Shravya Jain

shravya jainShravya Jain is a Delhi-based freelance journalist. She can be contacted at shravya.jain88@gmail.com

It is best to read about the Fukushima crisis with an anti-depressant in hand. Two years after a massive Tsunami swamped the cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi, tonnes of radioactive water continue to leak from the plant.

Two years later, it has become clear that the people of Fukushima and the global community continue to be fed regular doses of misinformation. The government, that recently bagged the rights to host 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, has been accused of downplaying the severity of the mess by hiding actual level of radiation contamination. The things that people do to save face. We in India know how dispensable lives of citizens are for the sake of money and power.

Yet the truth does manage to seep out. Much like the radioactive material, unfortunately. On September 14, Tokyo Electric Power Company’s official Kazuhiko Yamashita admitted that things were still out of control. “I’m sorry, but we consider the situation is not under control,” he said. Consequently the company issued another statement hoping to play down the incident. It clarified that the official meant that problems continued with storage tanks and when radioactive water leaked out it remained in front of the plant.

Fukushima reactor and the leaking water tanks where they continue to store the highly contaminated water. They have to use more water daily to cool the reactors and in turn have to deal with more contaminated water. The elevated ground below the reactors that was supposed to be a safety layer can now collapse. Important lesson is, when it comes to nuclear, a safety layer can become a vulnerability in 'out-of-design' situations. And nuclear engineers actually spend their lives inside the design. Photo Courtesy: New York Times

Photo Courtesy: New York Times

On September 12, operator of the Fukushima plant admitted that readings of tritium in groundwater near the plant had risen more than 15 times in just 3 days. Tritium may be one of the least dangerous radionuclides but high exposure increases risk of cancer. Water has been found to be contaminated in nearby wells; last month TEPCO had said 300 tonnes of highly contaminated groundwater was seeping into the Pacific Ocean daily.

Google View has documented the areas that have become ghost-towns now. Take the city of Namie-machi. It was evacuated after the twin disasters and people are unable to return even now. There has been no clean up of the debris, buildings have not been reconstructed and those buildings who managed to stand are now on the verge of collapsing. The pain of the evacuated people in evident in these words by its mayor Tamotsu Baba:

“Those of us in the older generation feel that we received this town from our forebearers, and we feel great pain that we cannot pass it down to our children. It has become our generation’s duty to make sure future generations understand the city’s history and culture—maybe even those who will not remember the Fukushima nuclear accident. We want this Street View imagery to become a permanent record of what happened to Namie-machi in the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.”

Read the article here for pictures of the abandoned cities.

I write this sitting in Delhi. Till recently I used to think I would be relatively shielded if any of the nuclear plants were to break down. But now even the capital city is in danger with the plant in Gorakhpur, just 150 kms away from Delhi. It is extremely unsafe with inadequate supply of water. It’s facilities will be totally insufficient in case of a loss-of-cooling-accident. I still shudder to think what will happen in case of a nuclear disaster. Japan is known for its efficiency in dealing with crises whereas we Indians proudly refuse to learn how to manage disasters. Add to this, the heavy cloak of secrecy that guards all nuclear activities in India. There could be contamination of groundwater on a similar or even a greater scale and our government would be at liberty to keep it a secret.

The last working reactor in Japan was switched off today for inspection. But the PM, blind to the horrors of his people, now wants to push this wretched technology to India. TEPCO, they say, is too big to fail. What should be the quantum of human misery and natural destruction before it becomes too dangerous to function?