On the 11th March 2011 one of the most violent earthquakes ever, followed by a devastating tsunami, hit Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, damaging its security and cooling systems. Over the course of a few days the core of reactors 1, 2 and 3 started to melt, releasing massive quantities of radioactive material into the air and ocean.
Tepco, the company managing the reactor, and the Japanese government tried to buy time with false truths and omissions, partly due to their total unpreparedness to deal with the situation. In the meantime the radioactive fallout contaminated 8% of the territory of Japan, forcing 160 thousand people to evacuate their homes.
From the 20th April 2011, the Japanese Government created a prohibited area in a radius of 20 km around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the so-called “No-Go Zone”, where access was prohibited to everybody, especially journalists and photographers. Contamination spreads in a random manner within this area, as it does outside this zone: there are highly contaminated areas up to 80km for the plant, including parts of the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama. 2 million people currently live in this area, and now risk illness caused by the continuous exposure to low doses of radiation through inhalation or ingestion of radioactive particles.
In the first year of isolation the prohibited access area has become an empty tomb, violated by everybody: nuclear plant workers working for safety, people going back to their houses with special authorization to go through memories and radiation, old people who do not want to leave their houses, people entering illegally to save abandoned animals, thieves stealing all they can lay their hands on, photographers and journalists who’ve come this far to tell the world about the solitude, desolation and invisible destruction caused by nuclear power.
Despite the massive contamination, life still goes on within the “No-Go Zone” and in that sort of “nuclear limbo” spreading 60 km outside the no go zone, where people do not know whether to stay, and learn to live with the radiation, or leave forever.
The story is far from over, and it’s going to take a lot more before we understand what will be the real consequences of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
My work documents the beginning of this tragedy.