“Miko”, evacuee from Iwaki City, Fukushima:
I evacuated voluntarily from my hometown Iwaki City to Kitakyushu City last January because of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster on March 11.
Today I’d like to talk about what I saw, experienced and felt during the 9 months up to my move to Kitakyushu, as well as my current situation.
I lived in Iwaki City, 42 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
I taught piano lessons and my husband worked as a municipal employee. With our 2 children and my students, we were living happily.
After 3/11 our life changed completely.
The northern part of Iwaki City was within the 30 kilometer radius, but the mayor created the term “harmful rumor”and the radiation exclusion zone was extended to our area.
The radiation level, which was at 0.05 microsieverts per hourbefore the accident, rose to 23 microsieverts. That’s 460 times [the normal level].
Professor Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University launched a mass campaign stating that it was safe up to 100 millisieverts, and this was accepted widely by the television, newspaper, radio, schools and in lectures. At the time, schools considered it safe to engage in outdoor activities even though the radioation level was at 0.5 microsieverts, 10 times that of the normal value.
Since 100 millisieverts was regarded as ‘safe,’ school lunches were initially prepared from local produce(1 month after the accident). We worked hard to collect signatures to cancel the ‘local production for local consumption’ rule immediately. It wasn’t until the second academic term, though, that the board of education recognized the freedom to refuse school lunches. In other words, those who trusted the ‘safety principle’ continued to let their children eat school lunches. It was useless trying to reason with the school or teachers.
The outdoor radiation level isn’t consistent. Ten centimeters apart, and itcan vary by 2~3 microsieverts or 5 microsieverts, which are 46 times and 100 times that of the everyday level.
What I couldn’t understand was the fact that the municipal employees and school teachers did nothing to protect the children from radiation exposure.
Now, let me talk about the time when the nuclear power plant exploded.
Our home suffered minimal damage from the 3/11 earthquake itself. But we had no running water in Iwaki City for 20 days. My children and I lined up for two hours the following day to get our supply from the water distribution truck.
The first explosion happened on March 12. The data we saw later measured 23 microsieverts, 460 times that of the normal level.
There were no local public announcements warning us to stay indoors, and we remained outside for 2 whole hours,unaware of the explosion.
We were told that Japan was safe, but blood tests have shown that my two children and I have thyroid problems, and my son has a 5-millimeter pustule.
News reports now say that thyroid cancer is a lifestyle-related disease. If we develop cancer, I suspect we’ll be told that it’s a result of negligence and the government will not admit that it has anything to do with radiation exposure.
I wanted my children to get a whole-body counting immediately after the explosion. But I couldn’t find a single facility that would admit us. Some people went as far as Tokyo to get themselves examined, but couldn’t get their own data. I called several places to confirm myself, but none of them would provide the data.
So I made an inquiry about blood tests to check the thyroid condition, and was shocked to be told that there would be no mass thyroid examinations in Iwaki City.
I asked Fukushima Prefecture how I could obtain evidence about the location of our radiation exposure, and was told that “there was no way.”
My husband is a municipal employee. He said that if there was anything to know, he would have immediate access to such information. But no one informed us about the explosion and both my children and I were exposed to radiation while we were outside.
My husband handled a flood of telephone calls even though he has zero knowledge of radiation, and he practically memorized the content of documents distributed by the government.
Five months after the accident, the radiation level announced by Iwaki City was 0.12Sv per hour. But when I borrowed a Geiger counter from the city hall, I found that it was actually between0.24 and 22.14 Sv per hour. Volunteers inspected trimmed trees and the soil, and the radiation level was at 20,000 bq/kg.
After seeing these radiation figures, my husband and I both agreed that the government was not going to protect us.
For example, tap water is “ND [not dangerous]” according to the official Iwaki City website.
So I asked for data on radionuclides such as strontium and
plutonium, but was denied access to any detailed information on the grounds that
it would “confuse the residents.” Instead, they gave us a document explaining
that iodine and cesium were “not dangerous.” It made me furious because they
were taking advantage of our lack of knowledge.
My decision to evacuate had less to do with the fear of radiation than it had to do with the attitudes of the government and the schools, the radiation measurements that we saw with our own eyes, and the health problems my family began to suffer.
Diarrhea every day, nose-bleeding, canker sores, abnormal
growths inside the nose. These are all symptoms that my family and friends began
experiencing after the nuclear power plant explosion. I realized much later that
there are health issues besides cancer that can be caused by radiation.
What the state announces is different from the reality. The state obviouslyexpects people to accept any violation of the law, while public employees merely follow orders from above. The public disclosure system works to deceiveuswithdistorted information – nothing is disclosed and nothing is put in written form, all in the attempt to buy time.
The schools won’t protect their students, our children. They are unforgiving towards parents and guardians who express concern about radiation. If I make a lunchbox for my children to avoid radiation exposure, they are bullied by other classmates. Even when physical violence was involved, the school did nothing to reprimand the bullies and their parents but instead called me in to ‘instruct’ me not to overreactto radiation.
I decided to evacuate when my daughter developed school phobia. I tried looking for ways to continue living in Iwaki and sent many letters of request to the government, only to get evasive responses.
I tried to reason with my elderly parents about evacuating, but they didn’t want to leave their hometown. My husband felt it was safe enough. My mother-in-law wouldn’t allow the evacuation and said that I was “out of line.”
I fought against the government, I was distressed, and when my own parents told me to consider the children’s wellbeing first, I chose to evacuate to Kitakyushu, leaving my husband and elderly parents behind in Fukushima.
As I just told you, what the media says and the facts are entirely different.
The other day, an interim report on industrial waste disposal was made public. It stated that one company in Fukushima was acceptingcontaminated sludge and dust from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Yamagata and even Kanagawa. This company began operating beforeKitakyushu agreed to accept the debris, and continues to do so now. There is uproar regarding the acceptance of debris, yet all the while radioactive materials are being incinerated without a fuss, even though there is no bug filter installed.
The media is preoccupied with PM2.5 air pollutants coming
from China, but is this really true?
Kitakyushu’s industrial waste disposal factories and cement factories are taking in Fukushima’s coal ash for recycling.
According to Kitakyushu’s official document, the pollutant PM2.5 rose over 230 in April last year, and the level often exceeded 100 during other months. There’s no doubt that the pollution originates in Kyushu, in other words, it’s‘domestic.’
What happened to Fukushima residents will soon affect all Japanese people.
I think it will start from the air we breathe and the food
we eat. The other day, there was an article in a local information magazine
“Donna Mamma” with statements made by university professors and lecturers as
well as administrative officers who said that the radiation level was not a
threat. The claim that radiation is safe has completely spread throughout Japan.
While some say that the radiation has dispersed and we are now safe, people are in fact dying in Fukushima. The day after my cousin died, my friend’s husband passed away. I am not saying that everything is caused by radiation.
But there is the Chernobyl example.
The state won’t admit it. But we do have the “right to choose”– based on what we hear and see, and by examining both arguments thatradiation is harmful or safe.
I was unaware of the dangers of nuclear power plants, and that’s the reason why I find myself in the current situation. I was ignorant of the fact that radiation doesn’tsimply disappear and was trying to decontaminate the front of my home – all the while inhaling contaminated air.
There are people living in Fukushima, now. They all
“We’re guinea pigs after all, and if we try to evacuate we won’t be able to make a living since there is no government compensation”
“I don’t want to let go of my lifestyle”
“If the state says it’s safe, then it’s safe”
“Many people are dying, huh?”
“There’s nothing we can do, it’s useless, so why bother?”
“I’d rather focus on happy things”
and continue with their decontamination, but the polluted sewage turns into sludge and incinerated ash, which in turn produce highly radioactive waste. People refuse to face the fact that these will eventually come back to haunt them.
