8 Janvier 2017
January 4, 2017
A group of high school students in Japan has visited the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They're the first minors to be admitted to the site, and they're hoping the experience will help them contribute to the recovery of the surrounding community.
The students spent months preparing for their visit to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster, and have been checking radiation levels around the region.
"I wanted to know how the workers feel, how far the decommissioning work has progressed, and what problems they have. I thought it would be best to see it with my own eyes, because there are some things you can't understand just from the media," says Miku Norii, who is in her second year and is a member of her school's science club.
After much preparation, and after securing permission from their parents, Miku and the other students headed to the plant. Radiation levels in most of the areas have fallen, so they were able to wear ordinary clothes.
But they did wear gloves and covered their shoes to avoid picking up contaminants. They carried devices that measured how much radiation they were being exposed to, and they stayed inside the bus as it blocks some of the radiation.
The first thing that caught their attention was the massive number of water tanks. They learned that contaminated water is building up at the site.
"Are there walls around the area where the tanks are lined up?" Miku asks.
"There are walls around it and a roof over it to prevent rainwater from getting in as much as possible," a TEPCO worker says.
They saw the reactor building left damaged by a hydrogen explosion. Miku learned that radiation levels near the reactor buildings remain high, so workers need to wear protective gear.
"They need to wear heavy equipment that close to the reactor building," Miku said.
Seeing the damaged reactor building was an encounter with harsh reality. The students could see why the job of decommissioning the plant could take 40 years, or until they reach middle age.
At the end of the tour, the students checked their total radiation exposure. They were relieved to see it was still within the safety guideline.
We caught up with Miku a month after she visited the plant to find out what lasting impression the trip had on her.
"I had done some research before going. But that's different than first-hand experience. When I saw the plant, I was able to feel its size, and the atmosphere. I'm now keenly aware that this is an issue we have to face squarely," Miku says. "I think we'll have opportunities to talk to people, both in and outside Fukushima -- and I hope we can convey our feelings, in our own words."
After our interview, Miku and her friends traveled to an area where residents had been evacuated. They continue to search for the hope that someday their beloved Fukushima will be fully restored.