A walk through Fukushima

In 2011, 3 nuclear reactors in Japan suffered a meltdown. The nuclear accident displaced 160,000 people and spread radioactive contamination across the north eastern coast of Japan. Three years on, it continues to spew radioactive contamination.

Fukushima Forgotten?

3 years. 6 nuclear reactors. 4 hours of onslaught. 29 million cubic metres of radioactive soil picked and removed. 160000 people displaced. Thousands of lives devastated. Infinite dreams crushed. All it took was one nuclear accident and four hours of helplessly trying to avoid the inevitable. The Fukushima disaster has left millions of lives scarred and generations in perpetual risk.

3 years on, 2 anti nuclear activists from Koodankulam and Jaitapur went to Fukushima to see the direct impact of the tragedy and witness the loss of life in Fukushima. Read on to find out more about the lives of the people and how a nuclear disaster not only impacts lives but also ruthlessly slits the fabric and ethos of a community.

Tell the Indian government to not dilute the Liability Act

The Accident

  • On 11th March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a massive tsunami triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents causing meltdowns in 3 TEPCO reactors. One of the reactors at Fukushima suffered meltdown and a subsequent explosion in 3 reactors. The accident released tons of highly radioactive particles that spread across cities located more than 60 kms from the reactors. It has been over thousand days since the nuclear accident, yet the crisis in Fukushima is still going on.

    160,000 people were ordered to flee contaminated areas up to 60 km around the Fukushima plant and thousands more left voluntarily. Tens of thousands remain homeless. Experts expect the 20 km evacuation zone will be uninhabitable for decades at least. Many areas even outside of the 20 km evacuation zone are still off limits. So far, most of those who evacuated from these areas have chosen not to return, due to concerns about radiation and unemployment.

    In a Parliamentary report, Japanese authorities uncovered details of TEPCO’s scandalous past, from submitting falsified inspection reports to hiding critical cracks in the reactor vessels to downplaying the seismic sensitivity of the region. It was a disaster not caused by earthquake or tsunami but because of complacency and arrogance of nuclear authorities at the reactor.

Nuclear Divorce

In March 2011, Kaori Saito watched the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster unfold on TV from her living room in Fukushima City, roughly 60 kms away. When the government instructed her to keep her two young children indoors to avoid radiation, she asked her husband if they could move away. He said no and refused to discuss it further.

The constant worry inflicted a psychological toll on her, and in August 2011 she moved away, divorcing her husband a year later. Today she lives with her children in a government-subsidise dapartment in the mountains of Nagano, almost 400kms southwest of Fukushima City. “I felt I had no choice if I was going to protect them,” she says. “It’s been very hard,” she admits. “All our relatives are in Fukushima. The children get to see their grandparents twice a year, if they’re lucky.”

Genpatsu rikon (nuclear divorce) is one of the less-documented problems to have emerged since the triple meltdown at the Daiichi plant. Government estimates say that 270,000 people from the Tohoku (northeast) region remain scattered throughout Japan since the tsunami/earthquake/nuclear disaster began.

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From Futaba to Jaitapur and Kudankulam

The island of Japan rests on what is known as the ring of fire, a geographic term used to describe high frequency of earthquakes as well as volcanic eruptions. To feel the tremors of an earthquake would frighten many people around the world, but for the people of Japan, it is as common as the rains in Cherrapunji. Goes without saying that if you venture out in Cherrapunji, you better be carrying an umbrella or a raincoat. Therefore, the argument that an unprecedented earthquake caused an otherwise safe nuclear plant to explode does not stand in Japan. A parliamentary commission report of Japan states that it wasn’t the earthquake and Tsunami that caused the meltdown, it was due to human negligence and a fault in the reactor’s design.

Post 3.11 many countries around the world woke up to the dangers of nuclear technology, India chose to stick to its nuclear ambitions. The disaster at Fukushima and its aftermath had little effect on the policy makers as well as the Indian nuclear establishment. Despite intense opposition from local villagers around Kudankulam nuclear reactor site, the Government commissioned the reactor without any assurance of safety of life and livelihood. The Prime Minister himself has been busy offering "Indian market" to other foreign suppliers including the French and the American.

From Jaitapur, Koodankulam to Fukushima



Stories from Fukushima re-validate the fears of many Indians who live close to nuclear reactors. Abandoning their home and land without any guarantee to return has been very unsettling and scary, as for many, the land provides security of life and livelihood. For the victims of Fukushima, leaving their land meant leaving their lives. It was depressing, frustrating and for some it even caused families to split. For the ones in India, it increased their resolve to fight against nuclear power plants.

G. Sundarrajan resides in Chennai but his ancestral home in Tirunelveli district is less than 100kms from Kudankulam Nuclear Plant. Unlike Futaba and Iitate cities which are not heavily populated, Tirunelveli district has a dense population of 470,000 people. This is more than 40 times the population of Futaba and Iitate combined. Along with the local villagers, Sundarrajan is concerned about the safety of life and livelihood of those who live close to the nuclear plant. He is also fighting a legal battle. The case that he has filed in the court of law exposes many procedural oversights by those who are responsible for the safety of the people.

Similarly, Satyajit Chavan lives in Mumbai but is from Ratnagiri district, the same district where the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant is located. According to census conducted in 2001, the population of Ratnagiri district is more than 1.5 million people. For Satyajit, the danger of nuclear power is not just present in Ratnagiri, but is present in Mumbai as well. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is located inside Mumbai and houses 7 research reactors. Mumbai has a population of 12 million people, that’s 10 percent of the population of Japan. Just about 100kms from Mumbai is the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS). The reactors at TAPS are older and similar to the ones in Fukushima.

Concerned by the Indian government’s indifference to the cause raised by its citizens, Sundarrajan and Satyajit travelled to Fukushima to understand the plight of the victims and the limitation of government mechanisms to deliver justice. They met victims from Iitate, Futaba, Tamura and Date as well as witnessed the extent of radioactive contamination in Fukushima prefecture.

Stories of the Fukushima victims

Is next Fukushima in India?

Imagine a disaster like Fukushima in India. We have all the ingredients for a grand multi-dimensional disaster- nuclear reactors situated in the vicinity of pockets of high population density areas; the level of disaster unpreparedness (Uttarakhand floods is a shocking example); a non-transparent nuclear industry ; a political system apathetic to concerns of millions of people and a government unwilling to put its people before profit. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, now, the government even wants to strip the people of their right to hold the nuclear supplier accountable in case of a nuclear accident. Supplier Liability incentivises safety and if all these rich foreign suppliers are so sure of their technology then why do they fear being held liable for the reactors they sell?

Tell the Indian government to not dilute the Liability Act.

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