Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident
the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
March 11, 2021
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. At least 22,200 people died or went missing, including those who died of the disaster-related illnesses. The number of people who were forced to evacuate their homes peaked at 470,000. There are still over 80,000 people who remain unable to return to their homes. We express our deepest condolences for the victims and sympathies to all survivors of the disaster. We also express our profound respect for all those who are doing their utmost to rebuild their lives.
During the past decade, hardware reconstruction such as roads and tide embankments has made progress. But agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, which are essential for the local residents’ livelihoods and business, are far from being restored to pre-disaster levels. The population continues shrinking in the disaster-hit areas, which are now affected also by the spread of coronavirus infections.
Work to end the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is facing an enormous difficulty due to the inability even to grasp the state of the meltdown. The plan to decommission over the next 40 years is failing. The government and the nuclear plant operator, TEPCO, is planning to release rising water contaminated with tritium into the sea. This is unconscionable. The government and TEPCO have responsibility for assisting and compensating the affected residents until all problems are resolved by decommissioning and ending the crisis.
Zenroren has been working together with the Zenroren-affiliated prefectural federations since shortly after the disaster to launch the post-disaster labor headquarters in cooperation with MIC (Japan Mass Media, Information and Culture Workers Union Conference) and the Forum of Independent Unions to support post-disaster reconstruction. We also set up volunteer centers in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, and in Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, to collect and distribute emergency supplies and money in donation received from around the country and to organize volunteer activities. A total of 2,753 workers from around the country have participated in volunteer work. More than 100 million yen (about 950,000 US dollars) has been donated by unions from around the country and from unions and support groups abroad, Later we organized financial support from the prefectural federations to activities in support of victims. We have also continued to hold action on 11th day every month across the country. We are taking part in the National Liaison Council for Eliminating Nuclear power Plants, while making efforts as the main player in the National Liaison Council for Supporting Disaster Victims and Demanding Improvement in Disaster Responses, which is involved in the movement for supporting disaster-hit people and for improving livelihood assistance for victims.
The government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide still wants to continue to rely on the dangerously aging nuclear reactors and even plans to build new ones. Continuing to use the nuclear power plants by following the “safety myths” is backed by no reason in terms of the economy and safety. It is totally inconceivable that the government is following a policy that fails to face the serious scars left in the disaster-hit areas 10 years after the start of the nuclear crisis. We demand that the government reconsider the “Innovation Coast Framework” that was invented to attract big businesses by taking advantage of the disaster in order to shift to a residents-first reconstruction policy that gives priority to improving social services.
Last month, when a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck northeastern Japan with an epicenter off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, many local people remembered the great disaster they experienced 10 years ago and added to the anxiety about the nuclear power plants. A message from the Fukushima Joint Reconstruction Center, which continues to support the disaster-affected people, says, “An energy policy shift to end nuclear power generation and rely on renewable energy sources would make it unnecessary to abandon Fukushima and would pave the way for policy of dealing with damage and difficulty facing the prefectural people and focusing on the needs of the people.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami, Zenroren pledges to continue its all-out efforts towards victims- and residents-first reconstruction, the earliest possible conclusion of the nuclear accident, a shift to safe and clean energy policy without relying on nuclear power, and towards a disaster-resistant society that defends human rights.