Japan marks 12 years after tsunami and nuclear disaster

Japan observed the 12th anniversary of the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster with a minute’s silence on Saturday as concerns mounted over the planned release of the treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant and the government’s return to nuclear power.

The March 11, 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Japan’s northeastern coast killed more than 22,000 people, including about 3,700 other deaths linked to the disaster.

At 2:46 p.m., just as the earthquake hit, a minute’s silence was observed nationwide.

Some residents of tsunami-hit northern Iwate and Miyagi prefectures went down to the shore to pray for loved ones and the 2,519 whose remains were never found.

In Tomioka, one of the cities in Fukushima where radiation searches had to be halted, firefighters and police officers are using sticks and a hoe to comb the shoreline in search of the victims’ possible remains or their belongings.

At an elementary school in Sendai, north of Fukushima, participants released hundreds of colorful balloons in memory of the lives lost.

In Tokyo, dozens of people gathered for an anniversary event in a downtown park, and anti-nuclear activists held a rally.

The earthquake and tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi Coastal Nuclear Power Plant destroyed its power and cooling functions and triggered core meltdowns in three of its six reactors. They spewed out massive amounts of radiation that caused tens of thousands of residents to evacuate.

Over 160,000 people had left at one point, and about 30,000 are still unable to return due to long-term radiation effects or health concerns. Many of the evacuees have already relocated, and most affected towns have seen significant population declines over the past decade.

At a ceremony, Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori said decontamination and reconstruction had made progress, but “we still face many difficult problems.” He said many people were still leaving and the prefecture was burdened with cleaning up the facility and rumors of the impact of the imminent release of the treated water.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, and the government are making final preparations to release more than 1.3 million tons of treated radioactive water into the sea in the coming months.

The government says the controlled release of the water, once treated to safe levels, is safe for several decades, but many residents, as well as neighbors China and South Korea and the Pacific island nations, oppose it. Fishing communities are particularly concerned about the reputation of the local fish and their still-recovering business.

In his speech last week, Uchibori called on the government to do everything it can to prevent negative rumors about the water release from further damaging Fukushima’s image.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida renewed his pledge to support ongoing reconstruction efforts. Speaking at the ceremony, he made no mention of his policy of maximizing nuclear power or addressing water discharge.

The Kishida government has reversed a nuclear phase-out policy enacted after the 2011 disaster, and is instead pushing for a plan to maximize the use of nuclear power to address energy supply concerns sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, while also improving energy efficiency to meet decarbonization requirements.

Uchibori’s goal is to increase renewable energy supply to 100% of Fukushima Prefecture’s needs by 2040. He said last week that while the central government should be in charge of energy policy, he would like to remind them that Fukushima continues to suffer from the nuclear disaster.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/fukushima-ap-japan-tokyo-fumio-kishida-b2298663.html Japan marks 12 years after tsunami and nuclear disaster


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