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BBC Special Report: Fukushima - the scientific legacy

Nearly a year after Japan was struck by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, tune in Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30pm for a special two-part report from the BBC on radioactive fallout, health effects, decontamination efforts, and government response to the Fukushima disaster.

For months, clouds of radioactive fallout from damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station spread across heavily-populated areas many kilometres from the plant. The government and power company TEPCO were heavily criticised for not telling the local population soon enough about what was going on - in many cases people were evacuated to areas with higher radiation levels than those they fled. As a result, deep mistrust developed towards government or TEPCO pronouncements on the nuclear incident.

Ina special edition of Discovery, the BBC’s Mariko Oi visits the Fukushima prefecture to find out what has happened since. She meets scientists working to piece together an accurate picture of the effects of the radioactive fallout, both on the environment and human health. She hears from local community grassroots organisations, many people living in fear of radiation who argue for a mass-clean up operation to reduce radiation levels to zero and for further evacuations, especially of children.

Mariko Oi examines the current decontamination efforts, which involve removing and disposing of huge quantities of soil and concrete contaminated with caesium 137 – a radioactive isotope which can persist in the environment for 30 years or more. The programme questions whether attempting to remove such contamination is really effective - or even necessary, and contrasts the fears of radiation with the scientific reality.

Matt Martin was KALW’s general manager from 2006 through 2018. Under his leadership, KALW grew into one of the most productive and innovative stations in public radio. Programs launched at KALW during Matt’s tenure as GM include the award-winning local newsmagazine Crosscurrents, the design podcast 99% Invisible, and the Spanish-language narrative journalism program Radio Ambulante. He helped create the station’s Audio Academy, a year-long program aimed at developing new talents in public radio, and led the first broad-based strategic planning process in the station’s history.