Throughout the world, the name Fukushima has become synonymous with nuclear disaster and running for the hills. Yet, Fukushima may be one of the least understood disasters in modern times, as nobody knows how to fix neither the problem nor the true dimension of the damage. Thus, Fukushima is in uncharted territory, a total nuclear meltdown that dances to its own rhythm. Similar to an overly concerned parent, TEPCO merely monitors but makes big mistakes along the way.
Over time, bits and pieces of information about Fukushima Prefecture come to surface. For example, Arkadiusz Podniesinski, the noted documentary photographer of Chernobyl, recently visited Fukushima. His photos and commentary depict a scenario of ruination and anxiety, a sense of hopelessness for the future.
Ominously, the broken down Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant looms in the background of everybody’s life, like the seemingly indestructible iconic image of destruction itself, Godzilla with its signature “atomic breath.”
Podniesinski’s commentary clearly identifies the blame for the nuclear accident, namely: “It is not earthquakes or tsunami that are to blame for the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, but humans. The report produced by the Japanese parliamentary committee investigating the disaster leaves no doubt about this. The disaster could have been foreseen and prevented. As in the Chernobyl case, it was a human, not technology, that was mainly responsible for the disaster,” Photographer and Filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesinski Visits Fukushima, Axis of Logic, Dec. 27, 2015.
Four years after the fact, more than 120,000 residents are not able to return home. Radiation zones have been established with the color red demarcating the highest levels of radioactive contamination, the Red Zone, meaning > 50 mSv/y. There is no decontamination work in Red Zones. It is unlikely that residents will ever return, although the Abe government claims otherwise.
Radiation is accumulative. As a general rule, a person can only survive for one hour with exposure of 1 Sv/hour or 1,000 mSv/hour. The recommended lifetime human dosage of radiation should be less than 500 mSv. A chest x-ray produces 0.10 mSv. The standard limit for nuclear workers worldwide is 20 mSv/year (Source: Radiation Survival Cheat Sheet). However, Fukushima, because of the emergency, allows workers to receive up to 100-mSv exposure before they must leave the site
Within Fukushima, Orange Zones are designated as less contaminated but still uninhabitable because radiation levels run 20-50 mSv/y, but decontamination work is underway. Residents are allowed to visit homes for short duration only during the daytime. However, as it happens, very few people are seen. Most of the former residents do not want to go back and the wooden houses in many of the towns and villages are severely dilapidated.