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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Yumiko Kikuno's Report on "Rokkashomura Rhapsody" Screening in Yokohama

Film Rokkashomuramura Rhapsody and Talk by director Hitomi Kamanaka in Yokohama, Japan

Stop Rokkashomura! This is a movement that has to be spread and grown not only in Japan but also through the world. Once the nuclear reprocessing plant at Rokkashomura, on the northern tip of Japan’s main island, starts commercial operation, it will discharge EVERY DAY the same amount of annual radioactive pollution emitted by one nuclear plant. Researchers estimate that the Rokkashomura reprocessing facility would release 240 times as much radioactive particles as a nuclear reactor does into the air and 300 tons of radioactive waste water to the ocean every year ( RIZINE, 2007). Scientists and activists have claimed that a vast amount of radioactive contamination from Rokkashomura would destroy environment and give critical damage to present and future generations over centuries to come. Surprisingly, most Japanese do not know this issue and are not informed about it from media. To raise awareness of this issue, one of supporters for Stop Rokkashomura and a film director, Hitomi Kamanaka has filmed a documentary, “Rokkashomura Rhapsody.”

In May 11th, 2008, I attended the film screening of Rokkashomura Rhapsody held by a group called “Tea Party for Pregnant Mothers, Babies and Moms” in Yokohama, Japan. Asami Pritchard, a member of the group said, “I want especially mothers to watch this film. Although some of our members did not have enough sleep because their babies cried at night, they made a great effort to make and hand out fliers for this event.” I thought their promotion paid off because I saw not only many mothers but also fathers with their children and babies in the venue.

This documentary shows many complicated factors that contribute to the divided community of Rokkashomura, providing opinions from both supporters and opponents of the reprocessing facility. I think it is important to know why people support the plant because it would be impossible to find creative solutions without listening to supporters’ ideas.

Rokkashomura in Aomori Prefecture, on the north of Japan, with a population of 12,000, was developed by people who came back from Manchuria in China or Sakhalin in Russia after World War Ⅱ. The Japanese government purchased their lands to invite the biggest industrial plan, but the project never became reality and the nuclear reprocessing facility was built there instead. A nuclear reprocessing plant does not generate any electricity, but produces plutonium made of nuclear wastes collected from nuclear power plants. Plutonium is a highly toxic substance and a material of nuclear bombs.

Opponents say, “I want to keep this land healthy to pass on to the next generation.” “No more Chernobyl !” “Renewable resources, tourism and local industry would help Rokkashomura to develop, not a reprocessing plant.” Keiko Kikukawa has been working on Stop Rokkashomura movement, running her tulip farm. She has realized that she has to expose her life to people not to be treated as unpatriotic and called an extremist and she also wants to save her land in a way she can enjoy. Now, many young people have visited the tulip farm to help her.

Supporters say,”I cannot complain because energy is necessary in terms of economic development.” “I cannot help it because it is a decision done by the government.” “The facility has given me a job.” A man has decided to work at the Rokkashomura reprocessing plant to raise his two children because he cannot make a living by fishing. Many other supporters’ opinions reveal complicated backgrounds that make most residents ignore this issue.

After the film screening, Hitomi kamanaka said in her speech,”I filmed this documentary because I did not want to think that there was nothing I could do.” When she went to Iraq in 1998, she saw many children with cancer died because they did not have enough medical treatment. Then, she found that economic sanction prevented Iraq from importing anticancer drugs because anticancer drug could be a material of mass-destruction weapons. She also came to know the reason why the number of children who suffered from cancer had drastically increased was internal radiation exposure caused by depleted uranium weapons made of nuclear wastes from nuclear power plants. She was shocked to know that there still were many people who were exposed to radiation by weapons even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She thought that Japanese, whose energy consumption was the second in the world, could not say to people in Iraq, “We need electricity, so it cannot be helped!”

She also pointed out that most Japanese are not informed of the fact that Rokkashomura has been burdened with all sorts of energy issues in Japan. In addition, she did not want this documentary to bring new conflicts to the community because whether one was a supporter or an opponent, one has their own story of how they reached their decision. And then, she shared with the audience some episodes: she was refused interview to Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited and also spent about a year until the supportered agreed to be interviewed.

Members of this screening event have changed their awareness and started to do what they can do. Film Rokkashomura Rhapody is a strong tool to connect people for the movement of Stop Rokkashomura!

Yumiko Kikuno, Peace Journalist

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