10 lessons to be learned from Fukushima

Lately, Turkey has been speaking about the issue of nuclear energy more than ever before. In recent years, Turkey saw many commemorations and protests in March and April on the anniversaries of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. Over the past few weeks, plenty of anti-nuclear demonstrations and events were held in the provinces of Istanbul, Mersin and Sinop.

In fact, we as a country are at the very beginning of forming an anti-nuclear movement that is gradually expanding. It is hard to make a point to a government like that of Turkey, which does not learn lessons from past disasters, earthquakes or accidents it has gone through. It takes a long time to cultivate a culture that prioritizes nature and life.

However, this doesn’t mean starting from square one. It is reasonable to learn about other countries’ struggles and to examine various experiences. For instance, we can start with a booklet issued by the Fukushima Booklet Publication Committee titled “10 Lessons from Fukushima: Reducing risks and protecting communities from nuclear disasters.” The booklet, which aims to convey experiences of nuclear disasters, the size of such incidents and their many complicated consequences, is part of the battle to protect other societies from new nuclear tragedies. The committee’s chairman, Masaaki Ohashi, explains why they released this booklet as follows: “This booklet is a message to people around the world from us, the people of Japan, who were afflicted by and who continue to bear the brunt of the damage caused by the large-scale nuclear disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) operated Fukushima Daiichi (Number One) Nuclear Power Plant, directly caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. The intended beneficiaries of this booklet are the many people around the world concerned about the risk of a situation similar to Fukushima happening to them, especially those living in countries where nuclear plants are currently operating or where construction of nuclear facilities is planned.” Ohashi said many people from various countries have been asking Japan for guidance in order to avoid having similar experiences, and continues: “This helped us to understand that while it is very important to share the experiences of the disaster, people on the receiving end of this advice cannot take appropriate action unless they understand how to anticipate and prevent the actual disaster at the root of all these experiences, along with measures for how to mitigate the damage of nuclear accidents or disasters should they actually occur.” The booklet makes a particular point regarding developing countries’ desire for nuclear power: ” hellip due to the increasingly global nature of the economy, production hubs around the world are more and more concentrated in places regarded as developing countries.’ It is clear that there are moves afoot to export many nuclear power plants from developed countries’ in order to supply the energy that is required to underpin this production in developing countries. This is in spite of the fact that the new construction of nuclear power plants in developed countries is fraught with difficulties. The unthinkable but inevitable next nuclear power plant accident and nuclear disaster could easily take place in such an area hosting newly-built power plants, embroiling the surrounding region and neighboring countries.” The members of the team that drafted the booklet admit that they lacked basic knowledge on nuclear energy and radioactivity when the Fukushima nuclear disaster took place and that they also failed to learn lessons from the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents. They say that this booklet on the Fukushima experiences was prepared to prevent anyone from going through similar tragedies and help people find answers to their question on what to do in the face of nuclear risks. Considerations are being made to have the booklet translated into other languages, but Turkey’s Chamber of Electrical Engineers (EMO) has already translated it into Turkish. Now let’s take a look at the 10 lessons learned through the experiences of those who lived the Fukushima nuclear disaster in person: 1. Do not be fooled by the “nuclear power is safe” propaganda. 2. During an emergency, the basic premise is to run away. 3. Access to information and leaving records is vital. 4. People affected by the disaster have the right to a comprehensive health survey and disclosure of information. 5. It is important to create a monitoring system in which producers and consumers alike can participate. 6. It is not possible to completely get rid of radioactive contamination. 7. Nuclear plant workers must be provided with proper health management. 8. The importance of rebuilding lifestyles and communities cannot be overlooked. 9. Laws for rights and relief for those affected must be made with their participation. 10. Damage from accidents must be factored into “the cost of nuclear power.”