“After the Chernobyl accident,I decided to learn the skills of the past,the ways people used to live,so that I could survive into the next generation without fossil fuels and without nuclear power,” said Sachiko Sato,an organic farmer and board member of the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation.
The Russian nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded and burned in 1986,contaminating thousands of square miles. After the earthquake and tsunami in March,several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant melted down. Miles of surrounding land were contaminated.
Although the Japanese government did not mandate the evacuation of Sato and her family,she thought it was no longer safe to live on the family farm in Kawamata,which lies just outside the evacuation zone. The Sato family lived about 24 miles from the Fukushima power plant,and the traces of radiation from the meltdowns made it no longer safe to grow food,Sato said.
Sato is one of four Japanese people who spoke at a Beyond Nuclear news conference last week,aiding the organization in its efforts to advocate for a world free from nuclear power. The group met with legislators to urge them to shut down nuclear power plants across the globe.
Before the Fukushima disaster,Sato and her family of seven established a cooperative of people who revered nature and wanted to live off the land,growing their own rice and vegetables and cooking over a fire. On March 11,everything changed.
“It was very painful having to continue to live in the midst of these three tragedies,” she said. “All of my fellow farmers had no option but to abandon their land.”
Sato sent her children to a safe place before she evacuated.
Two of Sato’s five children described how the nuclear meltdown has affected their lives. Yuuki 17,and his sister evacuated to a family friend’s house 60 miles north of Fukushima on March 13.
For Mina,Sato’s 13-year-old daughter,moving away from her family and friends in Fukushima was “the saddest thing.” Yuuki talked about the difficulties of living temporarily without his parents. “I had friends in Fukushima,” he said. “I don’t yet have a drivers’ license. … so I couldn’t go see my friends from the time I evacuated until July. That was very painful for me.”
Sachiko Sato now commutes an hour and a half from her family’s new home to the daycare center near Fukushima where she works. Her husband is searching for farmland in southern Japan so they can start over in a place not tainted by radiation.
The Japanese government is discussing a phase-out of nuclear power,but the process is too slow for some citizens.
“There would be no new nuclear power plants,but the current ones would run until they are very old,” said Aileen Mioko Smith,who has been active in Japan’s anti-nuclear movement for about 30 years.
Japan owns 54 nuclear power plants,but only 11 are operating. Some Japanese government officials would like to see some of the dormant plants restart,Mioko Smith said.
Yukiko Anzai,who lives near the Tomari nuclear power plant and continues to operate an organic farm with her husband,wants to prevent future nuclear accidents.
“The Fukushima accident can happen any place where nuclear power plants exist,” she said.
Reach reporter Pamela Engel at [email protected] or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.