The Funny Uncle

In the face of readily available data and facts to the contrary, those who have a weighted say in the development of the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Rokkasho insist that it comes as a benefit to the community. It is just too hard to believe that they could willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly be so blind. Kamanaka’s documentary film travels as far as the western coast of England to document the fatal effects a nuclear waste reprocessing plant can have on the community that surrounds it—in this case a community with a leukemia rate ten times the global average. The effects, moreover are not just contained within the immediate community, but can also be felt miles away as the waste and byproducts of the plant are flushed into waters that will travel to other coastlines. Given the increasingly global nature of the food economy, one has to wonder just what potential disaster awaits the global food supply with every added plant. The polluted crabs caught by the citizens who call the Isle of Man home do not come to rest there but travel to dinner plates in locations as distant as Holland and Spain.

Despite all of this Rokkasho’s plant is touted as a benefactor to Rokkasho-mura. Japan needs energy, this is true, and without plentiful natural resources like oil, natural gas or coal, the plant is meant to take steps to address this issue. Rokkasho’s plant, it is said, has and will continue to stimulate the economy of the surrounding small fishing and farming villages. From a superficial glance, it would appear that it has as it has provided jobs where there were less. Just how sustainable it will be as industry and job provider is another question. Some have suggested turning to more sustainable enterprises with less adverse health effects, such as tourism, but how many would be willing to visit an area stricken with the health problems of a nuclear plant? I wonder what will become of an area activist who makes much of her income from the tourism the tulips she grows invites. Already, a small organic rice farmer has received letters that with the beginning of the plant’s operation, customers will no longer, out of confidence issues, buy her produce.

Furthermore, through what some might call “dirty dealings” and various forms of coercion, farmers came to sell their land—land that served as their only sources of income, leaving them little other choice but to work on the construction of the plant. When construction stopped there was no other viable place to turn other than the plant for continued employment. The manner in which the plant has interwoven itself into the very body of the Rokkasho existence can only be deemed as genius, however negatively so. A citizen on the Isle of Man referred to the plant polluting the waters in which he fished as a “funny uncle,” that person in the family who is slightly off kilter, yet no one can ask to leave. Watching the way so many in Rokkasho-mura seem to thow themselves at the prospects of the plant with apparent reckless abandon, like the cleaners who hope to conduct all the plant’s uniform washing/mending business, I see little hope that the family ties will be severed any time soon.



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