Taking Responsibility for Looking Away
The Increasing Anxiety over the Rokkashomura Atomic Fuel Facilities
Rev. Jogaku Fukuzawa
Bukkyo (Buddhist) Times
July 21, 2011
Rev. Jogaku Fukuzawa is a priest of the Soto Zen denomination and a member of the Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy. Born in 1955 in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, he has worked for decades out of a sense of crisis with the basic operation of nuclear fuel cycle facilities in his region. His project, “The Flower and Herb Village”, advocates “the building of villages that do not request atomic fuel” and holds an annual spring tulip festival in Rokkashomura, where these nuclear fuel cycle facilities are located. He is presently in his second year of growing rice based on natural farming methods.
I live in Misawa City in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, where there are: 1) a center for underground low level nuclear waste disposal, 2) a factory for enriching uranium, 3) a temporary storage facility for high level nuclear waste which contains a storage pool of used nuclear fuel, 4) a reprocessing factory whose final clearance to start operation has been postponed some 20 times or more, 5) further facilities for the study of ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which is attempting to build a nuclear fusion reactor, and 6) a Mixed Oxide nuclear (MOX) fuel processing factory. These are all curiously concentrated in this area of facilities developed for “prosperity” in Rokkashomura. From where I am, it is 30 kilometers on a direct line. Almost everyday, I am reminded of the dangers of the Rokkashomura nuclear fuel facility and the nuclear facilities all over the country. We, who have opposed these facilities, have been labeled by the mass media as the anti-atomic fuel and anti-nuclear factions. Among our friends, who tend to be seen as different and separate from regular folks, there are a number who have come down with mild depression that has been further affected since the Fukushima nuclear incident.
Underestimating of the Crisis
When I think of the phrases, “protecting children from the radiation” and “radiation and life cannot co-exist”, I know that a horror that evokes the feeling of “another Chernobyl” has become the reality of this worst-case scenario. And we continue to be flooded with these images again and again everyday by the media.
The incident at the Fukushima #1 Nuclear Reactor has brought to light just one fragment of the truth about our national “prosperity”. Both our past and present are now being revealed:
- Nuclear energy is not safe
- Our nuclear energy policy and the nuclear power towns are the work of a self-seeking group of bureaucrats from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), politicians, electric companies, scholars, and journalists all rolled into one.
- For this reason, the many people introduced by the media as so-called nuclear energy experts only ever say that “it is safe”.
- The idea that nuclear energy is “the dream energy that opens the way to a bright future of clean and safe energy” is a preposterous and hollow cover up that is the work of information distortion supported by the giant money of nuclear power.
- The mass media, which has been tamed by the electric power companies through major sponsorship, does not offer the information that the people really want to know.
- The Japanese government, which must protect the living situation of its people in facing a crisis within the larger crisis of the tsunami, has underestimated the evolution of the situation, concealed information, repeatedly given empty reports, and not taken practical measures to face the situation even now some four months since the start of the crisis.
- The government has not properly functioned. Every time I hear the name of the Nuclear Safety Commission, I am reminded of a scene from the famous documentary made some years back called “Rokkashomura Rhapsody” (directed by Hitomi Kamanaka). In the scene, a question is posed about the still undetermined final disposal of high level nuclear waste (now vitrified into glass form), and the answer that comes is, “It’s ultimately about money of course”—it is revealed that a local authority accepted a huge amount of money. This turned out to be none other than Haruki Madarame, who was a member of the Nuclear Safety Commission. This was a symbolic expression of the destructive arrogance of this country’s top organizations, the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, scientists, and nuclear energy experts.
The Conquest of the Worship of Money
This situation is somewhat like that of the time of the Buddha in India when the worship of fire was popular. It is as if no one has noticed how our country has become caught up in the worship of money.
There is a daily attitude of leaving it up to others. There is also our personal lack of responsibility, concern, and understanding in which we pretend not to see, while saying things like, “I’m busy”, “Our lifestyle depends on it”, “I don’t have time for that”, and “I have nothing to do with it”. All the while, bureaucrats, electric companies, and politicians are allowed to continue in their arrogant ways. The unmistaken result has been the present Fukushima nuclear disaster and our struggle to overcome it.
In Japan, we harbor 54 nuclear reactors as well as the excessive Rokkashomura nuclear fuel cycle facilities. In this way, there continues today unnoticed, potential situations that go beyond Fukushima. Right now, from the nuclear reactors all over Japan, 235,942 barrels of low level radioactive waste, 13,172 barrels (3,258 tons) of spent nuclear fuel, and 1,338 barrels of high level solid vitrified nuclear waste (a high density radioactive liquid packed into mixed glass and stainless steel containers) have been moved to Rokkashomura,.
The past … the time that is already gone cannot be recovered. The future… the time that has yet to come is a blank slate.
Therefore, it all depends on the awareness and choices of each living person.
It is not a choice to leave it up to others and not take responsibility, not show concern, and not develop understanding. What will we choose to do now?
I have heard that the traditional Japanese foods of miso soup, pickled vegetables, pickled plums, and brown rice are able to raise the body’s immunity against radiation. After the incident, a friend of mine living in Fukushima quickly evacuated the prefecture. Eventually, as his old mother never left, he became resigned to the situation and notified his friends that he was returning to care for his mother. While feeling confused and shaken, I went ahead to send to him last year’s pickled plums, and to begin to prepare the pickling agent for this year’s plums.
Translated by Jonathan Watts