Last month I watched a documentary on the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. The showing of the 2013 documentary, A2-B-C, took place in a cafeteria of Pomona College where students gather at tables and speak foreign languages. I am a guest at the Greek table.
The American producer, Ian Thomas Ash, introduced his film and answered questions. He is young and unusually virtuous and talented. He sees himself as a witness of a tragedy he has to report to the world.
He said he felt morally obliged to document the effects of the horrific nuclear accident. That is the reason he is not married and without children. For the duration of filming he lived in the contaminated Fukushima prefecture with the affected local people. He ate the food they ate and drank the same water. In addition, he speaks Japanese and has lived in Japan for several years.
He admitted the focus of his documentary was not the actual disaster or the lethal nature of the nuclear power plants. Rather, he felt compelled to bring to life the nuclear meltdown through the eyes and feelings of mothers and children near the damaged Fukushima nuclear factories.
The story opens a few days after the disaster when Ian questions a government official about safety. The official reluctantly puts all the blame on science: that this is an enterprise beyond human control. "Nothing is certain," the official says, "but I am telling you to feel safe."
Then Ian returns to Fukushima eighteen months after the nuclear explosion. He talks and has dinner with mothers still living with their families in the radiation-contaminated zone.
The Fukushima mothers are angry. They speak of deception and betrayal. They resent they have become the guinea pigs of the unholy alliance of the nuclear company and the state, which keep telling the mothers everything is under control.
The mothers see workers "decontaminating" radiation hot spots near their homes, but no one can guarantee their children will not get cancer. All the officials say is, "it's safe, it's safe."
Meanwhile, we see Fukushima children on hospital beds being checked for thyroid cysts. Forty-four percent of the children are afflicted with thyroid cysts. Those children also suffer from severe nosebleeds and skin rashes. Each child carries a shining glass radiation badge hanging from his or her book bag.
Ian talked to some of those young children. They cheerfully explained the purpose of their radiation badges. "To warn us about the radiation in the playground," they said. "Will we get leukemia and die?" they asked.
Ian also talked to a 17-year-old girl planning to study engineering. "I panicked when they found thyroid cysts on me," she said.
A couple of crying mothers summed up the tragedy of the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. They cried from frustration. They admitted they could never go back to the way things were before the deadly eruption of the nuclear power plants in their neighborhood.
True, the effects of the Fukushima "accident" will last forever. No matter the propaganda of the Japanese government, the 2011 Fukushima meltdown came pretty close to resembling the awesome destructive power of the 1986 Chernobyl "accident" in Russia.
On April 13, 2011, Michio Kaku, a Japanese American theoretical physicist at the City University of New York, said the wrecked and leaking Fukushima nuclear power facility is "a ticking time bomb."
Neither Japan nor the world can afford an exploding Fukushima bomb. I asked Ian if Japan ought to shut down the dangerous nuclear Fukushima electricity factory and he refused to respond. He rightly sees himself as a messenger.
He hopes the message of his award-winning documentary will help the Japanese and the world to make the right decision on nuclear power, a sibling of nuclear weapons.
That intimate connection of the nuclear power plants to nuclear bombs puts them beyond the norms of civilization. Before its too late, both Japan and the rest of the world ought to dismantle and bury these civilian nuclear bombs.
Such an honorable and urgent act ought to remind and encourage the few countries with nuclear bombs to also disarm themselves of those truly evil weapons.
We are grateful to Ian Thomas Ash for sparking a badly needed debate. His documentary is powerful and personal. The mothers and the radiation-badges wearing children of Fukushima speak the tragic voice of truth.