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Mayor of Town That Hosted Fukushima Nuclear Plant Says He Was Told: “No Accident Could Ever Happen”

We speak with Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of the town of Futaba where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. The entire town was rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear disaster. We ask him what went through his mind after the earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. “It was a huge surprise, and at the time I was just hoping nothing that had happened at the nuclear power plant. However, unfortunately there was in fact an accident there,” Idogawa recalls. He made a decision to evacuate his town before the Japanese government told people to leave. “If I had made that decision even three hours earlier, I would have been able to prevent so many people from being exposed to radiation.” For years he encouraged nuclear power development in the area; now he has become a vocal critic. He explains that the government and the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, always told him, “’Don’t worry, Mayor. No accident could ever happen.’ Because this promise was betrayed, this is why I became anti-nuclear.”
Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Music from the film Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. This is the third day of our broadcast from Tokyo, Japan, and the final day. We are talking about moving in on the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Nineteen thousand people died or went missing on that day, March 11th, 2011, and the days afterwards, when the earthquake triggered a tsunami, and three of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down.

We’re joined right now by Futaba’s former mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa. For years, he embraced nuclear power. Now he has become a vocal critic. He is featured in the film Nuclear Nation.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! And thank you for traveling two hours to join us here at the studios of NHK International for this conversation. Mayor, explain what happened on that day—special thanks to Mary Joyce, who is translating for you today—on that day, March 11, 2011, and the days afterwards, when you decided it was time for the thousands of people who lived in your town, Futaba, to leave.

KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] On that day, there was an earthquake of the scale of something we’d never experienced before. It was a huge surprise. And at the time, I was just hoping that nothing had happened to the nuclear power plant. However, unfortunately, there was in fact an accident there. And then I worked with the many residents, and thinking about how I could fully evacuate them from the radiation.

AMY GOODMAN: You made a decision to evacuate your town before the Japanese government told the people in the area to do this, but not before the U.S. government told Americans to leave the area and other governments said the same.
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