Five Years After Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Survivors Share Their Stories

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FUKUSHIMA, Japan—For the past two months, I’ve been traveling across Fukushima, the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster, to interview local residents and give voice to the people directly affected by the accident.

It’s been five years since a giant earthquake triggered a tsunami that inundated the Tohoku coast, killing over 17,000 people and causing the core meltdown of the nuclear reactors at Dai Ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

After the March 11, 2011, event, a 12-mile (20-kilometer) exclusion zone has sat largely uninhabited. About 70,000 nuclear refugees are still scattered around Tohoku in temporary housing communities.

Thanks to decontamination efforts, decaying radioactive elements such as cesium, as well as environmental factors such as typhoons and storms, radiation levels in Fukushima have fallen. Restrictions on entry to formerly abandoned towns are slowly being lifted.

But for many, the future remains uncertain, and anxiety looms large.

These are their stories.

Photos by Ari Beser

Yoshiko Amano, Nihonmatsu. “My children are living and working in Iwaki nearby Namie, our hometown. They work for the Dai Ichi Nuclear Power Plant. They screen people that go in and out of the nuclear reactor to see how much radiation the workers have been exposed to. They do not go in themselves, they work in an area with low levels of radiation, but they are exposed to the people who come from there and I worry about them. It’s been five years since the disaster, but we are willing to go back home. We just want to see the radiation problem solved, but it takes time, and there is nothing to do but wait. We are suffering from stress more than anything. We can’t go home. We can’t go anywhere new. We are stuck in limbo and it has traumatized us. Now it is Winter. Winters here are much colder —> Read More

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