‘Shadowlands’ photographs highlight human cost of Fukushima nuclear disaster

Press release - March 5, 2012
Greenpeace today launched ‘Shadowlands’, a presentation of haunting photographs depicting the impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the plight of people displaced by the crisis, serving also as a warning to Philippine authorities to stop courting the nuclear option, as history has shown that a serious nuclear accident can happen everywhere there are reactors.

Shadowlands features the work of award-winning photographer Robert Knoth and documentary maker Antoinette de Jong. (1) The exhibit runs until March 30 at the Open Lobby of the Quezon City Hall.  Using social media links and its website, Greenpeace will also collect messages of support for the Japanese people. (3)  The collaboration continues the earlier work of Knoth and De Jong with Greenpeace on the on-going effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the Ukrainian people (4).

The Shadowlands photos show beautiful landscapes – but something is clearly missing: people. More than 150,000 people had to flee the Fukushima area because of radioactive contamination.

 “The Fukushima nuclear disaster is having a dramatic impact on the environment and the lives of the people from a wide area around the nuclear plant,” said Knoth. “We sought to document this through landscape and portrait photography, as well as interviews with people from the affected region – some of whom may never be able to return to their homes. What we found was a profound sense of loss.”

Since the beginning of the crisis on March 11 2011, Greenpeace radiation specialists have documented (2) the on-going impacts of radiation contamination on the environment, food and seafood to demonstrate that Japanese authorities have consistently underplayed, underestimated and underreported the radiation impacts around Fukushima.

“Authorities seem not to have learned from Fukushima or from other meltdowns, which, on average, major ones happen every decade for the last 50 years that nuclear plants have been around.  This is contrary to the odds on the likelihood of accidents that the nuclear industry keeps assuring us of.  And yet governments continue to protect the industry instead of protecting the people,” said Francis Dela Cruz, Climate & Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) has been the center of controversy for the last several decades.  The plant was never operated due to never-ending questions regarding its supposed safety features, which were upgraded but never passed scrutiny.  Filipinos continue to pay around P23 million annually to keep the facility “maintained” and, recently, proposals have been floating around to rehabilitate BNPP and spark the nuclear age in the country.  The Department of Energy’s budget during President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s term provides for research into nuclear options.

“The Philippines and ASEAN are still opening up and funding nuclear options, despite the vulnerabilities.  Resources should be put into renewable energy and energy efficiency measures instead,” added Dela Cruz.

Greenpeace is calling for the the ASEAN to divert from the nuclear path it laid down in the Treaty of Bangkok [5] and repeal the nuclear development provision in the ASEAN Energy Cooperation Plan for 2010-2015 [6]. It is also calling on the Japanese government to not restart any nuclear plants, and for a global phase out of inherently dangerous nuclear reactors.

Contacts:

  • Francis Dela Cruz, Climate & Energy Campaigner, +63 917 854 2103, +63 2 3321807 loc 118
  • JP Agcaoili, Media Campaigner, +63 917 631 2750, +63 2 3321807 loc 109,

Notes:

  1. Photographer Robert Knoth and his partner documentary maker Antoinette de Jong have collaborated on many projects, including the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster with Greenpeace International. Both are renowned in the Netherlands and internationally for beautifully capturing gritty subjects such as the effects of toxic waste, the global impact of the Afghan heroin trade and the after effects of radiation. Their work has been viewed all over the world including: London, Amsterdam, Moscow and Sydney and has been published in the New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Guardian and National Geographic. Both have won awards at World Press, PDN Awards and the Dutch Silver Camera.
  2. The exhibition will also be shown in 16 other countries. An online presentation will run on Greenpeace sites in 11 countries, in addition to running on the Greenpeace International site.
  3. Link to information on Greenpeace radiation testing in Japan: http://bit.ly/gfbhu5
  4. Links to Robert Knoth’s work in Chernobyl: http://bit.ly/xudSDL, http://bit.ly/zNM6xi
  5. In 1995, ASEAN entered into a Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, often referred to as the Bangkok Treaty. This Treaty serves to protect the region from destructive nuclear weapon development and use and has provisions for the early notification of nuclear accidents. It also indicates that State Parties have the freedom and right to use nuclear energy towards economic development and social progress, thereby tying the entire region into a common energy future.
  6. The ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2010-2015 aims to reduce regional energy intensity (energy consumed per dollar of GDP) by at least 8 percent by 2015 from the 2005 level. The plan also sets a strategic goal of having 15 percent of total power capacity installed by 2015 coming from regionally-derived renewable energy. The 2nd ASEAN Energy Demand Outlook published by the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) estimates that nuclear energy will help achieve these targets by contributing 0.9 percent of the regions' total power capacity by 2010 and 1.6 percent in 2030.

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