Source/Credit: PBS NewsHour
JOHN SPARKS: This is the end of the road. Beyond a well-staffed checkpoint lies the 20-kilometer evacuation zone, a no-man’s land that surrounds the Fukushima nuclear plant.
We were stopped, our papers checked. Then the police waved us through. We had won rare access to a world without people — 80,000 residents were evacuated from this area when explosions rocked the nuclear facility in march. Vehicles were abandoned on the highway. Shops were shut, their shelves full of stock, and damage from the tsunami simply left to rust.
We are now 10 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Our personal radiation monitor has begun to rise now, so we are going to head several kilometers back to a safer area. The threat posed by long-term exposure to radiation means former residents may never return home, this the cause of much pain.
But there is clarity at least. This area has been judged unsafe. On the other side of the 20-kilometer boundary, the situation is far more confused. The tsunami knocked out Fukushima’s cooling systems, triggering explosions in four of its six reactors. Radioactive material spewed into the air and sea.