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Adi Roche in Fukushima: Only way to secure nuclear plants is to close them down

“If the atomic world has nine lives, five of them have already been used” – the Chernobyl Children International founder is in Japan for the first anniversary of the 11 March 2011 disaster.

Protests took place across the world today calling for the decommissioning of nuclear reactors and weapons.
Protests took place across the world today calling for the decommissioning of nuclear reactors and weapons.
Image: Aaron Favila/AP/Press Association Images

IRISH ACTIVIST ADI Roche has said that not even the highest of safety standards can protect the lives of millions of people living in the vicinity of the world’s 400 nuclear power plants.

Speaking from the devastated region of Fukushima on the first anniversary of its nuclear crisis, Roche called for the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants across the globe.

She said that the only way to make the planet safe from the threat they pose is to “wind each of them down”.

Roche spoke from the city of Minamisoma, which is on the edge of the exclusion zone for the Fukushima nuclear reactor which exploded on 11 March last year following a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed 20,000 people.

Roche, who founded Chernobyl Children International in the wake of the nuclear disaster there, was invited to the country by a number of businessmen who want to raise awareness of the horrific conditions in the border areas where they say there is an ongoing threat from the power plant.

She attended a commemoration in the city which featured a minute’s silent on the exact moment the earthquake happened.

Japan today: Shizuko Sugawara, right, and her daughter, Mayumi, search for their lost belongings on the spot where their house once stood in Minamisanriku.

On Tuesday, Roche will meet with the Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono to discuss issues relating to the nuclear crisis.

“Japan is a global leader in technology and standards and yet even they have failed to deal with a nuclear reactor explosion. Nuclear energy is just not safe and one wonders how many horrors have to be inflicted on the world by it before governments accept this,” Roche said ahead of the meeting.

If the atomic world has nine lives, five of them have already been used, between the Nagasaki/Hiroshima detonations and nuclear plant explosions at Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. One explosion is one too many and with nuclear energy we are clearly gambling with the lives of millions across the world every day.

More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from the exclusion zones around the destroyed Fukushima plant. Among them are a number of elderly people who moved to the region 66 years earlier after they were evacuated from the devastated cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Roche said Japan’s triple disaster on 11 March last year has turned the area into the world’s worst disaster zone.

No one knows just how long the people of this region and beyond will be dealing with the fallout here.  What we do know is that it has been bad enough to evacuate over one hundred thousand people and radioactivity’s pervasiveness and longevity is such that it’s effect on this region and country is going to be felt in the years and decades ahead, not just the first 12 months.

There is a “palpable sense of anger” among the people of Fukushima as they feel that their plight is not being dealt with properly. They also feel misinformed or uninformed, added Roche.

“There is really such a sad sense of abandonment and isolation as well as absolute devastation and fear for the future.”

Roche details how she has visited deserted towns and villages and destroyed ports and levies over the past two days. She describes seeing ships out of place in fields, mounds of rubble from collapsed buildings that have yet to be cleared and people living in cramped evacuation centres.

In one centre, she met with 120 farming families who have moved a number of times in the past 12 months because of radiation levels.

“They are devastated as they are generational farmers, with the same attachment to the land as our farmers in Ireland have and they will never be able to go back.  These people are at a point of desperation. They feel they have no hope and no future.”

Roche was the only representative from a Chernobyl-related organisation to be asked to travel to Japan. She will remain in Fukushima for the next ten days.

More: A year on, €5bn donated but lack of ‘master plan’ to rebuild Japan criticised>

Column: ‘The post-apocalyptic landscape was utterly disorienting’>

One year on: Thousands still on Japanese tsunami missing lists>

WATCH: Tsunami debris spreading across the Pacific towards Hawaii>

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