In a strongly-worded statement addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to visit Japan on November 11-12, Japanese women from Fukushima have asked him to “come and see Fukushima before signing India-Japan Nuclear Agreement.” Issued by Fukushima Women Against Nukes, the statement comes amidst news that the two countries have “completed the internal procedures for the much-awaited agreement on civil nuclear cooperation.”
The Fukushima Women Against Nukes is a network of women that started in September 2012, using various direct actions such as sit-ins, demonstrations as well as petitioning to demand justice for everything that the Fukushima disaster has taken away from them.
Earlier, in December last year, during Japanese Prime Minister Shiozo Abe's visit to India, the two countries had a broad agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy, but decided to go ahead with the final deal after solving “certain technical and legal issues”.
The statement comes amidst continued political resistance in Japan to go ahead with a nuclear deal with India, citing the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, initiated initiated primarily by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Immediately after the earthquake, the active reactors automatically shut down their sustained fission reactions. However, the tsunami destroyed the emergency generators cooling the reactors, causing reactor 4 to overheat from the decay heat from the fuel rods.
The insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive material beginning on March 12. Several hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred between March 12 and March 15.
Later, on July 5, 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) found that the causes of the accident had been foreseeable, and that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), had failed to meet basic safety requirements such as risk assessment, preparing for containing collateral damage, and developing evacuation plans.
The Fukushima disaster is the largest nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and the second disaster to be given the Level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale.
In their statement, the Japanese women say, “As a result of this accident our lives changed dramatically. Among us, there are those who lost their homes, those who lost their jobs, those who lost their hometowns and friends, those who lost their future, those who lost their joy in life, and those who lost their very lives.”
They add, “Even now, some five and a half years after this accident, the accident is still unresolved. We live surrounded by radioactive debris which emanated from the reactor. Even as our government pushes us to return to our homelands, many people think of their children’s health, and they feel that they cannot return to their original homes.”
“At the current stage”, the statement says, “in Fukushima prefecture alone, some 174 children have been found to have contracted thyroid cancer. We are deeply worried about the wide-ranging health hazards that will appear in the years to come.”
The statement regrets that “presently court proceedings to determine legal responsibility for the nuclear accident itself have not yet been opened, and the accident’s cause, the question of human error, the question of whether the accident was handled appropriately, have not yet been clarified.”
It adds, “Now, the problem of restarting nuclear power plants across Japan has surfaced, and battles are being fought through the courts to keep these plants from restarting.”
“Under these circumstances”, the statement says, “the fact that Japan is attempting to sell nuclear power plants to other countries, is embarrassing and most unfortunate. When we consider that a similar type accident might happen at one of India’s nuclear power plants, we are filled with concern.”
The statement invites Modi to visit Fukushima and to “see its condition firsthand”, adding, “The destroyed reactor, the towns where people can no longer live that have become like abandoned towns, the mountains of radioactive rubble, the towering incinerators, and children who can no longer play freely outside.”
“After you have seen the reality of Fukushima, then we urge you to think carefully about the nuclear cooperation agreement. Nuclear power plants will not bring happiness to your citizens. We who experienced the injury of the nuclear accident, we came to understand this through our own bodies and lives”, the statement says.
Asking him not to sign the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the statement says, “We beseech you to make a wise judgment.”