COLD SHUTDOWN: Fukushima One Year After

Narration, Titles & English Dialog

00:18 (VO & TITLE) On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was hit with a tsunami. The wave swamped the plant, taking out the main power and the backup system. Without cooling the plant’s reactors quickly started to melt down.

00:42 (VO & TITLE) By the time the situation was brought under partial control, three of the reactors had melted through. A series of explosions in the reactors spread radioactive fallout across Fukushima prefecture, leaving “hotspots” of radioactivity as far away as Tokyo, 225 kilometers away.

01:09 (VO & TITLE) In the aftermath of the explosion, the Japanese government ordered the evacuation of towns within 20, and later 30 kilometers of the damaged plant.

01:18 (VO & TITLE) The US ambassador suggested American citizens should evacuate an area of 50 miles, or 80 kilometers around the Daiichi plant.

01:31 (VO) It was at this point one could first detect an opening void in the flow of information from official sources.

01:43 (VO & TITLE) In the months after the disaster, many maps were created showing the extent of radiation contamination across the Fukushima region. The government used these maps to support its contention that most of the area could be de-contaminated, and evacuation was not necessary.

02:05 (VO & TITLE) Citizens of Fukushima outside the 30 km ‘exclusion zone’ were left to make up their own minds whether or not to evacuate.

02:14 (VO) At stake are the lives and health of about two million residents of the region.


02:27 (VO) On December 16th, 2011, Japanese Prime Minister Noda announced the “cold shutdown” of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Noda was attempting to suggest the government had things under control. But with molten uranium still pooling under the Daiichi Plant, it was clear that one of the biggest casualties of the disaster was the cozy blanket of denial and reassurances that had covered Japan’s nuclear program since its inception.

02:58 VO: I’m heading north, following the route of the famous poet Basho. Basho started his journey with a haiku: The Spring is Passing. The Birds all mourn. And fishes’ eyes are wet with tears.

03:35 (VO): Radiation is invisible. But how to represent what you can’t see?

03:47 (VO) You can’t see it, but you can still imagine it… going through a body. You can still think about it, coating the winter rice fields.

04:10 (VO) Unlike Basho, I’m traveling with a geiger counter. My kind friend Hajime at Our Planet TV gave me a quick lesson. The counter measures micro-sieverts. Two micro-sieverts per hour means ten mille-sieverts per year, the sort of reading I might expect to find in Fukushima City.

04:47 (TITLE) Fukushima City

05:07 (VO) Fukushima City is about 150 miles north of Tokyo, and about 40 miles inland from Fukushima Daiichi Powerplant. I’ve come here hoping to find out how ordinary citizens are coping with this dual disaster that has left their region covered with nuclear fallout. My first destination is in a downtown shopping center.

05:32 (VO) The Citizens’ Radiation Monitoring Station was set up with donations and volunteer help in October 2011, over half a year after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Japan has an extensive national health care system, but it is here that people come to bring their children for a checkup, and get independent information about radiation hazards.

05:53 (TITLE) Today’s Air Contamination (visible in Japanese)

06:03 (TITLE) Geiger Counter (for checking external contamination)

06:25 (VO) Because the clients are children and cannot be filmed, I asked to be tested myself.

06:34 (VO) The full body counter measures radiation inside the body in becquerels per kilogram.

06:42 Are there sometimes high measurements? (Translation Marty’s Japanese)

06:51 (Lower 1/3) Koudai Tanji

Citizens’ Radiation Monitoring Center

07:03 (VO) Bequerels are a measure of radioactive decay, used for food and other solid matter. Sieverts measure exposure, the biological impact on the human body. When you get a bequerel measurement for a person, you need to translate it into sieverts, and it’s not easy. One study suggested that the 28 bequerels per kilogram could add up to an additional one mille-sievert per year, the limit for civilian exposure in many countries, not including Japan.

07:42 (TITLE) Etsumi Saito

Citizens’ Radiation Monitoring Center

07:42 Etsumi: It depends on the food. Mushroom and kudamono.

07:49 (TITLE) Hiromi Abe

Citizens’ Radiation Monitoring Center

07:57 (VO) Nuclear technology is considered complex, something typically better left in the hands of experts. But here I found ordinary citizens who’ve taken on the role of scientists and technicians, determined to develop an understanding of the disaster’s impact for themselves and their communities.

08:15 Using the equipment requires rigorous procedures, but interpreting the results is even more complex. There are few good standards for chronic radiation exposure. Fewer for internal dosages, and fewer still for children.

