In March 2011, a powerful earthquake hit Japan, causing radiation leakage from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Five years after the incident, three Year 4 Cultural Studies students of Lingnan joined the Social World Thematic Forum on Nuclear in Tokyo in late April this year and visited deep into Fukushima to understand its latest situation after the disaster.
The three students are Yeung Ching-kiu, Lai Tsz-ying and Siu Wan-ting, who took the Cultural Studies course “Cultural Politics of Reading” in the last semester. With the coordination of course instructor Prof Lau Kin-chi, they joined the Social World Thematic Forum on Nuclear and listened to the discussions of experts from different countries on issues arising from the Fukushima nuclear incident.
Taking this opportunity, the students traveled to the town of Tomioka of Fukushima Prefecture, which is still a restricted nuclear evacuation area, to get first-hand understanding on the disaster caused by the nuclear incident. With nobody living in the town now, radiation level in Tomioka still stands high at 0.36 mSv per hour five years after the nuclear incident, which is four times that of Tokyo at 0.09 mSv per hour. Though residents had long been evacuated, 7,000 workers are still operating in the town, mainly responsible for tasks to clear nuclear pollution including removing polluted soil, cleaning up rooftops and cutting down trees. As the workers have to work continuously under a high radiation environment, they are exposed to high health risks. This reflected the unclear disaster’s long-term and deep impact to the environment, the society and even individuals.
The students also interviewed one of the founders of the Iwaki Radiation Detection Centre. The founder, who is a mother, shared with other mothers the worry that the local government had limited knowledge on the impact of nuclear radiation on the environment, food and children’s health after the incident. As a result they set up the centre and sourced detection equipment by themselves to monitor radiation levels of community facilities. The centre now has two full time staff members, who will measure radiation levels of teaching premises such as school buildings regularly with the aim to safeguard children’s safety. If potential risks are found, they will request the municipal government to take depollution measures.
The study facilitated the three students to think from different perspectives about the potential issues that may be brought to a society by nuclear facilities. It made them recognise that mankind should reflect on existing energy policies and reduce its reliance on nuclear power.