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Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian writer who won a Nobel Prize for her book on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, visited evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture recently to hear about their experiences.

Alexievich was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015 for her writing about human suffering through the testimonies of witnesses of the Chernobyl disaster. She has been highly praised for her oral history of that event.

Alexievich was invited to speak at a university in Tokyo.

“It may be impossible to stop nuclear power plants right away, but it’s important to consider what you can and should do,” she said at the event.

Alexievich’s books are written collages of testimonies by ordinary people. Her book, “Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future,” published in 1997, is representative of her work. It’s a collection of statements from the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 30 years ago in the former Soviet Union.

About a quarter of the land in Alexievich’s home country of Belarus was contaminated and seriously damaged by radioactive material. Even now, many former residents are not allowed to return to their hometowns.

Alexievich spent more than 10 years interviewing over 300 people, sometimes on camera.

“In the last few days, whenever I lifted my husband’s body, his skin would peel off and stick to my hand,” the wife of one firefighter told her.

She then wrote about their deep shock and continual sadness.

The Nobel Committee described her work as “polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

“I try to listen to people no one sees or hears,” Alexievich says. “There’s much more power in their emotions than in economic or medical data…. So I think it’s important to remember their lives.”

Alexievich came to Japan to hear what people in Fukushima prefecture have to say, and visited temporary housing to listen to residents’ stories.

She met with a former resident of Iitate village, a town that’s still under an evacuation order.

“I was a dairy farmer in Iitate, but now I’m unemployed,” Kenichi Hasegawa told her.

Before the earthquake, he had about 50 cows, and was living with 7 members of his family that spanned 4 generations. Hasegawa drove Alexievich to his former home, which still stands empty.

After the accident, all of his cows had to be put down or let go. Unable to continue dairy farming due to radiation, Hasegawa decided to demolish the cow shed. His family is now scattered.

“Wasn’t it difficult to leave home?” Alexievich asked him.

Yes, it was… We can’t live the way we did before the accident, because of the radiation,” Hasegawa said.

Government officials say the evacuation order on Iitate will be lifted next March, but Hasegawa is anxious about the future.

“They say we’ll be able to return home, but haven’t mentioned their plans for the village after that,” he says. “My children won’t be returning.”

“In Fukushima, I saw the exact same situation I’d seen in Chernobyl. The destroyed homes, the empty villages and cities, the victims’ despair — they’re all the same,” Alexievich said. “In both countries, governments rushed to develop new technology, but they weren’t able to fulfill their responsibilities. They were irresponsible toward ‘the ordinary people.’”

Alexievich was also told the story of a dairy farmer who committed suicide. A close friend of the farmer took her to the place where he died.

“He left a note saying, ‘I wish there’d been no nuclear power plants here,'” Hasegawa said.

Alexievich has spent years focusing on the suffering of ordinary people and making their voices heard. Visiting the 2 disaster-stricken regions has renewed her sense of determination.

“No one completely understands the horror of nuclear power. Literature should communicate it, and so should philosophers. It’s not a job for politicians alone,” Alexievich said. “In other words, we need to look at what happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima and put them together, to form new knowledge…. I saw the future, not the past, and we need to work on that future.”

It has been 30 years since the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, and 5 years since the one in Fukushima. The future depends on never letting the voices of “the ordinary people” go unheard — that’s the message from Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/newsroomtokyo/aired/20161208.html

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December 11, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | Leave a comment

Nobel-winning Belarusian writer Alexievich speaks on nuclear disasters and the future of human hubris

Alexievich: “the wonderful civilization turned into garbage” referring to the Fukushima Triple meltdowns…

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Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature, called the nuclear catastrophes at Chernobyl and Fukushima events that people cannot yet fully fathom and warned against the hubris that humans have the power to conquer nature.

The 68-year-old Belarusian writer was in Tokyo at the invitation of researchers at the University of Tokyo, where she gave a lecture on Friday. More than 200 people attended.

The Nobel laureate, who writes in Russian, is known for addressing dramatic and tragic events involving the former Soviet Union World War II, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the 1991 collapse of the communist state.

Her style is distinctive in that she presents the testimonies of ordinary people going through traumatic experiences as they speak, without intruding on their narratives.

Alexievich, who visited the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido in 2003, recalled a remark by an official there that a catastrophe like Chernobyl would not happen in Japan because “Japanese are well-prepared for quakes and are not drunken, unlike Russians.”

But 10 years later, the wonderful civilization turned into garbage,” she said through a Russian-Japanese interpreter, referring to the 2011 Fukushima core meltdowns.

Humans have occupied a position in nature that they should not. It is impossible for humans to conquer nature.

Nature is now rebelling against humans. We need a philosophy for humans and nature to live together,” she said.

Referring to the policies of Japan and other countries to stick with nuclear power even after Chernobyl and Fukushima, she said: “I think that, unless we change our thinking, nuclear power generation will continue.”

Alexievich also said that documenting catastrophes like Chernobyl and Fukushima, whose effects will last for decades, is a big burden for writers. Listening to the voices of people affected by a catastrophe is like being forced to relive it, she explained.