08:48 (VO) In fact, the German guidelines, developed after Chernobyl, are very low by the standards of the Japanese government, which dropped its limit from 500 to 100 bequerels per kilogram in April 2012.

10:05 (TITLE): Hamoru Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Center

10:08 (VO) These greens are organic, but not local. The discussion is a typical one about getting your kids to eat their vegetables, but what looks like a greengrocers is actually both a center for organic food, and a space for education on nuclear issues.

10:43 (Lower 1/3) Mieko Toyama

Hamoru Vegetable Cafe

11:05 (VO): Eating food rich in salts is a defense against the free-floating cesium in the local environment. Cesium, I learned, takes the place of potassium in the human body.

11:52 (TITLE) Decontamination

Fukushima City

December, 2011

11:52 (VO) The government policy for Fukushima Prefecture is decontamination rather than evacuation. There have been local efforts, but I was surprised to see the official decontamination process just getting started seven months after the disaster.

12:07 (VO) According to the Science Ministry radioactive cesium covers 30,000 square kilometers, or 8% of the land surface of the country. The government has given out $13 billion in contracts for this massive cleanup, the bulk of that money going to the same three construction firms that built 45 of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants. Many of the workers are casual labor, lured from other parts of the country by the promise of high wages.

12:46 (VO) METI, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is the bureaucratic heart of Japan’s economic might, and the home of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

13:00 (VO) The Fall of 2011 saw the rise of Occupy movements all over the planet, mainly powered by a young generation of protesters.

13:09 (VO) Here in Tokyo, the occupiers are a group of women, who made news by taking a stand on Government turf.

13:27 (Lower 1/3) Chieko Shiina

Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation.

13:47 October 27, 2011

Tokyo, Japan

13:47 (VO) The protests started in October when women from Fukushima staged a sit in at the Ministry demanding the evacuation of children from all contaminated areas. The sit in attracted international attention to the fact that over half a year after the 3.11 disaster, the Japanese government had still failed to convince significant segments of the population that they were dealing seriously with the disaster. The delegation of women met with Government officials.

15:26 (Lower 1/3) Mr. Ueda

Nuclear Sufferers Life Support Team

Japan Cabinet Office

15:38 (TITLE) Japanese Parliament Office Building

Tokyo December 19, 2011.

15:42 (VO) Throughout the Fall, reports continued to emerge of incompetence and poor planning on the part of government regulators, and the Tokyo Electric Power company. Meanwhile, hearings continued in Tokyo under the auspices of environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, Japan. There were many speakers, but few from the government seemed to be listening, exactly one MP in the case of the this hearing.

16:11 (TITLE) Save Our Children From Radiation! (translation of Japanese visible)

16:12 (VO) One of the speakers from Fukushima City offered an alternative evacuation plan that would move children from high radiation areas to less affected areas while keeping them in Fukushima Prefecture, allowing families to keep working, and sending their children to local schools. Mr. Kanno invited me to visit his neighborhood in Fukushima City.

16:18 (Lower 1/3) Yoshihiro Kanno

Save Watari Kids

16:41 (VO) The Watari District, with 16,000 people and three schools is a bedroom community just across the river from downtown Fukushima City. The fallout here is significantly higher than in other parts of town, prompting Mr. Kanno and his neighbors to push for a rethinking of the government’s approach.

16:44 (TITLE) Watari District, Fukushima City

17:01 (Lower 1/3rd) Yoshihiro Kanno

Save Watari Kids

17:52 (VO) To give me a sense of how high radiation levels can be, Mr. Kanno took me on a tour around his neighborhood. We stopped in a neighbor’s garden.

18:50 (TITLE) Mr. Kanno makes an arrangement with the family, which has two young children, to have the contaminated soil removed by the city.

20:47 (TITLE) Dou Hou Kindergarten Nihonmatsu City Fukushima Prefecture

20:53 (TITLE) Nihonmatsu City is 50 km. (30 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

21:13 (DIALOG) Kaori: Before the accident, there were just 100, and now ten students have already moved to other areas of Japan. And we have now 90… (looking at husband) 90?

21:27 Atsuyuki: 92.

21:28 (TITLE) Kaori and Atsuyuki Sasaki

Dou Hou Kindergarten

21:31 Kaori: Ah. 92 children, and maybe two added from Namie, which is within 30 kilometers of nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daiichi Genpatsu, so they had to move outside of the area.

22:02 Kaori: I don’t hear about big health issues, but… children are not able to play outside after the accident, maybe for half a year or so, in this kindergarten. You know, they are very stressed.

