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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 August 8 - 14  > What made Fukushima residents accept nuclear power plant?
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2018 August 8 - 14 [SOCIAL ISSUES]
column 

What made Fukushima residents accept nuclear power plant?

August 11, 2018
Akahata ‘current’ column

What made the residents of a Fukushima town decide to accept a nuclear power plant? “1961: Yoru ni noboru taiyou (The sun that rises in the night)” is a play depicting how Futaba Town residents were persuaded to support a plan to construct a nuclear power facility before the local assembly passed a resolution in support. The play was recently performed in Fukushima’s Iwaki City and Tokyo’s Meguro Ward.

Until the plan surfaced, Futaba Town was so poor that many farmers had become seasonal workers. One day, some local residents were visited by officials of Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Fukushima Prefectural government. The utility wanted to purchase their land for a new nuclear power plant and offered them what is now 300 million yen for a few hectares of land and for their moving costs.

In a bid to convince the landowners of the planned construction site, prefectural officials painted a rosy picture of a Futaba Town with an NPP, saying that the small town will become a big city. A TEPCO official, who was born in Hiroshima, said, “I know (damage caused by the atomic bombing in) Hiroshima very well, so trust me. Nuclear power is safe.” This person and line are based on records, according to Tani Kenichi, 36, who wrote and directed the play.

The play is the first part of the Fukushima trilogy. The entire series is scheduled to be presented in the summer of 2019. The second part will be based on the fact that the leader of an opponents’ group became the Futaba Town mayor and then ended up demanding the construction of another reactor.

The power company lured local residents with money and played down residents’ anxiety with the safety myth. This structure remains unchanged. Opinion polls show that 60% of Japanese are opposed to the reactivation of offline reactors. On the other hand, in towns hosting NPPs, more than 60% of the residents are in favor of the resumption and more than 50% cite the need to “maintain the local economy and employment” as a reason for the support.

However, Tanaka Minoru and his son, Shin’ichi, who lost their home and farmland in Futaba Town because of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, said in an NHK interview, “It is true that we became better off, but we had to pay too high a price for the benefits.” They added that all reactors in Japan should not be allowed to operate. The videotaped interview is available on the online streaming service NHK Archives under the title, “Sengo nihon no ayumi (Japan’s postwar history)”. Japanese must keep in mind that the nuclear power plant ended up destroying the local economy and displacing its residents.
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