Life inside Fukushima six years after nuclear meltdown
Exactly six years have passed since a terrible disaster struck Fukushima prefecture in Japan and rendered it a dangerous and inhabitable place.
On March 11th 2011, a large tsunami hit the Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant, causing its reactors to malfunction and melt. This lead to a pressure buildup in the reactor halls, which caused a massive explosion that spewed radioactive particles into the air, contaminating the entire region. Around 160.000 people were evacuated and internally displaced. A 30-km wide Exclusion zone was set up around the power plant to prevent people and wildlife from coming into contact with the deadly radiation.
The only humans permitted into the area were plant workers, authorities, survey teams and former residents who were allowed to visit and take care of their former homes. And while human presence in Fukushima decreased over the years, wildlife started to flourish.
Empty and abandoned warehouses, food stores and homes which are not safe for humans anymore, have become a big shelter and playground for all sorts of animals. Unlike humans, animals have a higher degree of radiation tolerance. They can live in irradiated areas dangerous to humans without suffering from radiation poisoning or mutations.
This has been proved in Chernobyl, where world’s first Exclusion zone was set up in 1986 after a nuclear incident, similar to the one in Fukushima, forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate, leaving a whole wooded region for animals to take over. Studies conducted on horses and dogs left over in Chernobyl indicate that radiation had no effects on their health and their fertility.
And just like in Chernobyl, the first animals to call Fukushima their home were dogs and cats who were left by their former owners. Several packs of stray dogs were registered in the Fukushima prefecture and surrounding villages. They were given food and shelter by various animal rights activists and ecologists surveying the area.
Some time later, boars were also spotted in the area. But unlike dogs and cats, and even their domesticated cousins, these proved to be a growing problem to residents of nearby villages and power plant workers as well.
On top of that, these animals have been gorging themselves on plants contaminated with radioactive elements from the disaster site, prompting a government ban on eating them. A team of hunters was hired by authorities with a goal to catch or kill wild boars which have come too close to human settlements.
Tamotsu Baba, the Mayor of Namie warns that if they don’t bring the are under human control, the entire region could be at risk from getting poisoned by radioactive meat. “If we don’t get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable”, Baba explains.
Authorities have recently launched a massive operation to rebuild infrastructure and reestablish human presence in Fukushima. Several thousands of former evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes after six years of waiting.