EIGHT years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, hundreds of evacuees and their children continue to suffer from debilitating conditions, Anglican priests told an International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World held in Sendai, Japan, last week.
The Tohoku earthquake, in 2011, triggered a tsunami which caused explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, in Okuma, leading to widespread radioactive contamination and serious health and environmental effects (News, 25 March 2011).
The disaster is estimated to have caused the deaths of about 1600 people out of the 300,000 who were evacuated from the area
The forum was organised by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) — the Anglican Communion in Japan — whose General Synod passed a resolution in 2012 calling for an end to nuclear-power plants. A joint statement from the forum, due next month, is expected to encourage churches to join the call for a worldwide ban on nuclear energy, the Anglican News Service reports.
The chair of the forum’s organising committee, Kiyosumi Hasegawa, said: “We have yet to see an end to the damage done to the people and natural environment by the meltdown of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
“This man-made disaster will haunt countless people for years to come. We still see numerous people who wish to go back to their home towns, but are unable to. We also have people who have given up on ever going home.”
The week-long conference at Christ Church Cathedral, Sendai, was attended by bishops, clergy, and lay representatives from each NSKK diocese, as well as representatives from the US Episcopal Church, USPG, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the diocese of Taiwan, and the Anglican Church of Korea.
The general secretary of the Sendai Christian relief network Touhoku HELP, Dr Naoya Kawakami, whose church was affected by the tsunami, said: “I have been more than 700 times to meet with more than 180 mothers and about 20 fathers, all of whom have seen abnormalities in their children since 2011. . . Thyroid cancer has been found in more than 273 children, and many mothers are in deep anxiety.”
An NSKK priest, the Revd John Makito Aizawa, said: “Both religiously and ethically, we cannot allow nuclear-power plants to continue running. They produce deadly waste, which we have no way of processing into something safe. More than 100,000 years are necessary for the radiation of such deadly waste to diminish to the level that it was in the original uranium. This alone is a strong enough reason to prohibit nuclear-power plants.”
The partners-in-mission secretary for NSKK, Paul Tolhurst, said: “Driving past the power station and seeing the ghost town around us as the Geiger-counter reading kept going up is something I won’t forget. It was like the town time forgot: they still seem to be living the incident, while the rest of Japan has moved on.”
The forum’s statement is expected to call for a goal of conversion to renewable sources of energy, and set out ways in which a network can be built to take forward denuclearisation.