Photographer Joe Nishizawa will offer a rare look inside the Fukushima nuclear plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster with the release this March of a photo book recording of decommissioning work over a 3 1/2-year period.
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Published by Misuzu Shobo, "Decommissioning Fukushima: A Photographer's Journey into the Depths of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant" will present roughly 150 photos of workers in protective gear and restorative efforts, arranged to show the passage of time. "I want to convey the scene exactly as it is," the Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture-based photographer explains.
For the last 15 years, Nishizawa has taken photos of steel work factories, expressways and other construction scenes to cover Japan at various work sites. After the nuclear disaster occurred on March 11, 2011, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) released photos but they were blurred and difficult to make out. Nishizawa said he felt the need to document the state of the reactor for future generations. After negotiating with TEPCO, the photographer was granted access to the plant roughly once a month.
Wearing a mask and a protective suit covering his entire body, he first stepped foot on the grounds of the nuclear plant in July 2014. At the time, there was still debris on the premises scattered along the coastline and the destruction from the accident was still starkly evident. Once, a worker at whom he pointed his camera glared back and asked, "Just what are you photographing?"
Still, he continued to document the equipment used to purify water contaminated by radioactive materials, as well as the construction site filled with tanks of processed water. Along with the flow of time, Nishizawa also sensed the gradual progress of decommissioning efforts. Still, radiation levels around the reactor buildings are high, and the difficult labor conditions continue to this day.
"The decommissioning won't end with this generation," says Nishizawa. "We can't afford to let the accident fade into the past, so I will continue taking photographs."