by Russel Norman
As I posted earlier, I was able to spend a day in Fukushima on Wednesday. I was able to talk with a couple of the local Mayors as well as a number of locals known to the MP I was travelling with. It was illuminating and I’d like to record a few observations.
The first is at apparently unsurprising – there is a lot of opposition to nuclear power in Japan now, both in Fukushima and Tokyo (and apparently more broadly). But given the past assurances from authorities that nukes were totally safe, this is an interesting development.
Secondly, and correspondingly, people are very very interested in renewable energy options, of which Japan currently has very little. I spoke to a hastily organised forum at the Diet building about renewable energy and everywhere I went people wanted to know about renewables. Geothermal is an obvious option for Japan, as like NZ it sits near an active tectonic plate boundary.
Thirdly, there is a deep and growing skepticism towards authorities. The failure to ensure the safety of the Fukushima plant from tsunami in spite of warnings, followed by the bungling of the response, really does seem to have engendered a new and broadly held skepticism. These come on top of the ousting of the LDP Government which had been in power for half a century. This skepticism is good but also means the political system is quite unstable and leaves open the option of the rise of populist politicians like Hashimoto.
At a personal level I was surprised by the scale of the disaster. I shouldn’t have been, but it is really big. The restricted zone, in which no-one is allowed entry without permission, is a 25km radius semi-circle. This is a pretty big place, especially in crowded Japan. The empty villages and towns and fields were really quite disturbing. Outside of the restricted zone there is a further evacuation zone in which people can pass through but not live or harvest crops. This area is essentially the main radioactive fallout zone outside the 25kms. Outside these two zones there are many areas that have recorded high radioactivity readings.
There is now a debate about what is a safe level of radiation. When should people be able to move back? What to do about the food?
And of course the shakes are continuing. We had another last night which seemed to go for ages, it felt like a regular Wellington kind of shake up on the 9th floor of my hotel.
Anyway they intend to (re?)launch the Japanese Green Party in July.