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Pro-nuclear signboard displayed as bitter legacy in Fukushima

  • March 24, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 4:19 p.m.
  • English Press
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Futaba, Fukushima Pref., March 24 (Jiji Press)–A memorial museum in the town of Futaba, which hosts the disaster-crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Wednesday started displaying a signboard that symbolizes the town’s history of promoting nuclear power generation.

The signboard, which reads “Nuclear power: the energy for a bright future,” had been placed along a national highway in the town since 1988.

Two meters in length and 16 meters in width, the signboard was removed in 2015, after the town emptied following the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 plant. The worst nuclear accident in Japan was triggered by the March 2011 powerful earthquake and tsunami that mainly struck northeastern Japan. The nuclear plant straddles Futaba and the town of Okuma in the prefecture.

Letter panels taken from the original signboard have been placed on a new board for display at the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum, which was established in Futaba to pass down memories and lessons from the 2011 natural disaster and the subsequent nuclear accident.

Yuji Onuma, 45, who devised the message on the signboard as an elementary school sixth-grader when the town publicly solicited slogans related to nuclear power, visited the museum with his family.

The slogan he created, expressing beliefs that nuclear power generation would bring a bright future for the town, became a symbol of the town’s relationship with the nuclear plant.

The plant created jobs and benefited the local economy until the nuclear accident happened and drastically changed the lives of Futaba residents.

In the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accident, Onuma wanted the signboard to disappear as it was “embarrassing,” he said.

But his mind changed over time.

Driven by remorse for “unknowingly getting involved in creating the nuclear ‘safety myth’ through the slogan,” he stared calling the signboard to be preserved. About 6,500 signatures were collected across the country for its preservation.

“I’m glad to be able to preserve the symbol of the town,” said Onuma.

“I want people to know that this was a place that developed with nuclear energy and a place where a nuclear accident forced all residents to evacuate” due to radiation concerns, said Onuma, who now lives in the city of Koga in Ibaraki Prefecture, a neighbor of Fukushima.

Earlier this month, the memorial museum started displaying additional items, including a panel saying that the nuclear accident was a man-made disaster caused by inadequate efforts of TEPCO and the central government to take measures against possible huge tsunamis.

The museum also set up more exhibitions related to disaster-linked deaths and bullying, mainly cases that happened at evacuation centers and temporary housing for evacuees.

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