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Busting myths about Fukushima No. 1

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OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. - I am writing this article in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, a small town on the northeastern coast of Honshu. Less than four hours by train or car from Tokyo, Okuma was unknown to people outside Japan until March 11, 2011. Where do you think I am? Yes, I’m inside the compound of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Since the mega-quake and tsunami devastated the Pacific coastline of northeastern Japan seven years ago, people in this country have been asking each other, “Where were you and what were you doing on 3/11?” as many Americans still do over 9/11. At that moment, I was giving a speech in central Tokyo and I thought the ceiling of the meeting room would fall.

My daughter, kindly requested by the American firm she was with to leave Tokyo for Osaka, adamantly insisted that she would stay with her family. After the tsunami, my wife and I often worked as volunteers in the disaster zone. None of us, however, had a chance to see the four nuclear reactors that survived the quake but not the tsunami.

I was half excited but half nervous before visiting the plant, because I was no different from the ordinary men and women, in Japan and abroad, who learned about and often ridiculed all the misjudgments and flip-flops by the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., the plant’s operator.

There are many myths about Fukushima No. 1. Skeptics claim, for example, that “the plant is still dangerous because the accident can be repeated,” or “the water is contaminated even now and too difficult to clean up.” Others say they suspect that “the........

© The Japan Times