Decontamination is useless. I tried it myself and I know. The level decreases from 0.5 to 0.2, then returns to 0.5 two weeks later. That’s the reality. Where does that massive amount of polluted soil go after decontamination?
If the state were to manage the waste materials responsibly, they would have them handled by industrial waste disposal companies… but then again, they will be recycled as cement and pots and muck, and eventually come back to us.
It’s important for us to rest and recuperate, but it won’t help anyone at the fundamental level.
I believe the only way to recover is by measuring radiation levels, disclosing the facts, guaranteeing sufficient compensation, and then allowing the residents of Fukushima to make their own decisions.
Don’t disperse the radiation, but contain it inside Fukushima. My ancestral grave is 2 kilometers away from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Please leave the radioactive wastes there.
There are many Fukushima residents who feel this way, whether they have ancestral graves, homes or are large landowners. But they’re ignored.
In March this year, I went to Samekawa Village in Fukushima to stop the construction of an experimental facility that would incinerate rice straws, which measured a radiation level of 8,000 bq.A press conference was scheduled and all we had to do was to submit some paperwork, but at the last moment, an individual who was ostensibly against the construction interfered and prevented us from proceeding. An opponentturned out to be a supporter. That’s the reality I experienced.
Even during the campaign against Kitakyushu’s acceptance of contaminated debris, it was considered “OK” to sign up for the protest, but not to support the conclusion of the agreement on pollution prevention.
I had heard that the last hope would be a statement of protest by Kitakyushu’s fisheries cooperative association, but when a request was made for the official document, I found out that the association had not submitted a statement of protest. Or rather, the “protest’”was not stated in clear terms.
Protestors used to gather at the tent village after the incineration of contaminated debris started, and during that time I visited a number of fisheries associations to ask them to submit a “protest statement,” but only 2 agreed to see me, and neither of them issued a statement.
If even one association had presented a protest document, or a demand for the conclusion of the agreement on pollution prevention had been made by even 2 residents living in the vicinity of the incinerator… There was so much resistance to prevent people from taking such action, and I, an evacuee from Fukushima, felt like I had been set up to fail.
Seeing the reality of the so-called protest campaign, I lost all hope that Fukushima would ever be ‘saved.’
Just like the blatant lie that a bug filter can remove practically 100% of cesium, I suspect that [the government] will install a hepa-filter and declare that Fukushima is safe, then construct 8,000 bq incinerating facilities across Japan as well as biomass power stations that useFukushima timber.
The state has plenty of money to stop people from asking questions by manipulating the media, create a certain ‘mood’in the countryby releasing false information, and endorse campaigns to win over those people who disagree, and
“Yet again, we unknowingly end up being a part of the herd.”
What I believe to be a genuine connection can’t be madeby blindly following the words of those ‘at the top.’ Rather, it’s about teaching each other what we don’t know, sharing information and learning more, then passing on that information to those around us. If we have more courage, we can disclose the facts to fisheries associations and people residing near garbage disposal facilities, industrial waste incinerators and cement factories– facilities that the state will try to influence and control.
In the same wayKitakyushu held ‘one-person explanatory meetings’for the leader of the residents’ association when the city agreed to accept the debris, we need to have ‘one-person study sessions’ for local residents because it’s the only way to protect our children.
I was deceived by media reports and allowed my children to be exposed to radiation. Because I was ignorant and knew only superficial information, I couldn’t protect my children even though we evacuated. The only thing I can do is to tell others what I experienced. I hope you learn something to make the right choice. If at all possible, learn and share with others.
Don’t misread the facts. The facts will become evident if you have the courage and take the initiative to think and act for yourself.
Our very last hope is found in the local municipality. We must begin with “resident education,” then the education of teachers and municipal employees by knowledgeable residents. It’s the only choice we have. I learned first hand that there is no way to protect my children unless I take action, regardless of how tiresome it may seem.
No matter how busy I am taking care of my children, I hope to continue doing what I can within my limits.