New documentary shows plight of Fukushima nuclear plant evacuees
Posted on May 9, 2013 by Ida Torres
Recovery from the disasters of March 2011 for most of Japan is still an ongoing process, but for the evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, recovery seems to be such an alien word. The new documentary Iitate Village, the Problem of Radiation and Returning Home by Toshikuni Doi, shows the real story behind the villagers who had to evacuate because of the radiation levels in their area.
Iitate is a place 30 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. You would think that the radiation levels would be low for a place that far from ground zero. But the actual readings for the area exceeds the original estimates and so the land is now uninhabitable and people have had to abandon its village and live somewhere else. What makes it worse is that the government informed them that they had been living in a red zone area one month after the plant meltdown. The film shows how the people have adapted to their current lives, and how there is still a psychological trauma and a deep mistrust of the government, from realizing they were living in a contaminated area.
The documentary, mostly containing first hand interviews with selected villagers, has two parts. The first focuses on the family theme, with the tale of two families, one dealing with working away from the village they have lived in most of their lives, the other one forced to live separately from each other and feeling both hopeful and practical and realistic. The second part talks about the decontamination efforts and how young mothers are very fearful of the long-term effects of radiation on their children. Even now, the children who come from Iitate are being teased and the mothers fear that the stigma of having lived unknowingly in a contaminated area for a month will get worse as they reach marriageable age.
What is most frustrating for people who are living this contamination and decontamination nightmare is that the government is nowhere near any definitive answers. When asked during the explanatory meeting sessions about how truly safe is the designated safety reference value of 20 millisievert (mSv), all the officials can answer is “we still don’t know.” Another issue is that the effectiveness of these decontamination efforts will be used by the industry to calm the fears of the public about restarting the nuclear power plants. But since there are still many questions about whether or not full decontamination of the Fukushima plant and its surroundings will ever be achieved, the evacuated villagers are still left in limbo, not knowing if they can even ever come back to Iitate. The film can serve as an eye-opener for the Japanese and even the rest of the world, who have forgotten that there are still people trapped in these circumstances.