It has been almost three years since a major earthquake and tsunami led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, killing nearly 20,000 people and devastating the coastal and inland areas of Fukushima, Japan. Since then, questions remain unanswered about the health of thousands of people exposed to the radiation, the risks associated with the radiation leak and what’s being done to stop radioactive water from reaching the Pacific Ocean.
Next week, America Tonight presents an exclusive four-part investigative series about the real-world impacts of the disaster, efforts to return to normalcy in Fukushima and how the ongoing fallout could affect Americans' safety.
How do you get 150,000 people to return to homes that have been contaminated with radiation? In one town, more than a third of those who called Fukushima home have yet to return three years after Japan's nuclear disaster. America Tonight visits the virtual ghost towns where the government has begun extensive decontamination efforts, and investigates the attempts to bring residents home. The question of return is something that the nuclear refugees continue to grapple with every day. Some couples who have disagreed on whether or not to stay in the disaster zone have even split up in what's colloquially known as "nuclear divorce."
After the sacrifice of the Fukushima 50, the power plant employees who stayed behind during the most trying hours of the evacuation, the cleanup continues in and around the plant. Leading the charge are "nuclear gypsies," people who labor inside the dangerous disaster zone with the promise of hazard pay. But the Yakuza, one of the world's largest criminal organizations, has been deeply involved in the subcontracted work, skimming off funds from the $150 billion cleanup effort. With exclusive interviews with two "nuclear gypsies," who have never spoken to media, America Tonight offers a rare glimpse into the conditions of workers in Japan's decontamination industry.
The most pressing worry in the damaged power plant cleanup is the spent nuclear fuel rods. They are more than 1,300 in all, accounting for 400 tons of uranium, and they're precariously stored in a pool above the damaged and unstable Reactor Four. Concern is growing that dangerous amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the Pacific Ocean, and the potential for another nuclear disaster is real. If there's a next time, what dangers could that pose for the rest of the world?
After the disaster, Japan decided to shut down its nuclear power industry. Today, the shock of surging electricity prices has some pushing to reverse the policy. Greenhouse gas emissions have spiked, and massive imports of fossil fuels have tipped Japan into a trade deficit for the first time in decades. But for many people still living with the impact of Fukushima, the idea of to returning to nuclear energy seems dangerously premature. Featuring an in-depth interview with former Prime Minister Naoto Kan – once a proponent of nuclear power but now one of its loudest critics -- America Tonight explores the polarizing debate over Japan's energy future.
Join America Tonight this week at 9 p.m. ET/6 PT.