【June 2015 No.383】Nuclear Power & Discrimination

At a symposium on discrimination sponsored by the Kyodan Buraku Liberation Center that was held in June 2014 at Wakamatsu Sakaemachi Church, Ms. A, a full-time rice farmer from Aizu, spoke as a mother. In the aftermath of the March 11 disaster, Ms. A began to study the issue of radiation on her own, as she was filled with concern about safety issues. Three months later in June 2011, she was introduced to the Aizu Radioactivity Information Center. At the time, Ms. A was very concerned about whether it was appropriate or not to begin spring planting. Although she was inclined not to plant, both the prefectural and local government officials instructed her to go ahead with planting because “if she did not plant, then she would not be able to receive reparation for lost income due to crop losses resulting from nuclear contamination.”

 

Feeling extremely conflicted over who would actually be able to purchase the rice, given the safety concerns, and over the reality that without planting there were be no possibility of compensation for losses due to contamination, she went ahead with planting. However, after conversing with her husband and family she realized, “I would never feed my children food that would endanger their health, nor could I do that to anyone else’s child.” As she had no means by which to determine its safety, she decided not to ship her produce.

 

However, following this, various conflicting opinions began to arise in the region. After her husband suggested that “the crops need to be thoroughly inspected,” they received numerous phone calls from other farmers in the region, complaining that he had voiced such an opinion. Meanwhile, farmers from other regions with concerns about how they might be impacted by public concerns over safety accused farmers from Fukushima of being “murderers.” Despite hundreds of thousands of yen spent to comply with stricter inspections by both the national and prefectural governments, both the consumers and the farmers remain dissatisfied with the current situation.

 

Ms. A ultimately decided to take on the challenge of combatting the problem of radiation on her own. The soil on her farm is made up of clay of such a quality that produces particularly delicious rice and also prevents radioactive isotopes from entering into the crops because it absorbs the cesium. Further, the mineral zeolite can be used in soil management to neutralize the acidity of the soil. Also, having been advised by the prefectural government that when soil is low in potassium, crops absorb higher amounts of cesium, Ms. A added potassium to the soil both during planting and during the hot days of summer.

As a result of these efforts, when the harvested crops were inspected in the fall, the levels were under one Becquerel per kilogram. In fact, almost all of the fields tested well within acceptable levels. Although her fields had indeed been contaminated by the radioactive fallout, the results gave her reason to push ahead with her efforts. In 2011, the government had set the levels for brown rice at 500 Bq/Kg. However, in farms with sandy soil rather than clay, a few fields did unexpectedly go over the limit for various reasons, but for most fields the levels were below 10 Bq/Kg.

 

Since the accident in March 2011, farms have been subjected to strict testing standards. In 2012, official government guidelines permitted foodstuffs at levels up to 100 Bq/Kg. Given that prior to the disaster, the level of radiation in rice was less that 0.03 Bq/Kg, there was much concern about allowing these levels in food for general consumption. Would there be a market for this rice, and who would actually purchase rice that had levels of 80 Bq/Kg? It was said that rice with these high levels of radiation would be purchased for scientific research. Ms. A states that no rice with these high levels of radiation is making its way into the market for general consumption at present. “I want to assure you that the farmers of Fukushima are taking the issue of radiation very seriously.”

 

However, it should also be noted that the problem of radiation also extends beyond Fukushima to the surrounding areas. “I am not able to say that there is no reason for concern.” Ms. A added, “I do believe the limits that the government set are too high; as for our own farm, we have set the acceptable level to be at 1.00 Bq/Kg.” She strongly believes that youngsters should not be in areas where there are high levels of radiation, so they need to be patient in their everyday lives. It is important to understand the science of radiation rather than to live in the fear that is created by ignorance. Agriculture in Fukushima stands on the forefront of the battle against the dangers of radioactivity. I hope that by sharing this information with the people of the Aizu Radioactivity Information Center, you will have a deeper understanding of our struggle, as together we combat the difficulties that have been thrust on all of us by this nuclear disaster. (Tr. AKO)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend),

February 2015 issue

(Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko)

 

原発という差別

2014 年6月に若松栄町教会で行なわれた差別を考えるシンポジウム(日本基督教団部落解放センター等主催)での、米農家の女性Aさんが、会津で働く米の専業農家であり、母親として証言した。

