Chicago–On March 11, demonstrators gathered in front of the Japanese Consulate here to mark the third anniversary of the first meltdown at the Daiichi nuclear plant at Fukushima. The purpose of the protest, initiated by the Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago, was first of all to shine a spotlight on the continuing crisis: that radiation continues to be released into the water and into the air, despite the efforts of workers who at risk of life and health are quickly acquiring lifetime doses of radiation.
Demonstrators also attacked the gag law that the Japanese government enacted for the benefit of the nuclear energy giant TEPCO. It allows police to jail journalists or private citizens, even neighbors in the path of radiation, for publicizing actual factual statements that reflect negatively on nuclear plants at Fukushima.
Dr. Norma Field, one of the speakers, had just returned from Japan with a film about children who had been removed from the worst areas of contamination. She said that the only thing worse than families not being able to return to their homes was being trapped in homes in areas with continuing elevated radiation, yet not being allowed to leave. She said that the government had taken away citizens’ right to even express their anxiety. Apart from the threat of jail for pointing to ongoing safety issues, they faced intimidation from friends and neighbors in a climate created to make raising concerns or citing facts seem subversive.
Demonstrators sent a delegation upstairs to the Japanese Consulate to present a packet of letters of protest to the Japanese government. Consular officials refused to accept them, just as they had refused similar letters on previous anniversaries of the Fukushima catastrophe. Denial does not lessen the ongoing dangers to people in the shadow of Fukushima, which ultimately is all of us.