Fukushima Will Never Recover
Nine years later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to use the upcoming Tokyo Olympics to showcase Fukushima’s recovery, planning to start the Japan leg of the torch relay from there.
Abe’s government also lifted an evacuation order for parts of Futaba, one of two towns hosting the nuclear plant, to allow the torch relay to go through.
For 2020, surfing is making its Olympic debut in part of a drive to make the Games more interesting for young people. The event will be held on Tsurigasaki Beach, in Chiba, northeast of Tokyo.
Suzuki said he appreciates that Fukushima may receive a boost from being portrayed in the media as “safe” but does not believe in the “Recovery Olympics” touted by the government.
“Fukushima will never recover,” he said. “I can never go back to the same place where I used to live and run my shop… Fukushima will be stigmatized in history, forever.”
And despite government efforts to renew its image, the Fukushima nuclear crisis is far from over. Japan is agonising over what to do with around one million tonnes of contaminated water stored in tanks at the plant site.
The radioactive liquid, from cooling water, groundwater and rain that seeps into the plant daily, is filtered to remove most of the isotopes but one — tritium.
The world’s nuclear watchdog, IAEA, has backed Japanese plans to release the water into the ocean, describing it as a practice “done elsewhere”.
But some of Japan’s neighbours, including South Korea, have raised questions about safety, while local fishermen are concerned about reputational risks.
Hideki Okumoto, a professor at Fukushima University who has examined radiation levels onshore, said safe data do not necessarily lead to people feeling safe.
“The radiation levels here are no different from those before the nuclear accident,” he said. “We just need to keep checking and disclosing data in a timely fashion, showing they are no higher than (safety) standards.”