Magazine

Mar 10, 2015

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On

On March 11th 2011 a huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. It not only killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed thousands of homes, it also crippled the nuclear power plant of Fukushima. Four years on the effects of this radioactive disaster are still being felt.
Many residents of Okuma, a village near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, are angry about government plans to dump some 30 million tons of radioactive debris raked up after the March 2011 nuclear disaster in a sprawling waste complex on their doorstep. Few believe Tokyo's assurances that the site will be cleaned up and shut down after 30 years. In the four years since the disaster, Japan has allocated over $15 billion to lower radiation levels around the plant. Every day, teams of workers blast roads with water, scrub down houses, cut branches and scrape contaminated soil off farmland. That radiated trash now sits in plastic sacks across the region, piling up in abandoned rice paddies, parking lots and even residents' backyards.

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Big black plastic bags containing irradiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are dumped at a seaside devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, February 22, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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A fishing boat washed up by the March 11, 2011 tsunami and black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are seen in front of cranes and chimneys of Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant through an abandoned house in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Norio Kimura, 49, who lost his father, wife and daughter in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, walks in front of a house, damaged by the March 11, 2011 earthquake inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
4

Norio Kimura, 49, who lost his father, wife and daughter in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, walks to where his house, which was washed away by massive waves, used to stand inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Norio Kimura, 49, who lost his father, wife and daughter in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, offers prayers for his family in front of a stone statue of Jizo and a monument he made for his family on the hill behind his home land inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Norio Kimura, 49, who lost his father, wife and daughter in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, poses with portraits of his daughter Yuna as he organizes his family's personal belongings, washed by the tsunami, at a temple near his home land inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Norio Kimura, 49, who lost his father, wife and daughter in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, checks radiation levels among debris from the March 11, 2011 tsunami near his home land inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Workers operate heavy machinery to remove debris at an area devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are seen at an area devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
10

Decontamination workers wearing protective suits and masks, remove radiated soil and leaves from a forest in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
11

A decontamination worker removes radiated soil and leaves from a bamboo forest in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Decontamination workers wearing protective suits and masks, work on big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
13

Men wearing radiation protective masks work in front of big black plastic bags containing radiated grass from the decontamination operation as cranes and chimneys of Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are seen in the background at an area devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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A worker uses a high pressure water washing machine during a radioactive decontamination at a private residence in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 24, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Workers move big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation at a temporary storage site in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
16

Big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are dumped at a seaside, devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 22, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Eiichi Shincho, 67, walks in the spot where his house, which was washed away by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, used to stand inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Shincho's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Eiichi Shincho,67, walks at a temple, damaged by March 11, 2011 earthquake near his home land where Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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A monument and a stone statue of Jizo (R) for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, are seen near big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation at a temporary storage site in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 22, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Dictionaries are left on desks at a classroom of Kumamachi Elementary School inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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A school jersey that belonged to Yuna Kimura, the youngest daughter of the Kimura family, who was swept away by the tsunami of March 11, 2011, is displayed at a temple inside the exclusion zone in Okuma town, near Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 23, 2015. The label on the jersey says, " Kumamachi Elementary School, First Grade Second Class, Yuna Kimura." Japan is trying to build a radioactive waste facility in Kimura's hometown, but he has refused to sell or lease his land to the government. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Tomoko Hoshino, 78, and her husband Akira (R), 79, who were evacuated from Okuma, a town inside the exclusion zone next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, talk at their house in a temporary housing complex in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture, February 17, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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People who were evacuated from Okuma, a town inside the exclusion zone next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, attend a town hall meeting as Toshitsuna Watanabe (top), Mayor of Okuma town stands to speak at a temporary housing complex in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture, February 17, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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Tomoko Hoshino, 78, who was evacuated from Okuma, a town inside the exclusion zone next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, cries as she attends a town hall meeting with the town officials at a temporary housing complex in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture, February 17, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
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A woman is seen at a temporary housing complex covered in snow that accommodates nuclear evacuees from Okuma, a town inside the exclusion zone next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture, February 17, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Radioactive Fukushima - Four Years On
26

A temporary housing complex covered in snow that accommodates nuclear evacuees from Okuma, a town inside the exclusion zone next to Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is seen in front of downtown in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture, February 17, 2015. Toru Hanai/REUTERS

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