On June 15, 2012, ten women from among the hundreds of Fukushima grandmothers in Tokyo protesting the projected start of the Oi nuclear power plant were ushered in to what they imaged was Prime Minister Noda’s cabinet office to submit a letter of request to Prime Minister Noda.
This is a word-for-word transcript of their testimony to the ministers:
First woman: Please don’t restart the Oi Nuclear Power plant. Since the accident at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triggered by the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 11 last year, vast areas of Fukushima Prefecture have been contaminated with high-level radiation. The conditions [at] the accident site are yet to be stabilized and. . .radiation leakage still continues. We are forced to live in fear every day. We hear that the safety measures at Oi Nuclear Power Plant are worse even than [at] the crippled Fukushima Daiichi [site]. Forcing the restart means losing many things and smearing salt on the emotional scars of Fukushima people who are still suffering. We absolutely cannot allow the restart of Oi Nuclear Power Plant. Please don’t restart it. This is out request.
Second woman: Well, honestly---we wish we could meet the Prime Minister himself, but I hope you will convey our messages to him as they are.
Third woman: it is a great agony to live in a contaminated area. I lost hope to live. But to tell everyone about this agony…now I am trying to live for that purpose. I don‘t want anyone to go through what I am going through.
Fourth woman: Did anyone take responsibility for Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi accident? Who did? I don't think anyone did. When I heard Prime Minister Noda say, "I will restart nuclear plants on my responsibility," I realized he's living in a different world. I couldn't understand what he was saying at all. You know restarting is really impossible. We are struggling hard as we speak, to suppress our unsurpressable feelings. Please take our words to your heart and convey them to the Prime Minister.
Fifth woman: I wanted to raise my children with the safest possible meals, so I started organic farming. But all my paddies and fields have been contaminated.
Every day, every time I prepare a meal, I wonder if it's OK to feed my children with cesium becquerel-[contaminated] vegetables. I am worried [that] this might affect my children in the future. Can you understand this feeling? How many times have you come to Fukushima? How much of that contaminated air have you breathed in? How many times has Mr. Noda come? How many hours has he spent there? We are there every day, and every time we see helicopters flying over us, we really fear that something might be [going] wrong with the nuclear plant again. That's how it is in Fukushima. I don't think he understands this reality at all. If he does, he [won't ever] talk about restarting Oi nuclear power plant [again.]
Voices of the women: That's right. That's right!
Fifth woman (cont'd): Why doesn't he try to understand? Why doesn't he come and see Fukushima (crying). Prime Minister Noda is said to be the leader of this country, but he's inhuman and I can never forgive him. I think he's wrong. Please tell him so. Please be sure to tell him. Please.
Sixth woman: Ever since then, worrying about my children occupies my mind so I cannot listen to music. I haven't been able to listen to music since then. I have been tense both mentally and physically. In late June last year, I started to suffer from various health problems one after another. The problems are exactly the same as those found in villages around Chernobyl. I feel really uncomfortable when I have an armpit ache [that lasts] two days. We were already exposed to a critical amount of radiation when the levels were high. Now we are forced to be exposed to radiation internally every day. That's why restarting Oi Nuclear Plant should never, ever be allowed! It's a sin to do it without preparations! And if an accident occurs, that will heap sin upon sin! Fukushima demonstrates it! Please tell him so!
Seventh woman: Now [you are] listening to these women from Fukushima, don't you think they are wonderful? During the past year, women in Fukushima relearned everything. Everything since the beginning of human history. Relearned how foolish humans are. How we have always fought each other. How we dug out the worst thing, the thing called uranium [out of the earth,] and how we started to use it. We have learned these things more than any scientists. We are really risking our lives. You may think I'm exaggerating, but we are here, risking our lives.
Eighth woman: I have an only daughter. She had a baby in late January last year, and then the accident occurred. We [wanted] to flee and [we] tried to figure out the way to do [it.] But at that time in Fukushima [there was so much] confusion. There was no gasoline, no public transportation. The bullet trains had stopped. The airport stopped operating. There was no way for us to evacuate. So for a while we were compelled to. . . be exposed radiation at home. During a little more than a month's time, my grandchild, my daughter and I were [crying]….Excuse me…I didn't mean to be this way. I'm sorry.
Voices of the women: It's OK, it's OK.
Eighth woman (cont'd): My highest priority is to protect children. If you have money to spend on decontamination, please use it for evacuating children [before anything else!]
Ninth woman: We are really living in fear. Please imagine. For example, you can't dry your clothes outside. You can't dry your bedding outside. You can't take a deep breath. I have grandchildren, but I can't let them come to Fukushima, to my city of Koriyama because the radiation levels are [so] high. And in the meantime, swimming classes are starting at school, and a lot of radioactive particles are stuck to the walls of the swimming pool. Concrete walls. A little scrubbing won't remove it. A lot of cesium has accumulated on the bottom. Water itself [has] become' scary. We are exposed to radiation day after day. Particularly children [who] are at higher risk. I think you already know by now how dangerous radiation is. Please [learn] more about Fukushima. If you do, you will never even begin to think about re-starting [the Oi Reactors]. Please address this issue as a human being.
Tenth woman: Prime Minister Noda, what are you looking at? What are you looking at when you decide your policies? You are not looking at us at all! You put the economy first. You are such a shallow prime minister, [someone] who tries to restart the Oi Plant with shallow words: "It's safe." I can't forgive you. You said, "the ultimate responsibility rests with me." What do you mean by "the ultimate responsibility?" Does it mean [just] giving the go-ahead? How are you going to take responsibility after that? Can you say you are willing to face a life sentence if anything goes wrong? I think you are an extremely insincere prime minister.
Now it is the turn of the male-authorities to speak. (One figure in a suit stands silently next to the speaker; behind him, a safety-helmeted worker.)
Bureaucrat speaker (After a great deal of bowing and clearing of his throat he begins): Thank you, uh, everyone, uh, for bringing the letter of request, uh, when you are, uh, very busy. We have just heard, uh, what might be called a "sincere outcry from the soul," uh, from each of you. Uh, we will do our best to, uh, compile your "fervent feelings" together with your letter of request and, uh, hand it to. . . .Well, we're not going to hand it directly to the Prime Minister, but to his secretaries. . . .
Tenth woman: Why don't you hand it directly to him. If you can't, please bring Prime Minister Noda here now. What we have told you is not our "feelings." but our actual damages.
Another woman: I would like to believe you will convey our messages directly to Prime Minister Noda so they are felt in his heart. I hope we'll have a chance to hear what he thinks about them and how he answers to them directly from him.
The following day, Saturday, June 16, Prime Minister Noda authorized Kansai Electric Company to re-start the Oi Reactors.
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