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Evacuate the Children of Fukushima

Children evacuated from the town Futaba, enjoying a magic show in front of the Saitama Super Arena. Saitama, Japan. 27/03/2011. Image from Demotix

Children evacuated from the town Futaba, enjoying a magic show in front of the Saitama Super Arena. Saitama, Japan. photo by Miyoko Fukushima.
copyright © Demotix (27/03/2011).

The fear of lethal radiation exposure to their children, has pushed a group of parents, lawyers, and residents to demand that the state sanction an official evacuation from Japan's Fukushima region. Together they are known as the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team [ja] and they are planning a demonstration on February 23, 2013 in Shinjuku, in the capital Tokyo.

The group has been fighting a losing battle in court since 2011, when a nuclear plant released enough radioactive waste in their region to be declared the world's second largest nuclear disaster ever.

Fourteen students from Koriyama city in Fukushima filed a lawsuit against their local government in June 2011, demanding that the city stop mandatory education in high radiation exposure areas and sponsor a collective evacuation to restart education in safer areas. The case was dismissed by the Koriyama District Court in December 16, 2011. An appeal is now proceeding in closed hearings at the Sendai High Court.

Kōriyama1, Fukushima

Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture. Image captured from wikipedia

Messages supporting the demonstration [ja, en] have been submitted from Japan and around the world:

松尾憙澄(東京都:自営)
戦時中に全東京、全大都市で行えた「疎開」が、なぜいま出来ない?
あの当時より文科(部)省は子どものいのちを粗末に考えているのか?
人も社会も、進化し改善される叡知への信頼無しには、未来への希望は持てない。
政治も司法もそれが存在理由でしょう?。
それが後退を後押しするなどあってはならない。

松尾憙澄(Tokyo, Self-employed)
Looking back during wartime, the government were able to handle mass evacuation, and ordered people to move from major cities including Tokyo to rural areas. Why can't they handle evacuation now?
Does the Ministry of Education devalue the lives of children today?
We cannot hope for a better future if we cannot trust the wisdom that improves our society.
That is why political and judicial systems exist, right??
Nothing should encourage them to aim for less.

Guillaume Gellenoncourt (France, Unemployed)
None of the words I might say are strong enough to say how this makes me feel… I fully apologize for the damages of the MOX my country sold to yours. Your government has abandoned you all… Stay as strong as possible, stay together, and maybe….

Jean VOGUET (France, Composer)
You have to take care of your children !

高橋陽一 (滋賀県:弁護士)
福島の子どもの健康被害が心配です。
子どもの健康被害という大切な問題であるのに,報道がほとんどされていないことにも憤りを感じます。

高橋陽一(Shiga Japan, Lawyer)
I worry about the health of children in Fukushima. I feel resentment towards the media for its minimum coverage, even though the health of children is a very important issue.

庄田政江(大阪府:通訳案内士)
父は原爆が落とされてすぐに広島に救援活動に行き被爆し311前に肺がんで亡くなりました。私は被爆2世、父の代わりとして福島周辺の方達への定期健診と国の補償を要求します。国際的ビジネスを続けるためにIAEAや国や電力会社は被害の矮小化を計ろうとしています。
「核と人間は共存できない」ことを知らせるためデモに賛同したいと思います。

庄田政江(Osaka, Interpreter)
My father headed out to help people in Hiroshima right after the atomic bomb. He was exposed to radiation and had died before the 3/11 earthquake in 2011 with lung cancer. As his son, I demand periodic medical examination of residents and neighbors of Fukushima and demand that our nation compensate them, on behalf of my father. The
IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] other nation and electric power corporations are scheming to downplay the damage [of the nuclear disaster] to continue their “international business”.
I'd like to support this demonstration to let people know “Nuclear and human cannot live together”.

The reality of children in Fukushima is barely reported in mainstream media. On February 13, 2013, the non-profit Our Plant-TV reported [ja] that three out of 38,114 children under the age of 18, have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Another seven children are suspected of having cancer, according to [ja, pdf]  an official investigation done by Fukushima Prefecture.

At a press conference, Professor Shinichi Suzuki of Fukushima Medical University said these cases are unrelated to the nuclear accident, because the increase in diagnosis of thyroid cancer in Chernobyl, Ukraine was found 4-5 years after their nuclear incident. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was considered the worst nuclear plant disaster till Fukushima in 2011.

With little help from the government, Toshio Yanagihara, a lawyer with the The Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team [ja], went to the United Nations. This video documents his plea. It was recorded on October 30, 2012 in Geneva and uploaded by the World Network For Saving Children From Radiation.

Please take a look at this map of Koriyama City, which is 60km from the Nuclear Plants. The numbers are the airborne radiation readings and the level of soil contamination measured in August last year. The red dots on this map indicate the equivalent radiation level of mandatory evacuation zone around Chernobyl. If you apply the evacuation standard used in Chernobyl, most of the central part of the city would fall under the mandatory evacuation area, where the residents would be required to move out. It is in this level of dangerous contamination that the children remain and attend school.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the 2011 accident in Fukushima was the largest nuclear disaster ever.

  • Chris Salzberg

    Hi Keiko,

    I have some serious issues with this article.

    First, you write “the world’s largest nuclear disaster ever”, but this is not true. The Wikipedia article you link to explicitly says that Fukushima is “the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986″, i.e. the second-largest nuclear disaster ever.

    That’s maybe just nitpicking, but the bigger issue I have with this article is that you are presenting a very one-sided view on this story. What would it mean to move all the children out of the prefecture? You would presumably also have to move at least part of their families with them, no? What happens to their homes, their land, their livelihoods?

    Actually this is not a simple issue at all, and I suspect the voices you are amplifying here are not representative of the prefecture as a whole. From everything I have seen and heard, most people in affected areas have fought very hard (understandably) to *stay* where they are, despite the dangers. Am I wrong?

    • Keiko Tanaka

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment.”the world largest nuclear disaster ever” should be corrected! This was due to rewrite during proof-reading process.

      I certainly agree with you for this post being one-sided. (as most of the links go to the evacuation collective) and does not intend to provide the full view of the local people.

      This post was crafted , from a message we received about the speech of Toshio Yanagihara, another editor forwarded me as a story idea. My intention was to let people know there are people who seek collective evacuation, not to tell that they are majority of the voices.

      I would say “links are not endorsement” but as you described, it wouldn’t be fair to leave out these struggle to *stay*. I don’t have much information about them, but might be able to write about (not confident though,could you suggest examples?).

    • Tim Edwards

      How about offering solutions instead of “You’re wrong…”…”It’s a complex situation”?… DUH!!! Watch a documentary called “Chernobyl Heart” then offer a good reason why a child should go to school with a dosimeter attached to their backpack.

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