Yet, pointing out that fictional works on Chernobyl, such as novels and movies, have not been successful, she stressed the importance of collecting the voices of citizens.

A catastrophe has not yet been incorporated into culture. The only language that has been able to convey a catastrophe is testimonies (by people who have experienced it), she said.

She cited the story of a Soviet pilot who died of radiation exposure after splashing sand over the radiation-spewing Chernobyl plant. She remembers him as telling her: “I could not understand what I saw with my eyes. You will not understand, either. But you must record it and hand it down to future generations. Then they may understand it.”

Alexievich acknowledged that people today live in a difficult era.

People are looking to the past to find solutions for today’s problems. This trend is testified to by the rise of conservatism. Never before in the past has the vulnerability of democracy manifested itself so clearly,” she said.

Remembering that even German fascism and Soviet communism are gone, intellectuals need to encourage people so that they will not despair.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/27/national/nobel-winning-belarusian-writer-alexievich-speaks-nuclear-disasters-future-human-hubris

November 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment

Nuclear disasters and “normalization” of contaminated areas

Fukushima 311 forever remembered

Translated by Kingsley Osborn

Political, economic, health, democratic and ethical

The nuclear lobby is beginning to openly assert that the evacuation of populations affected by a major nuclear accident is too expensive, is the source of lots of hassles, accidents, despair families, ruin the local economy.
To some additional cancers it will not be worth it to impose populations.

Sezin TOPÇU is PhD in sociology of science and technology, she is a researcher at the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) and teaches at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS). She is the author of “Nuclear France. The art of governing disputed technology “(Le Seuil, 2013) and co-edited the book” Another story of the postwar boom. Modernization and pollution disputes in France after the war “(with Christophe Bonneuil Céline and Pessis, La Découverte, 2013).

Here is the introduction to his analysis:
Minimizing impacts of a catastrophic nuclear accident is set to become a classic of our time, and not only in countries where the presence of nuclear installations is important, such as France, or in countries that have already undergone an accident, such as Japan and Belarus, but also in countries that do not. This minimization, which seems to impose forcefully, is the ability to “resilience” of specialists in nuclear, that is to say, industrialists, nuclear states, and certain regulatory bodies, both national and international.

How the specialists in nuclear-they managed to trivialize the radioactive wrong with that? By what means, strategies and watchwords governing bodies have managed to formulate the problem in terms of evacuation procedures and even its legitimacy, when we should collectively discuss the legitimacy to continue to make use of facilities that have potential for processing and destruction unparalleled in the territories, natural resources, living species, and human body?
from these questions, this paper aims to contribute to the emergence of a political debate and citizen which is long overdue, around the issue of contaminated territories in case of nuclear accident.

Three Mile Island? The French nuclear officials there saw immediately that an “incident” or a “glitch”. Chernobyl? In 1996 again, the World Health Organization (WHO) only accounted for 32 deaths. Fukushima? The disaster paradoxically accelerated the offensive of the Japanese nuclear industry for exports. No other sector causes, accident, such bitter controversy and permanent (with expertise, evidence / no-evidence, observations, assessments and also contrasting and contradictory), on health impacts experienced by affected populations.

Beyond the very serious consequences on the health of populations, whose proof or recognition are made difficult due to the latency that require radiation-induced diseases to manifest itself, but also the secret or active factory ignorance that often surround them, a nuclear accident also means the sacrifice of entire territories.
the challenge for specialists in nuclear, since the 1990s at least, is indeed to minimize the sacrifice in the eyes of public opinion. To ensure that the renunciation of land does not occur, or only take place only temporarily. A instrumentalize, for this suffering, certainly real but no singular evacuees to believe that those who remain on their land, even though they would offer more than enough healthy living conditions, suffer for nothing. A claim that may well “learn to live” with ambient radioactivity.

The first part of this note reviews the genesis of panel discussions, legal arrangements and managerial tools for the management of contaminated territories. This is to recall that the unmanageable nature of damage caused by a major nuclear accident has been recognized by the nuclear experts in the 1950s, which has historically conditioned the doctrine prevailing today, whereby post-accident measures (including the abandonment of contaminated areas) will necessarily be limited or should be optimized.

The second part of the note looks at how the contaminated territories have been effectively treated in post-Chernobyl and post-Fukushima. Socio-economic and geo-political criteria that influence how to design the future of the evacuated areas, their status, and they could not “return to normal” are analyzed here.

The last part of the note stresses the importance of official strategies to psychologizing disasters to minimize abandonment of contaminated land, but also to push into the background the prospect of a fair assessment of the health damage caused in the event accident.

To read the entire article: The Show as PDF (400KB) The view on the EPF website

The website of the Foundation for Political Ecology: http://www.fondationecolo.org/

Note:
We’ve been warned: the next nuclear accident, we will be strongly urged to stay or return to live on contaminated territories.

Catastrophes nucléaires et « normalisation » des zones contaminées

http://www.vivre-apres-fukushima.fr/catastrophes-nucleaires-et-normalisation-des-zones-contaminees/

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment