Sombre moment in affected prefectures but no national recognition . . .
Friday marked the 11th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Disasters, when a massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest on record, crashed into the country’s northeastern coast, damaging the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and forcing more than 160,000 residents to flee as radiation was released into the air. The heavily damaged northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima marked the date with a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the time the tremor struck the region, to remember some 16,000 lives lost. A marked change from the past, this was the first time that the date was not formally acknowledged with any national recognition or ceremony.
Some residents cautiously returning, others staying away . . .
The Governor of Fukushima, Masao Uchibori, stated recently that he hopes the central government makes good on its promise to lift the evacuation order covering the area later this year. Meanwhile, some residents of towns close to the Fukushima nuclear plant have been slowly returning, while many have made a life elsewhere in the region and across Japan. A recent poll found that just 10 per cent of former residents of Futaba, the location of the defunct nuclear power plant, said they would like to return, while 60 per cent had no plans to go back. The Fukushima plant again made headlines earlier this year following an announcement that its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, will release 1.3 billion litres of contaminated water into the ocean in the spring of 2023. These plans received a backlash from environmental activists and governments in the region, including in South Korea, China, and Russia.
Nuclear power, weapons proponents sense an opportunity . . .
The meltdown at the Fukushima plant was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, and fading memories of March 11, 2011, along with the Russia-Ukraine crisis, are giving new life to calls for a reinvigorated Japanese nuclear power industry. Japan imports most of its energy from abroad, and one-fifth of its oil and liquified natural gas comes from Russia. While the public remains strongly opposed to the nuclear industry, amid skyrocketing energy costs there are growing calls from Japan’s business leaders and politicians to restart the roughly two dozen nuclear plants across the country that are currently shuttered. Earlier this month, Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo suggested a nuclear weapons-sharing arrangement with the U.S. amid the Ukraine crisis, a direct contravention of Japan’s 1967 commitment not to possess, produce, or allow nuclear weapons on its land, and a proposal that current Prime Minister Kishida swiftly denied.