Danger into Waters: A Radioactive Threat brewing in Fukushima (Yan Yuet & Fatimah)

Article link: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1633/


This article addresses the effects and reactions brought about from the Japanese government’s decision to dispose of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean. The verdict received backlash from many locals due to the environmental, economic and safety issues that would arise from the water disposal. The water disposal poses the risk of increasing radioactive levels in the ocean, consequently harming local fisheries and the tourism industry. The risk of radiation may detriment the overall safety of the locals, particularly those in Fukushima prefecture. While the Japanese government is pushing Tokyo Power Electric Company (TEPC) to provide compensation, the locals remain skeptical and wish for increased communication and transparency from the government.

While most of the article addressed a diversity of economic and safety concerns for locals in Fukushima prefecture, such worries stem from the risk of environmental detriment from this method of water disposal. This article thus tackles the issue of environmental pollution – specifically water pollution from nuclear power plants – and its impact on society. As such, the events and intricacies described in the article align with a multitude of ideas that seek to comprehend the relationship between Japan and nature.

Firstly, the article shows that Japan largely seeks to exploit the environment. This is observed when the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company decided to dispose of treated water from the nuclear power plant into the ocean. Nevertheless, there are other stakeholders with a different stance. As the article points out, locals, fishermen, and even a professor, do not support the decision wholly. Hence, the representation of Japan and the environment is a contested one due to different opinions held by stakeholders. Despite this, it seems that the exploitative representation of Japan and its environment trumps, since the Japanese government implemented the verdict without consulting others’ opinions. This therefore reflects a power imbalance between the government and other stakeholders. 

The article reveals a similar perception of nature amongst the government, TEPC, and fishermen. All three groups view nature from an anthropocentric viewpoint since they see the ocean as a ‘potential resource to exploit’ (Kalland & Asquith 1997,30). For the government and TEPC, the ocean is a dumping ground when the storage facility runs out of space. As the news article stated, ‘Part of the Japanese government’s message is that discharging water containing tritium into the ocean is nothing new’. Meanwhile, for the fishermen, the ocean is a source of income and livelihood.

Next, the news highlights the lasting effects of pain with relation to the environment. The more humans try to distance themselves from nature, the more they are reminded of their relationship with nature through the manifestation of pain (Walker 2011,8). While the waste disposal industrialised the oceanic landscape and thus reflected a distance from nature, the threat of an industrialised ocean revived the public’s memories of the pain with regards to experiences during from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, “their lives were upended” (Akihito et al. 2021). It exhibits the repetition of pain as a sacrifice to the modern industrialist regime

Lastly, the news brings attention to economic attitudes towards waste disposal in Japan. Kirby states that “waste was framed in terms of resources and cost rather than byproducts and environmental defilement (Kirby 2011, 170). The article mirrors this line of logic with the decreasing amount of space to store treated water. The government expresses that “there will be no room for any more in a matter of years” (Akihito et al. 2021), showing a focus in the storage space instead of the environmental risks posed. 


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Akihito, Yoshida, Takasu Eri, and Goto Shunsuke. “Water Disposal at Fukushima Plant Raises the Stakes for Public Understanding: NHK WORLD-JAPAN News.” NHK WORLD. May 24, 2021. Accessed October 22, 2021. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1633/.

Kalland, Arne, and Pamela J. Asquith. 1997. “Japanese Perceptions of Nature: Ideals and Illusions.” In Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives, edited by Arne Kalland and Pamela J. Asquith, 1–35. Richmond: Curzon Press.

Kirby, Peter Wynn. “Constructing Sustainable Japan.” 2011. In Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan, 160–92. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Walker, Brett L. 2011. Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.