recorded during the video conference.

However Fukushima Prefecture repeatedly expressed that in the “Nakadōri” region—which includes the prefectural capitol, Fukushima City, and the commercially and industrially flourishing Koriyama City—there would be zero risk of health damage from radiation.

There has been a use of protective measures like wearing long-sleeves and masks for school children, which may have been a globally familiar sight through media reports. However this was not a recommendation or an order issued by Fukushima Prefecture, but rather a result of demands from local PTAs to boards of education in individual school districts.

Towards the end of March 2011, right before the school year resumed, the Fukushima governor was seen out in local grocery stores saying “Fukushima today is business as usual,” in which he began a campaign to “dispel harmful rumors” about local agricultural produce being contaminated by radiation. The governor also opposed widening the evacuation zone beyond the 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, and has repeatedly made remarks to avoid increasing the number of evacuees from outside the official evacuation zone.

As a result, aside from two local Fukushima newspapers, NHK, and four private television networks in addition to NHK Radio and Radio Fukushima, there was little to no mention of messages from outside Fukushima offering free housings and support networks for voluntary evacuees. Fukushima Prefecture also prohibited the use of not only public conference centers, but private facilities for hosting “counseling room” for evacuation as well. People around me practically had no knowledge of local autonomous support groups offering evacuation support. I have heard numerous times that “there is no evacuation order from outside the prefecture, meaning we have been abandoned.” In fact, it was Fukushima Prefecture who had been interfering with such efforts to reach our community.

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  1. Hiroshi Kainuma, “the Sociologist”

In 2011, an author from Fukushima became renowned after publishing the book “Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village,” based on a thesis he wrote as a sociology student at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Sciences. His name is Hiroshi Kaiuma, born in Iwaki City, Fukushima, and graduated from the University of Tokyo Literature department at the age of 25 and advanced to the graduate program. I must note that this is difficult to grasp if you are not well-connected within Fukushima. But in short, Iwaki City, where Mr. Kainuma was born and raised, has very little connection to the Futaba district which hosts TEPCO’s power plant. In terms of large-scale trading areas, while the Futaba district is part of the Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture trade area, Iwaki City would be part of Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture. In any case, Mr. Kainuma did not have strong connections to the Fukushima Prefectural government prior to March 11th, 2011.

Since the meltdown, however, he has somehow become “the Fukushima spokesperson who speaks about Fukushima on TV and radio.”

Additionally, I have written several critiques of his writings, one of which can be found on the following link (in Japanese): “Personal note on “‘Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village'” http://togetter.com/li/815862

 

  1. Hiroshi Kainuma and the Fukushima Prefectural Government

After 3.11, his master’s thesis was published in books and he began to be featured in various media, including an appearance as a commentator on the popular evening program “Hodo Station (News Station).” We must note that the content of his remarks have been consistent—such as, “The acceptance of nuclear power plant by local communities was necessary for the regions’ survival”; “Those outside of Fukushima protesting against nuclear energy do not understand the reality of nuclear-hosting communities.” His views and comments on the anti-nuclear movement have been antagonistic from the beginning, for example, “People who oppose nuclear energy are rubbing local communities the wrong way.”

Mr. Kainuma currently holds the title of Junior Researcher of the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, but at the same time he is a PhD student at the University of Tokyo. While it would be appropriate to call him a sociology researcher, I feel it’s an overestimation to refer to him as a sociologist.

Currently the gist of Mr. Kainuma’s speech is towards the “recovery of Fukushima in visible forms” and its target audience is outside Fukushima Prefecture. While many others have in fact been referring to “bags” jammed with contaminated waste—seen everywhere and impossible to be ignored upon entering Fukushima—Mr. Kainuma continues to emphasize the “ordinary Fukushima” without mentioning the bags.

I see the previous governor of Fukushima, Yuhei Sato, in Mr. Kainuma in many ways, like in his seeming lack of experience interacting with people in temporary housings immediately following the meltdowns, or with shelter residents still living with much confusion and inconveniences as a result of the disaster.