Aさんは、 2011年3月以来、安全に疑問をもって個人的に放射能の勉強を続け、同年6月に会津放射能情報センターに出会った。震災後悩んだの は、その春からの農作業を準備すべきかということであった。彼女は作りたくないと考えたが、県と市町村から、「今年農作物を作らなけ れば、最初から作っていなかったとみなされ、損害請求もできなくなる」と農作物を作るよう指示された。作らなければ補償もされない が、安全かわからないものを誰が買うのか、という葛藤の中で、農作業を始めざるを得なかった。しかし「我が子に危険なものは食べさせ たくないし、他のお子さんにも食べさせられない」と夫やその実家と話し合い、お米が放射性物質を取り込まないためにあらゆる対策を し、安全性が確認できない限り出荷はしないと決めた。しかしこの後、放射能に対する温度差が原因となって、地域でさまざまな対立が生 じていった。

当時は福島県 全体で安心・安全をアピールしていた為、放射能の危険性をめぐり農家同士が分断されてしまった。彼女の夫が、農家の集まりで「秋に収 穫したお米をきちんと検査すべきだ」と発言すると、苦情の電話がかかってきたこともあった。全国に米の個人販売もしていたが、「米作 りをどうするのか」との問い合わせが殺到し、中には「福島県の農家は人殺しだ」と言う人もいた。県や国よりも厳しい自主検査を、何十 万円も投資して行っているにも関わらず、農家からも消費者からも責められる厳しい状況が続いた。彼女達は放射能との闘いに挑んだ。幸 運にも彼らの土地は、美味しい米が出来ると言われる粘土質であった。さらに粘土質はセシウムを吸着し、作物へのセシウムの移行を防い だ。酸性の土壌はセシウムをより多く取り込むと知ると、酸性の土壌を中和するゼオライトという鉱物を使い、土壌の管理を徹底した。カ リウムが土壌に少ないと、農作物は代わりにセシウムを吸収するという県の指示により、カリウムを追肥として土壌に与え、夏の暑い日に も繰り返しカリウムをまいた。その結果、秋の収穫時に定量下限値1ベクレル/キロという厳しい検査を行い、ほとんどの田で不検出と なった。彼女達一家は放射性物質が土壌に降ったことに変わりないが、もう少し頑張ってみようと決めた。

国は2011 年当時、玄米に含まれる放射性セシウム濃度の暫定的な規制値を500ベクレル/キロと定めていた。しかし意外に、粘土質でない砂地で はいろいろな原因が重なり規制値を超えたところもあったものの、その周辺の田んぼでは、ほとんどが10ベクレル/キロ以下であったと いう。事故以来、福島県では、綿密な計算の上で農作業の指示を出している。国は2012年に、一般食品の暫定規制値を100ベクレル /キロとあらたに定めた。原発事故前の米の放射線量は0・03ベクレル/キロであったので、規制値以下でも以前と比較して高濃度の放 射性セシウムを含むお米が、一般の市場に流通しないか心配されているが、仮にお米が80ベクレル/キロある場合、業者は当然それを買 わない。そうしたお米は、研究機関や食品の放射能汚染の測定器を作る会社などが、調査や実験のために買い取ると言われている。現状で は、高濃度の放射性セシウムを含むお米が一般の食用米の市場に乗ることはほぼないと、彼女は言う。「福島の農家がものすごく神経質に なって農作物を作っていることを理解して、少しだけ安心してほしいのです。」

一方で、放射 能汚染の影響は周辺地域にも及んでいる。彼女は「私は、決して無闇に安心・安全だと思っているわけではありません。国の暫定規制値は 高いと考え、我が家では1ベクレル/キロを自主的な基準としています。子どもたちには、放射能がたまりやすい場所には行かないよう強 く言い聞かせており、日常生活で我慢させている面もあります。それでも、科学的な根拠や実態を知ることで、より心配をなくせるかもし れないと思っています。福島の農業はいま、放射能との闘いの最前線にあり、そこに立つ身として、自分も情報を発信していきたい、そし て、会津放射能情報センターに集まった人同士が、共に悩んで泣いて励まし合って闘っていけることを感謝したいと思います。」と語っ た。

(信徒の友2月 号より 川上善子KNL編集委員会委員長まとめ)