Days after a nuclear power plant in neighbouring Gujarat was shut down after a major heavy water leak, 62-year-old Masami Yoshizawa, a survivor of the Fukushima nuclear disaster five years ago, made an emotional appeal in Mumbai asking Indians to refrain from using nuclear energy.
“We take it as a challenge, taking care of cattle as a living record of the nuclear radiation that can affect many lives. Fukushima is proof of how it is not safe. We have seen nuclear energy at its worst and would not want any other country to take the risk,” Masami Yoshizawa a cattle breeder by profession said addressing a meeting called by the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in Parel.
Yoshizawa is a part of a three-member group, which is in India to speak about experiences of residents who were displaced after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, triggered by an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011.
Five years after the incident, called the largest nuclear disaster after the Chernobyl incident in 1986, Yoshizawa and others claim that the residents continue to reel under the impact of radioactivity.
After the incident, while there were evacuation orders for citizens from other areas affected by the explosion in four reactors at the plant, Yoshizawa returned to his home, located 14km from the nuclear plant.
“When the evacuation orders were given, all human settlements began leaving. Many persons living there were cattle-breeders, who had no option but to leave their cattle behind. Most cattle died in the aftermath but those which remained alive too were given orders to be killed by the government since they would not be fit to eat due to their proximity to radioactive material. I, along with eight other families, decided to return and continue to look after the cattle,” Yoshizawa said.
The Fukushima disaster had been declared as a Level 7 classification on the International Nuclear Event Scale and had forced many countries to order safety audit of their nuclear power plants, many choosing to gradually shut down some of the plants.
Other members of the group from Japan included 28-year-old Mizuho Sugeno, who had begun organic farming in her native town of Towa in Fukushima a year before the disaster.
“We were also evacuated from our homes and were in the evacuation zone but within the radioactive area where we continued organic farming. We realised that the problem caused by nuclear energy cannot be solved in 2-3 years but may take decades. Farming again in the area was a result of many efforts and the nature of the soil in Japan. Not every country may face similar results. It can also be much worse,” Sugeno, who has begun a company called Seeds of Hope, said.
The group said they were against nuclear power plants coming up in India, including the one in Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district, where a 9900MW nuclear power plant is proposed to be built.