Even the current Fukushima governor does not seem to have made too many visits to temporary shelters during or after elections.

To those who evacuated Fukushima to outer prefectures like myself, the Prefecture kept even more distance. By principle, they never made any official inspection visits to meet the evacuees. There is a notable lack of inspection visits not only in remote areas such as Hokkaido, but also in places like Yamagata and Niigata which are adjacent to Fukushima Prefecture.

In the wake of the disaster, though there was housing support for those who evacuated the areas outside of Fukushima as well, such efforts have gradually died down—as of March 2016, state subsidies for housing would be available only for evacuees who are from Fukushima. In addition, the housing subsidy program for those who evacuated the non-restricted zone will end in March 2017. However, there is no housing program for returning residents to Fukushima even if they decide to move back there.

Starting March 2017, voluntary evacuees still living in outer prefectures need to choose one of the three following choices:

1) Return home to Fukushima while paying out-of-pocket for most of the expenses associated with the move and your life thereafter. 2) Continue living outside Fukushima while relinquishing your rights to access resources as a disaster victim 3) Upon proving your need for financial assistance, receive housing subsidies for up to 2 years to live in privately-owned housing.

The reason for this policy change was credited to correspondence between the Minister of Environment and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, a non-governmental agency to provide scientific grounds for nuclear policy. The Minister of Envirnoment asked the NRA if “it is considered desirable to evacuate the areas that don’t have restrictions” to which the NRA answered, ”these areas are no longer fit to be evacuated.” It should be noted that there was no legal ground for this correspondence to be treated as official; how this exchange was reviewed and by whom is unknown.

Based on this document issued by the NRA, the Japanese government made a Cabinet decision to largely reduce support for evacuees through the Nuclear Accident Child Victim’s Support Law.

Following this decision, Fukushima Prefecture also determined its policy would end support for the voluntary evacuees from non-restricted areas.

Hiroshi Kainuma is working from an assumed role to justify such policy of Fukushima Prefecture, utilizing his position as a so-called sociologist. Even if he has ideas and views that differ from Fukushima Prefecture’s policy, he does not speak about them on media or at talk events.

For instance, when Mr. Kainuma was relatively unknown before 3.11, he had reportedly interviewed local anti-nuclear activists. Another instance tells us that although he had met and interviewed several people who have moved voluntarily out of the non-restricted areas, he proceeds to ignore the voices and opinions of them as though they had never existed.

Last year, nuclear reactors in Japan started resuming operation. Mr. Kainuma has not been seen or heard expressing opposition to it. Neither Fukushima Prefecture nor the Prefectural Assembly expresses any intentions to oppose nuclear restorations.

  1. The current presence of “Hiroshi Kainuma”

Through the circumstances described above, Hiroshi Kainuma is working so as to be portrayed by the media as a Fukushima Prefecture spokesperson, intent on selling “business-as-usual” appeal and depicting a Fukushima that “overcame a nuclear disaster.”

Meanwhile, and quite unfortunately, many Fukushima residents agree with his words and actions. Just as there are many people hoping to forget the scars from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, there are many who explicitly “do not evacuate,” comprising an overwhelming majority of the Fukushima population and wishing to forget and move past the disaster and nuclear crisis.

Here we have an academic scholar who speaks for us and to those who are outside Fukushima as well, saying to leave the nuclear disaster in the past.

Thus, this concludes the significance of Hiroshi Kainuma’s existence today.

 

(Translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State)

Voices of Evacuees: Joint Lawsuit Begins in Hokkaido

by TODOS SOMOS JAPON

Photo: In November 2012, activists and parents appeal to the head of Reconstruction Agency to reinforce new law to support the life of children who are affected by the nuclear disaster. (Courtesy of  LaborNet Japan)

Here is one of the latest news from Fukushima: the residents of Tamura city (20-40 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant) was told by the government: “we could not clean up radiation in your town. Radiation is still not low enough for you to live in. But go home anyway, we’ll give you dosimeters to detect radiation on your own.”
Continue reading Voices of Evacuees: Joint Lawsuit Begins in Hokkaido