Series 1

Series 1
Religious Activities which also Issue Warnings:
The 3 Structures of Discrimination: Rural Regions, Nuclear Contaminated Work, Children

Rev. Tetsuen Nakajima
Bukkyo (Buddhist) Times
June 2, 2011

Tetsuen Nakajima was born in 1942. In 1968 he began doing alms rounds in order to raise awareness and support for workers poisoned by radiation while also engaging in anti-nuclear movement. Rev. Tetsuen Nakajima is the abbot of Myotsu-ji Temple, a Shingon Omuro temple in Fukui Province. See a profile of his life and work here: A Priest’s Work Amidst the Nuclear Ginza

Wakasa (in Fukui Prefecture where I am from) has come to be called “The Western Nuclear Ginza” because of the 15 nuclear power plants there. “The Eastern Nuclear Ginza” is Fukushima. Together, they have been in operation for 40 years and have become antiquated structures with a variety of accumulating problems. In Fukushima, a catastrophic disaster has occurred which I think is truly embarrassing. This is not a matter of little concern. What is Fukushima today is Wakasa tomorrow. There is an urgent need for the comprehensive inspection of all nuclear power plants, and the ones that pose a danger must be closed down. We must overcome the possibility across the country of a second and third Fukushima.

In nuclear power in Japan there are three structures of discrimination. The first is the discrimination of cities towards the rural areas. Wakasa and Fukushima both send huge amounts of energy to cities. For example in 2008, the 11 reactors of the Kansai Electric Company in Wakasa generated 62 billion kilowatts of electricity per year. Within Wakasa, we consumed 600 million kilowatts, a sum that does not even exceed 1% of this total. The meaning of commandeering under populated areas to produce nuclear power for urban areas is very clearly seen in these accidents. The “Myth of Safety” is a cover for the current location of these reactors.

The second structure is the problem of nuclear contaminated work. Over forty years, there have been a total of 450,000 people forced to work amidst nuclear contamination. Regulations on the over exposure to radiation have been routinely dismissed. Labor has been used and discarded in a structure of wretched subcontracting. In the management of the Fukushima accident, from 7,000 to 8,000 laborers have already been awash in radiation levels that exceed standards in desperate death defying work. These many sacrifices have foremost been to secure our present way of living. This is just like the suicide kamikaze pilots at the end of World War II.

The third structure is the vulnerable victims of the nuclear accident who are children. They have been exposed to levels of 20 milli-sieverts of per year, similar to the radioactive contaminated workers. For children with a future, this is a much more dire situation than for adults. There are 300,000 children up through the age of high school in Fukushima. As also in the case of Chernobyl, it is clear that children are more susceptible to radioactivity than compared to adults. As age lessens influence increases. Women who are pregnant as well as the young generation who will be born and raised will be greatly damaged. This is unforgiveable.

The great electrical power that was given birth to by nuclear generation has surely brought great prosperity to Japan. However, this brightness at the same time has a deep shadow that carries with it discrimination. This disaster affords us an opportunity we must take in order to subjugate it. Nuclear policy, which began as a national policy, has brought together a cast of giant construction firms, giant manufacturers, electrical companies, and compromised academics. In recent years, there has been a so-called nuclear renaissance around the world with the promotion of nuclear power in Asia and the Middle East. However, with the Fukushima disaster, there has been a cooling of the waters. Within this gigantic system, an ethical viewpoint is emerging from the stench of the failing nuclear administrative system as well as its antiquated culture. The wreckage of the Fukushima reactors reflects to our eye a symbolic image of this breakdown.

The Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy in Japan has investigated the history of nuclear development and developed an argument concerning the process of modernization. Japan’s modernization began with the shock of Commodore Perry’s “black ships” from the United States in 1854. Japan then proceeded to develop national slogans such as, “Quit Asia, Enter Europe”, “Cultural Progress”, “Rich Nation, Strong Military”, and then sacrificed many precious lives in World War II. However, after the war, we continued on this path. I have spoken of the new tacit slogans “Quit Asia, Enter America”, “Faith in Scientific Technique”, and “Great Economic Nation”. Large-scale production, large-scale consumption, and large-scale disposal, as personified in the giant nuclear power crowd, became an extension of the modernization process since the coming of the black ships. At all times, there has been the demand for quantification, speed and pleasure, and economism. This kind of awareness supported “The Myth of Need” at its roots. Now, we have to undergo a deep process of self-reflection.

Religious persons have been performing memorial services for those who have died (since the triple disaster in March 11), and we must engrave in our hearts their heartbreaking sacrifice. A memorial service has the positive meaning of “not to forget”. Still today, it is very important to get spiritually and emotionally intimate in order to save those people in dire straits. It is important to lodge formal complaints and bring to justice the administration of national and local governments. Then in order not to repeat in the future this tragedy, we have one religious duty to disseminate information.

A vision towards the future is not about advantages that are easily seen. The things that are blessings and the way that one treasures life must be based in the standards of values. This is the practice of the Four Noble Truths: one ascertains the fundamental causes of the problem, one then resolves them, and one follows the causes that come from ideal results. We must connect to the truth of working together, and developing dialogue and common expression to the various views of other people. The practice of the logic of the Four Noble Truths supports in a spirit of compassion the genuine demand for a blessed world. The meaning of blessed is not something that only religious people should be asking. Politicians and academics should also start a process that everyone must think about.

Translated by Jonathan Watts


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