World Conference against A & H Bombs
Nakajima Takashi, Leader of Fukushima Victims Lawsuit
2015 World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs
Leader of plaintiffs in lawsuit for recovering pre-disaster living and working conditions and community
My name is Nakajima Takashi. I’m the leader of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding that the government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant restore people to pre-disaster living conditions and community.
I have run a mini-grocery store for 30 years, dealing mainly in fish in Fukushima’s Soma City, which is located 40 km north of the power plant on the Pacific coast.
We are engaged in a court battle against the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to hold them legally accountable for causing the nuclear accident and demand that they fulfill their responsibility to restore the affected people to the status quo ante and take measures of disaster relief for them. With about 4,000 plaintiffs, this is the largest suit ever filed by nuclear disaster victims.
In court, TEPCO said, “It is technically impossible to restore pre-disaster conditions by carrying out decontamination.” The utility continued, “Even it were technically possible, it would be financially impossible because it would incur huge costs for restoring the residents to the status quo ante.
TEPCO also referred to the plaintiffs’ complaint that they are forced to live in fear of future health problems such as cancer among themselves and their children and that this has caused them to suffer from emotional distress and even mental disorders. It responded that there is no cause for worry about health problems even if people are exposed to low levels of radiation of around 20 millisieverts per year, and that the risk is similar to health risks like a lack of vegetable intake or exercise, or obesity[PW1] .”
The national government has also taken a so-what attitude by saying that it has “no responsibility for the nuclear accident, which was caused by an unforeseen natural disaster.”
At my mini-grocery store, I’m selling fish caught under the name of “experimental fishing”. Initially, many customers hesitated to buy those fish because of their fear of developing health problems. However, consumption of fish is rising. I’m not sure if this is because more people are tired of worrying about the safety or because they now recognize fish as safe.
But one day, an elderly customer said to me, “Local fish tastes really good. He said I don’t have many years before I die. I would like to eat the food I like before I die.” He uttered this in a casual tone but showed mixed feelings toward local fish he has been familiar with.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the number of children diagnosed as having thyroid cancer is on the rise.
The prices of rice produced in Fukushima in 2014 were the lowest among Japan’s 47 prefectures. Sale price of fish and other seafood products is not good either. The same is true for peaches and other fruits, and vegetables. No matter what Prime Minister Abe says, the nuclear disaster is yet to be brought under control and radiation-contaminated underground water continues to flow into the Pacific Ocean every day. It may not be easy for consumers to stop themselves from worrying about radioactive contamination. I also have contradictory feelings because I need to sell local fish to make a living. Compensation payments offered by TEPCO for business operators are too small.
In Fukushima, there are 120,000 evacuees, who are forced to live in temporary housing units or in towns far from their own homes. Only a handful of people have been able to resume their pre-disaster jobs. Many are struggling to find a job at places where they live as evacuees, or have few opportunities to work. Such people tend to stay home all day, which results in more health problems. Reportedly, the number of people with depression is increasing.
It appears that the Japanese government is trying to airbrush the nuclear accident itself out of history instead of offering relief measures for those people suffering from various kinds of damage and hardships. The government recently announced its plan to lift boundaries of restricted zones, such as “areas in which residents are not permitted to live”, in March 2017. It also announced that in March 2018 it will stop paying compensation for mental distress and for damage to business to those who are forced to leave their homes in zones within 20 km from the crippled power plant.
In addition, the Fukushima Prefectural government will terminate its financial support for evacuees’ rent payments in March 2017. Without this public support, it will be difficult for evacuees to keep on living away from their hometowns.
Everyone wishes to return to their home town where they grew up and lived for many years. However, radiation levels are high in the mountain areas close to their homes. People are not sure if a supermarket will come to their town, or if a hospital will open. They are also concerned for the safety of their children. Their concerns are so numerous that it is not easy for the evacuees to return to their homes.
How absurd it is for the government to try to force the evacuees to return to their homes! Without expressing remorse or having a sense of responsibility for the nuclear accident, the government is moving to promote nuclear generation again as if nothing had happened. For those who are in power, both damage from the nuclear accident and the tragedy caused by the use of nuclear weapons may be things of another world.
Those profit-oriented forces never care about people’s sufferings and the government is tolerating infringement of human rights. We are called upon to act by increasing the awareness that we are sovereign citizens.
We are facing the danger of exposure to radiation from a nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, which came after exposure to atomic bomb radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We must prevent such a mindless error from happening again. We have to build people’s unity and make progress toward a society in which human rights are fully respected.
The movement you have developed over many years for the abolition of nuclear weapons is a lodestar that always points in the right direction. We wish to take part in this great movement with you.
Thank you very much.