Fukushima, Point of No Return - PhMuseum

Fukushima, Point of No Return

David Verberckt

2019 - Ongoing

More than eight years after earthquake, tsunami and one of the most severe nuclear accidents in history, the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima is trying to get slowly back to normal life. Government officials claim that most areas are safe to return, that radiation levels are equivalent to major world cities and that fresh vegetables and fish are fine to eat. However, the main problem is to rebuild trust among the local population after accusations of so many cover-ups and denials about the exact magnitude of the disaster, during and in the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown and explosion. The earthquake and following tsunami in March 2011 killed 16,000 people and the subsequent nuclear reactor explosion sent radioactive dust over a wide area around the Daichi nuclear power plant, causing more than 160,000 people to abandon and evacuate their homes across 10% of the Fukushima prefecture. All agriculture, fishing and socioeconomic activity ceased in those territories and many towns and villages became ghost towns in no-go areas. Shortly after the disaster, a massive decontamination effort has started and is presently still under way. It is estimated that centuries will be needed to decommission and decontaminate the Daichi nuclear power plant site itself. Since the disaster, most evacuees have gone back to their homes, except for an area of about 3% of the prefecture which remains officially off limits in surrounding forests and towns nearest to the nuclear plant. Okuma and Namie towns of 11,500 and 21,000 pre-disaster inhabitants have been re-opened in 2018-19 for people to return. Only a fraction of the pre-disaster population returned, few hundreds in Okuma and less than 1,000 in Namie. Relentless works continue to remove and replace contaminated topsoil and radioactive waste from houses and buildings so that evacuees can return and rebuild their lives. Will they return after having left the area almost 10 years ago is very doubtful and, with almost no economic activity, it is impossible for the younger generation to find work.

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  • Restaurant abandoned since March 2011, Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Before the 2011 Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown more than 21,000 people lived in the town of Namie few Km from the power plant. Today, less than 1,000 have returned and most houses and buildings have been earmarked for destruction and removal of contaminated building materials. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Namie and its ghost town feeling. Before the 2011 Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown more than 21,000 people lived in the town of Namie few Km from the power plant. Today, less than 1,000 have returned and most houses and buildings have been earmarked for destruction and removal of contaminated building materials. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • A traffic agent indicating when heavy trucks loaded with construction waste enter the road. Most buildings have been declared unsafe for living and are being brought down. The potentially contaminated building materials are being packed and driven outside the town. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • A fisherman and his newly aquired boat. The fishing community has been gravely affected by the Tsunami and many died trying to save their boats. The surviving fishermen have been banned from fishing for many years after the nuclear catastrophy. Only in the past couple of years has fishing being allowed again under very stringent radiation controls. Soma fishing port, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Construction workers involved in building sea wall along the coast in order to limit the catastrophic effects of a tsunami. Also the sea wall is built to protect the affected nuclear power plants along the coast that will require many years to be fully decommissioned. Tomioka Fishing port, opened in July 2019. Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Sea wall construction along the coast in order to limit the catastrophic effects of a tsunami. Also the sea wall is built to protect the affected nuclear power plants along the coast that will require many years to be fully decommissioned. Tomioka Fishing port, opened in July 2019. Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Abandoned houses and buildings along Route 6 that passes through the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Waste lands along Route 6 that passes through the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Okuma-Namie road, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • 250 Km sign to Tokyo along Route 6 at the level of the Daichi Nuclear Power Plant that experienced a catastrophic meltdown of its reactors when the cooling systems stopped to work following and earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Sealed off area along route 50 crossing the mountains. The entire area in the woods and mountains are no go zones as radiation levels are still to high. Those areas in the hinterland will most likely remain off limit forever. Route 50 between Namie and Katsurao. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Radiation level indicator along route 50 crossing the mountains. The entire area in the woods and mountains are no go zones as radiation levels are still to high. Those areas in the hinterland will most likely remain off limit forever. Route 50 between Namie and Katsurao. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Sealed off area along route 50 used to store contaminated soil removed from newly accessible places. The entire area in the woods and mountains are no go zones as radiation levels are still to high. Those areas in the hinterland will most likely remain off limit forever. Route 50 between Namie and Katsurao. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Before the 2011 Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown more than 21,000 people lived in the town of Namie few Km from the power plant. Today, less than 1,000 have returned and most houses and buildings have been earmarked for destruction and removal of contaminated building materials. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Abandoned building in Namie close to the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Abandoned building along Route 6 that passes through the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Abandoned building along Route 6 that passes through the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Abandoned building along Route 6 that passes through the most affected and contaminated area around the Daichi nuclear power plant. Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Namie and its ghost town feeling. Before the 2011 Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown more than 21,000 people lived in the town of Namie few Km from the power plant. Today, less than 1,000 have returned and most houses and buildings have been earmarked for destruction and removal of contaminated building materials. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019

  • Fishermen sorting their nets. The fishing community has been gravely affected by the Tsunami and many died trying to save their boats. The surviving fishermen have been banned from fishing for many years after the nuclear catastrophy. Only in the past couple of years has fishing being allowed again under very stringent radiation controls. Onamaha fishing port, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, October 2019


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