22:30 Kaori: Actually, we went, not myself, he (points at husband) went to Hokkaido with children during the summer vacation, to have a rest.

22:45 Kaori: In this area, is lower than the area around, because we have already cleaned the garden and over there we already cleaned. So… its lower than the street over there. If you go there with this (points to geiger counter) you can see it’s changing.

23:23 Kaori: Foods are contaminated. Forest, and all the walls of the houses, you know, the outside of the houses, everything is contaminated.

23:45 Kaori: Right now we are trying to remove the roof and exchange them to new one. We’ve already done garden, repaint the play equipment,

24:00 (TITLE) Six months after the disaster, the local government began issuing children dosimeter badges to measure cumulative radiation exposure.

24:07 Kaori: It started from September to the end of November, so for three months amount of radiation, we could check.

24:19 Martin: And so that information is now available to people here.

24:25 Kaori: Yes, yes. Actually yesterday my children got the results from school. And it says, my daughter 3.38 millisieverts for three months. That’s only outside radiational effect. And my son is 3.32 millisieverts.

24:54 Martin: That’s a little bit high.

24:55 Kaori: Yeah. Higher than the usual rate. Much higher than the usual rate. Because from September to November’s end, I think it was too late to know the result. I wanted to know right after the accident. It was much higher than now.

25:27 (TITLE) In April, 2011, the Ministry of Education notified local authorities that the standard for child exposure would be raised from 1 to 20 millisieverts per year.

25:34 (TITLE) 20 millisieverts per year is the standard used for nuclear power plant workers in Germany.

25:39 (TITLE) Kaori’s children are currently exposed to over 13 millisieverts per year based on their dosimeter readings.

26:00 (VO) Concerned about the possibility of radioactive contamination in the food of the children of Nihonmatsu, Kaori and her husband Atsuyuki got together with friends and relatives, and pooled resources. Here in Dake Hot Springs in the mountains near their home, they’ve set up a food contamination testing center. They call their group, “Team Nihonmatsu” (in English in original).

26:33 (TITLE) Koki Fukuda

Team Nihonmatsu Radiation Testing Center

26:40 Kaori: He is taking 60 bottles of milk and now he’s checking number 38.

In November, 2011, an anonymous caller informed Meiji Dairy, Japan’s largest milk producer, that a citizen’s group in Fukushima Prefecture had detected cesium in the company’s baby formula.

27:22 Kaori: Twelve of 38 are contaminated. The highest one is 28 or something. (bq/kg?)

27:40 Kaori: These are not checked yet. (LEAVE OUT)

27:43 Kaori: He first found the konomiruku is contaminated. He is the first man to find our.

27:50: Martin: Because that was a kind of big story.

27:55 So that’s why he’s getting some interview from newspapers.

28:08 Kaori: This is Meiji and he found this is contaminated so he checked the konomiruku and the yoghurt. Because it’s produced in the same factory.

28:26 (TITLE and VO) In December, 2011, Meiji, the largest dairy company in Japan, recalled 400,000 cans of baby formula. But only after Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, had picked up the story of Team Nihonmatsu’s discovery.

28:42 TITLE:

Tent Hiroba

Ministry of Industry, Trade & Economy

Tokyo, Japan

28:58 (Lower Third) Misao Mizuno

30:43 (TITLE) On January 15, 2012 Minister Edano ordered the eviction of the Fukushima Women’s Tent from Ministry grounds.

30:49 (TITLE) The next day, a crowd gathered, the police came, and the women refused to leave. As of March, 2012 they are still there.

31:00 (VO) The Japanese government, while proclaiming a nuclear free policy for the future, is re-opening reactors and continuing to build more. The US is building new reactors for the first time in decades. This film is a small piece in a larger mosaic, a new picture of the painful realities of nuclear power that people across Japan and elsewhere are starting to make for themselves – and for all of us.


Production Support





Democracy Now Japan



October 27th Video

courtesy of

pejorativeglut &



Kayoko Nakamura

Japanese Translation/Subtitles

Iki Nakagawa





Citizens’ Radioactivity

Measurement Station

Fukushima City


Save Watari Kids

Fukushima City



Fukushima Network for

Saving Children from


Mieko Toyama

Hamoru Vegetable

Distribution Center

Fukushima City



Douhou Kindergarten

Nihonmatsu City


Team Nihonmatsu

Radiation Testing Center

Dake Hotsprings

Narrow Road to the Deep North

Matsuo Basho

Translation: Tim Chilcott

Thanks to:



© 2012, Martin Lucas