Environmental Destruction and the Social Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Monday, July 14, 2014: 2:30 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Ken FUJIKAWA , Department of Sociology, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is sometimes called as the worst environmental pollution in Japan. However, the social impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has particular features different from other previous environmental pollution cases such as Minamata disease. In this paper I’d like to point out the problems of the refugees from the highly radiation-contaminated area in Fukushima from the perspective on the social structure of pollution victims based on the sociological study of the cases of the ‘kogai’ or the industrial pollution in Japan.

In most cases of ‘kogai’, although it took many years for a human damage to be identified as a pollution related disease, the seriousness of the human damage was perceived. Whereas in case of the low dose exposure in the Fukushima disaster, it's impacts to human health have not been clarified yet and still controversial. At this point, in Fukushima prefecture, more than 150 thousand of people were forced to evacuate from their community soon after the accidents. Recently the national government is trying to shift a focusing point to return and rebuild the communities.

In relation with the evacuation, even family members have to be forced the separation. For example some mothers have taken refuge far away from Fukushima with her children, left their husbands for their jobs in Fukushima. Since there is no credible health standard for the radioactive contaminations, each of them has to make very difficult decision independently. These difficulties might bring the deep cleavages in human relationships within communities as well as within families.

Social stresses of refugees and residents are related with their previous attitudes and sentiments to nuclear facilities in the area. In comparison with the study of the victims of the past ‘kogai’, I will discuss this connection and their anxiety of being neglected their damages.