Fukushima anniversary leads to fresh debate on nuclear power

la-fg-japan-fukushima-robots-20160310-001“There is a saying in Japanese: put a lid on something that smells. Loosely speaking, that means hide a problem rather than deal with it.”

That was the comment made on a TV programme by Olivier Fabre of Reuters Television. His view, as an experienced journalist covering Japan, is that it is difficult to persuade people to speak openly on camera about painful experiences.

No recent experience has been more traumatic for Japan than the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake which occurred five years ago.

A reluctance among the Japanese to speak openly about the trauma has presented a challenge for the foreign journalists seeking to cover the event’s anniversary. What human stories can they tell if the humans don’t want to tell them?

In one report, the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield Hayes chose to focus not on the humans, but on animals.

He entered a home that had been deserted after the nuclear disaster and found it has been attacked by wild boars. The desolate scene looked like something from a horror movie. The boars were not shown on camera but the report showed the mess they had caused as they looked for rotten food in a broken refrigerator.

Other reporters spoke to people who had lost relatives or were forced to abandon their homes because of the nuclear disaster. CNBC interviewed Noshiyuki Kouri from Namie, a town just 10 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“My kids and their families have no plans to return but my ancestors are buried here. I need to keep coming back to honour them and keep my home intact.”

The main issue covered by the media was Japan’s relationship with nuclear power.

A few days before the anniversary of the disaster, a court ordered the shutdown of two nuclear reactors which had previously been declared safe.

Naturally, this disturbed the Japanese, whose trust in the authorities was undermined by a series of mistakes and cover-ups at Fukushima.

The new shut down was especially worrying because the reactors in question had been restarted relatively recently. Their owner insisted they comply with rigorous safety standards.

Despite this setback, the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told a press conference: “Our resource-poor country cannot do without nuclear power to secure the stability of energy supply while considering what makes economic sense and the issue of climate change.”

He said the government would “not change its policy”.

The New York Times showed some sympathy for Mr Abe’s position, pointing out that Japan is a rather small, mountainous country that has always been short of natural resources on its own.

Japan is the biggest importer of natural gas in the world and that is why the alternative of homegrown nuclear was always so attractive—before Fukushima.

However, the rebroadcasting on television of the terrible events five years ago will be a stark reminder to the Japanese of the risks involved with nuclear power in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

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la-fg-japan-fukushima-robots-20160310-001日本では「臭い物には蓋を」と言うが、問題を解決するより隠す傾向がありカメラの前で日本人から率直な答えを引き出そうとするのは難しい、と ロイターテレビのオリバー ファーブレは語る。

5年前の東北大震災は日本にとって、悲惨と言わざるを得ない大きな出来事だったが、日本人は 外国人記者にこの出来事に関して 語ることに抵抗をみせている。

英国放送協会BBCの、ルパート ウイングフィールド ヘイズ記者は人間でなく、動物に注目したニュースを報道。原子力事故以降、野生のイノシシが人間の家に入り、壊れた冷蔵庫から腐った食べ物を探そうと、家の中を荒い散らした模様を放映したが、まるでホラー映画のワンシーンのようだった。

他のレポーターは原子力事故のため親戚をなくした者や家から離れた人たちを取材した。米CNBCは福島第一原子発電所から10キロ離れた波江町に在住していたコウリ ヨシユキさんを取材し、彼は「どうしていいのかわからない。子供や家族はここに戻って来る予定がないのに、先祖の面倒や家の様子を伺うために戻ってきている」と述べる。メディアは日本と原子力の問題について注目している。

2011年3月11日の東京電力福島第一原子発電所事故から5年となる数日前に公判は以前安全だと報じられた原子発電所2機の廃止を指示。原子発電所のオーナーは厳格な安全基準を満たしと述べたばかりだった。 福島原子発電所に関連した多々なミスやその隠蔽を経験した 国民からは更に信用を失った。

安倍首相は「資源に乏しいわが国が、経済性や気候変動の問題に配慮しつつ、エネルギー供給の安定性を確保するためには、原子力は欠かすことはできない」、また原子力発電所の再稼働についても「方針には変わりはない」と述べた。NYタイムズ紙は 日本は小さい山地であり資源が少ないと、安倍首相に同意を示した。

日本は天然ガスの第一輸入国であり、東京電力福島第一原子発電所事故前は、国内の原子発電が魅力的に感じられたが、 メディアが今回取り上げた5年前の出来事は地震や津波の多い日本にとってどれだけ原子力がリスクなのかまた考えさせられるだろう。