Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, a town near the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, is warning his country that radiation contamination is affecting Japan’s greatest treasure – its children.
Asked about government plans to relocate the people of Fatuba to the city of Iwaki, inside the Fukushima prefecture, Idogawa criticized the move as a “violation of human rights.”
Compared with Chernobyl, radiation levels around Fukushima “are four times higher,” he told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze, adding that “it’s too early for people to come back to Fukushima prefecture.”
“It is by no means safe, no matter what the government says.”
Idogawa alleges that the government has started programs to return people to their towns despite the danger of radiation.
“Fukushima Prefecture has launched the Come Home campaign. In many cases, evacuees are forced to return. [the former mayor produced a map of Fukushima Prefecture that showed that air contamination decreased a little, but soil contamination remains the same.]”
According to Idogawa there are about two million people residing in the prefecture who are reporting “all sorts of medical issues,” but the government insists these conditions are unrelated to the Fukushima accident. Idogawa wants their denial in writing.
“I demanded that the authorities substantiate their claim in writing but they ignored my request.”
Once again, Idogawa alludes to the nuclear tragedy that hit Ukraine on April 26, 1986, pleading that the Japanese people “never forget Chernobyl.” Yet few people seem to be heeding the former government official’s warning.
“They believe what the government says, while in reality radiation is still there. This is killing children. They die of heart conditions, asthma, leukemia, thyroiditis… Lots of kids are extremely exhausted after school; others are simply unable to attend PE classes. But the authorities still hide the truth from us, and I don’t know why. Don’t they have children of their own? It hurts so much to know they can’t protect our children.
“They say Fukushima Prefecture is safe, and that’s why nobody’s working to evacuate children, move them elsewhere. We’re not even allowed to discuss this.”
The former mayor found it ironic that when discussing the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for 2020, Prime Minister Abe frequently mentions the Japanese word, “omotenashi,” which literally means that you should “treat people with an open heart.”
In Idogawa’s opinion, the same treatment does not apply equally to the people most intimately connected with Fukushima: the workers involved in the cleanup operations.
“Their equipment was getting worse; preparation was getting worse. So people had to think about their safety first. That’s why those who understood the real danger of radiation began to quit. Now we have unprofessional people working there.
They don’t really understand what they’re doing. That’s the kind of people who use the wrong pump, who make mistakes like that.
“I’m really ashamed for my country, but I have to speak the truth for the sake of keeping our planet clean in the future.
Idogawa then made some parallels with one of the most tragic events in the history of Japan: the use of atomic bombs on the industrial cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States at the end of World War II.
“The authorities lied to everyone (about the effects of the atomic bombings)…They hid the truth. That’s the situation we are living in. It’s not just Fukushima. Japan has some dark history. This is a sort of a sacrifice to the past.”
When pressed on the details of a United Nations report that says there have been no radiation-related deaths or acute diseases observed among the workers and general public, Idogawa dismisses it as “completely false,” before providing some of his own experiences at the height of the crisis.
“When I was mayor, I knew many people who died from heart attacks, and then there were many people in Fukushima who died suddenly, even among young people. It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.”
When asked to provide solid figures on the actual number of people who died under such circumstances, Idogawa refrained, saying “it’s not just one or two people. We’re talking about ten to twenty people who died this way.”
Asked about other options that Japan has for providing energy sources to its 126 million people, he responded that despite having many rivers, the government neglects to promote hydro energy.
Why? Because it’s not “profitable for big companies!”
Idogawa goes on to provide a blueprint for fulfilling Japan’s energy needs that sounds surprisingly simple.
“We can provide electricity for a large number of people even with limited investment, without taxes. Just use gravity, and we may have so much energy that there’ll be no need for nuclear plants anymore.”
Premonitions of disaster
Even before the massive failure at the Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, the day northeastern Japan was hit by an earthquake-triggered tsunami that caused the meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors, Idogawa knew the facility was dangerous.
“I asked them about potential accidents at a nuclear power plant, pretending I didn’t know anything about it, and it turned out they were unable to answer many of my questions,” he said. “Frankly, that’s when it first crossed my mind that their management didn’t have a contingency plan. It was then that I realized the facility could be dangerous.”
The former mayor, who happened to be in a nearby town on the day the tsunami struck, recalled driving back to Futaba upon news of the earthquake. Only later did he discover how close he came to losing his life in the approaching tsunami.
“I managed to get there before the bigger tsunami came. It was only later that I realized that I escaped the water… I got lucky. The tsunami came after I drove off that road and up the mountains.”
Questions regarding the nuclear power plant dominated his thoughts on the 30-minute drive home. “I just kept thinking, ‘If it’s that strong, what will happen to the power plant? What if the reactor is damaged? What if the water leaks? What will the city do? What am I to do as mayor?’”
Once in his office, Idogawa looked out the window and was confronted by what he described as “a terrifying sight.”
“Usually you couldn’t see the sea from there, but that time I could see it just 300-500m away,” he said.
It was at that point that the mayor realized that the nuclear power plant had probably suffered some sort of damage. After spending the night watching news reports on television, the only source of information since even mobile phones were not working, Idogawa announced an emergency evacuation early the next morning. Not all of the residents, however, heard the emergency broadcast.
“Later, I learned that not all Futaba residents heard my announcement. I feel guilty about that…I found out that the Fukushima prefecture hadn’t given me all the information in a timely fashion. And now the government isn’t taking any steps to ensure people’s safety from radiation, and isn’t monitoring the implementation of evacuation procedures.”
Beyond nuclear energy
Katsutaka Idogawa believes a transformation to a cleaner, safer form of energy source for Japan would require a willingness to change the country’s laws.
“There are many laws in Japan, perhaps too many. There are laws about rivers and the ways they’re used. We could change laws regarding agricultural water use and start using rivers to produce electricity. Changing just this law alone will allow us to produce a lot of energy.”
All of this could be accomplished “without contaminating our planet.”
However, such bold proposals do not “appeal to big companies, because you don’t need big investments, you don’t need to build big power plants. It’s not that profitable for investors, for capitalists.”
But for the former mayor of a devastated Japanese town, lost to nuclear radiation, Idogawa senses a sea change forming in public opinion.
The Japanese people are beginning to “realize that we need to avert nuclear disasters, so 60-70 percent of the population is in favor of using natural energy.”
“It took us a long time, but one day we’ll follow the example of Europe, of Germany.”