Trinities (2015)

Has the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant been located in this city since you were a child?
Hmm… What year did it start operating? I can’t remember. I suppose it was about when I was born when people heard it might be built. The TEPCO Service Center has been located in Kariwa ever since I can remember. Right? [Well…] It was. (laughs) So, it’s been normal for me to have the plant. Hmm, when did it start operating? When I started to work, it was already in operation. I think it was in the 80’s… Um, the 80’s… that’s when I was only an early teenager. (laughs)

I assume you felt it so familiar growing up so close to it. May I ask you to tell me in what ways you felt its presence in your life? I still, in fact, have occasions to go there to work. Ok. For example, restaurant businesses. Bars and pubs for an obvious example. It was bustling with plant-related workers. I saw that it was profitable to local businesses. That’s how I’ve felt its presence, besides getting jobs from the plant. In contrast to those days, my friend who runs car business, says about its current inoperation, that he doesn’t have much work. The same is true for the restaurant and bar businesses. Inoperation has made the once-abundant circulations of manpower and money poor and stagnant.

If there weren’t a plant, would that change the lives here a lot...? Hmm… no plant… Well, there isn’t a magician’s box, is it? It never disappears physically over night. (laughs) If, radically speaking, it were meant to be de-commissioned, that would create some jobs and flows of people. There are currently only annual maintenance checkups that provide us jobs. So, if it were rather de-commissioned or amended, well… let’s say if a thermal power plant were made there, that would provide us good job opportunities. Hmm…

May I ask what kind of work you currently do in the plant? Mobile observation. That is to survey if the buildings are moving up and down. Once our business actually headed towards a downfall, but lingered due to the need for surveys of the damages of Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake and Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake. That’s how it’s been continuing.

Those two big earthquakes hit Niigata prefecture in the recent past (2004 and 2007). During the latter, a small amount of radiation was leaked. What was your situation back in those days? It didn’t leak maybe. I suppose the earthquake caused a fire in an electrical transformer. I didn’t feel dangerous. It rather caused toil more or less in my personal life in those days. My house was smashed. Water, gas and electricity supplies were all stopped. I didn't particularly have room in my brain to feel the plant was dangerous.

Has it changed since the Fukushima crisis? It was a severe nuclear accident… Yes. …that has shown us the possibilities of those risks. Not zero. Well, I’d never thought it would cause us any danger. The Fukushima plant allowed almost zero possibility of accidents. I believe they should have popped a few percentages up. It’s only what the Internet and TV say, but I believe the chance of a huge tsunami on the cost of the Sea of Japan is close to zero compared with that of the Pacific Ocean. So, I rather worry the chance of missile attacks from North Korea would be higher than that of a tsunami. (laughs) In that case, the plant would be a target… Yes, it would be, primarily, I assume. …of terrorism? Yes. So, I’m scared of that much more than of the less possible earthquakes and tsunami. The North Korean government abducted people from here and the island of Sado. Yes. So, I don't really feel the risk of the plant today, after all. If asked for my opinion on the nuclear future, I would say, “I hope the plant is re-opened.” And, it’s because I hope the city of Kashiwazaki thrives more in many ways. It’s so connected to the lives of people here. Uh-huh. Gradually some small shops and restaurants have closed down. Some hotels, too, whose main guests were plant-related workers, have closed down.
There are relatively big hotels by the station. Uh-huh. The economy in the city center has been affected quite a lot, I heard. They were all booked up for ‘long term’. There used to be thousands of laborers that committed for months at a time from all over the country while the plant was in operation.

Can I ask you to tell me about your childhood in this city? I mean, can you compare the current state of the city and that of your childhood? Has anything changed? Hmm… As a child, I didn’t look at it with such awareness. Hmm… you are asking me in terms of the plant, eh? Yes. Well, then did you have any memories of, let’s say, playing at a sport hall that was built as social contribution? Did you have any experience of appreciating the profit of NPP subsidies as a child? I suppose my city built many facilities with the subsidy, in fact. As I’ve told you before, there is a place called the Service Center in front of the plant. When I was a kid, my family took me there. In summer, it was nice and cool. (laughs) There was a playground for kids. So, I have memories of getting shade from the heat of summer and playing at the Center.

You’ve got many positive memories of NPP. Today, we tend to have negative images of it being dangerous or distrustful. I’m very glad that I could hear your story of the plant in your life, which is connected so closely to your childhood, almost in a defining way. About the time I was born, I assume, this city was in the early stages of the process of its lobbying. I assume there were discussions and turmoil between the pro- and anti- NPP lobbiers. My generation of people hadn’t been involved directly in it during the days of our childhood. Eventually, it was accepted. That brought my Dad, who ran this business, jobs regarding land purchase. The plant was known to be safe, so it was nothing questionable. Unlike the kids of the post-3.11 generation, who grow up seeing the reality of Fukushima, I took it in stride. Growing up with frequent occasions of seeing the images of the crisis, they will be different from me in their impressions of NPP.

Did your father conduct surveys for the plant? No, not in a direct way. He did for the land purchase. The landowners sold their land to the plant. The size of the land recorded in the registry was actually smaller than that of the actual surveyed size. It was twice big, I heard at times. So, they’d love to have it surveyed. (laughs) Including its cost, they made more profit after having it done. I heard he had such jobs sometimes. I heard, too, the rich even made the first move and bought the land. We had indirect involvements. We never owned the land. (laughs) I assume the people here had some sort of involvement back to those days. Yes, defiantly most of them. Older generations probably have more opinions than I do, I think. I just went on because it was in front of me.

This interview was conducted in Niigata in 2014.

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