Fukushima Ghost Towns

An empty shopping street is seen in Tomioka town, inside the exclusion zone of a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture, January 15, 2012. STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive007206.

In some ways, nuclear power seems to be the energy of the future. It doesn’t give off greenhouse gases. A small amount of fuel can power it for a large amount of time. And, for the most part, its pretty safe.

But when things go really wrong at a nuclear power plant, they go REALLY wrong. See, there’s this small problem of nuclear radiation. And when a nuclear reactor really melts down a lot of radiation is given off. Something about radiation is much more scary, much more insidious than any other hazard to human health.

Its this fear of a silent death that shows in the newly formed ghost towns around Fukushima. In the face of a wildfire, perhaps some people stay behind to defend their homes. But against radiation there is no defense, and so everyone leaves.

26 April 2011 - Kawauchi, Japan - (Eng) Main crossing of the ghost town. SOUTEYRAT JEREMIE/SIPA/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: sipaphotosthree377070.

A utility pole which was damaged by March 11's earthquake and tsunami is seen at a railway station in Okuma town, inside of the 20km (12 miles) radius around the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive062840.

An ostrich which had escaped from a farm walks past a car in Tomioka town, inside the exclusion zone of a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture. STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive007256.

A destroyed crossing bar on the Joban line railway is seen near Futaba station in Futaba town, inside the exclusion zone of a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture. STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive007235.

SEARCH KEYWORD "FUKUSHIMA" TO SEE ALL IMAGES PXP900-921. Road cracks caused by an earthquake are seen in an empty shopping street in Tomioka town, inside the exclusion zone of a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture. STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive007210.

If they do return, its only for a brief period. And they have to wear radiation suits, making what should be a normal activity look like a scene from a horror/sci-fi movie.

July 24, 2011 - Okuma, Japan - Residents of Okuma-cho prays during a memorial service for victims of the March 11 disaster in Okuma, next to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. jZUMA Press/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: zumawirewestphotosfive395932.

Apr. 11, 2011 - Minamisoma, Fukushima, Japan - Police wearing protective suits search for victims inside the deserted evacuation zone of Minamisoma. Minamisoma is located between 20 and 30 km from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and residents in the city are directed to evacuate or stay inside their homes with windows shut. jZUMA Press/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: zumawireworldphotosfour215529.

A journalist walks around an empty street during a temporary return visit by evacuees to Okuma town, inside of the 20km radius around the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture, February 12, 2012. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: rtrlfive062851.

Looking at these images makes one wonder whether the risks associated with nuclear energy are worth the gains. Some people don’t think so.

Fukushima sign, the site of the Japanese nuclear disaster, as part of the protest against the nuclear CASTOR transport, is placed by demonstrators who gather in Hitzacker, Germany, 25 November 2011. HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA/Newscom. Find it at Newscom: epaphotos204704.

But the thing is, if we were to shut off all nuclear power plants where would we get our energy from? Coal/natural gas/wood isn’t going to last us forever. There are only so many rivers we can dam. And do we really want to live on a planet stripped of all its resources for electricity’s sake? Its a hard question to answer. Especially in the context of disasters like Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Nonetheless, my heart goes out to those people forced from their homes. And I hope they will be able to return in the near future without the fear of radiation poisoning.

You might be interested in these other blogs about the Japan earthquake that caused this mess:

Nearly One Year Since Japan’s Devastating Tsunami

POTY Stories: Japan

One Week Later: Japan Surviving

Pictures of the Week: 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Japan

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