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Clearing up Fukushima

Fukushima was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Who would still want to work at the plant? And yet, thousands of people go there every day to work at cleaning away the radioactive debris and trying to secure the site. France 24 went to meet these workers who are ready to risk their lives to save Japan.

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In the small world of Tokyo-based journalists, we knew that it would be difficult to meet the workers of Fukushima. Some could maybe talk to us, but only off-camera. Tepco, the operator of the stricken plant, was the first to disappoint us by refusing each of our requests. And no wonder: Tepco and its subcontractors strictly forbid the workers from speaking to the media.

Luckily, a Japanese woman who ended up becoming our interpreter managed to break the deadlock. A Christian, she worked as a volunteer with victims of the tsunami in Iwaki, a workers’ dormitory town located 40 km south of the Fukushima plant. Through a religious centre, she knew a worker who agreed to meet us. His name is Yukio and he is a colourful personality who wants to set the story straight about the plant’s workers. “Yes, it is hard work. But no, we are not slaves”, is his basic message.

The rest is all about luck…and blagging. We go straight to “J-Village”, the workers’ headquarters, located on the threshold of the 20 km-wide “forbidden zone” around the plant. We are not allowed to be there. Most of the workers know it and only give us a wary hello. But some of them agree to say a few words to us.

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