Presentation : DEVAST

After the evacuation of a 20 km radius zone around the Daiichi Nuclear plant, the towns, fields and road have been abandonned to nature. The entry was limited for a few hours at a time. Due to radiations, the zone has been left with little or no human activity. Despite police patrols, looting and burglaries have occured.

Executive Summary

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Tohoku region, in north-eastern Honshu, the main island of Japan. The tremor triggered a tsunami that measured more than 40 meters in height in places. More than 15,000 people have been confirmed dead, with another 3,000 people missing (feared dead) and 6,000 people injured. On the same day, the installation of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, situated 230km north of Tokyo, was severely damaged by the earthquake and the following tsunami, losing the power supply and subsequently the control of the cooling systems. As a consequence, nuclear meltdown occurred in three of the reactors. Tens of thousands had to flee their homes as radiation leaked into the atmosphere, sea and food chains. One year on from the disaster, more than 330,000 people are still displaced from home after having lost their houses by the earthquake and tsunami, and as radiation fears increase from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The Disaster Evacuation and Risk Perception in Democracies (DEVAST) project was designed to analyse the chain of impacts, from the immediate response to the long-lasting impacts induced by the above Great East Japan Earthquake and the following Fukushima nuclear accident, focusing particularly on the displacement of population.

Following an analysis of the disaster response, the project looks closely at the evolution of the perception of risks in the Japanese society as a whole, and ultimately on other liberal democracies such as France. A comparative analysis with France on the issue of disaster management and perception of risks will be conducted in order to understand how democracies deal disasters.

The project is one of the few looking at the social impacts of the disaster: it brings together Japanese and French researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TITech), Waseda University and IDDRI – Sciences Po. It is jointly funded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) through its International Collaborative Research/Survey Programme (J-RAPID) and the French National Research Agency (ANR) through its ‘Flash-Japon’ programme.

The project is designed around the following three themes:

Disaster Evacuation and its Chain of Impacts

The project first analyses disaster responses in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, and the accident of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, focusing on the process of evacuation. DEVAST will seek to understand how the evacuation was organised, when and which information was disseminated among the population, what affected the decisions of evacuees to accept such displacements, examine the current situation of evacuees and assess the likelihood of their return, hence measuring the impact of such massive displacement in terms of social construction. Then it explores to identify the chain of impacts induced by these events through a domino effect that comprises of medium to long-term social, economic and political impacts on the Japanese society. A special attention will be paid to the social and cultural context of the Japanese society and how that has affected the chain of impacts.

Perception of Risks

The disaster has ramifications well beyond Tohoku region: indeed, it not only set off a crisis in Japanese society at large but also incited a heated debate on the issues such as disaster preparedness, energy strategy and nuclear safety beyond its borders. Despite Japan’s extensive experience in dealing with earthquakes and tsunamis, the disaster raised serious questions about the government’s preparations for and handling of the disaster. The project thus examines the shift in the perception of risks in the Japanese society and its implications in other democracies, especially France.

How Democracies Deal with Disasters

Thirdly, the project brings together the above two themes in a comparative perspective with France, seeking to understand how democracies deal with disasters and to draw lessons. Though developed countries are often supposed to have good capacities to cope with disasters, these recent examples show that they are actually often ill-equipped to do so. Without pointing fingers, the project will seek to draw lessons from the Tohoku Earthquake for the management of extreme natural disasters worldwide, with a special focus in France.

The project is implemented mainly by the collection of primary data through an extensive field research and the analysis of secondary data such as media reports, government documents, opinion surveys, and related articles. The field research will be the key component of the project, and will collect empirical evidence through interviews with the displaced population, local authorities, emergency workers and the government officials in concern. The data collected from the fieldwork will be made available to the public and the academic community through this website. The analysis of secondary data will be conducted throughout the project implementation to complement this process. It includes the analysis of evacuation plans, opinion polls, media coverage, and related scientific articles.

This website is an essential part of our dissemination effort to communicate the project results and progress to a larger audience and make the primary data widely available for the research community.

Part 1

Fairewinds analysis of the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi determined that other Japanese reactor sites were also in jeopardy because their cooling water systems were destroyed by the same tsunami. In this film, Fairewinds provides evidence that cooling systems for 24 out of 37 diesel generators were shut down by the tsunami and that 14 additional nuclear reactors were impacted. Finally, Fairewinds also recommends that the criteria of the international nuclear accident scale have a Level 8 added. The addition of a Level 8 would reflect the nuclear accident scenario at a multi-reactor site that significantly changes the risk factors to the general public and emergency evacuation procedures.

One year after the March 11, 2011 disaster, Ian travels back to the radiation zone to the city of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture to find out what conditions in the town are like now.

In part 1, Ian visits the check point at the 20 km zone. He then meets with the principal at the elementary school just outside of the 30 km zone. Finally, Ian drives by the tsunami-ravaged coast.


Born in America, Ian Thomas Ash earned an MA in Film and Television Production at the University of Bristol, UK, in 2005. His first feature documentary, ‘the ballad of vicki and jake’ (84 min/ UK/ 2006), received the Prix du Canton Vaud prize at the 2006 Visions du Reél International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland. At the 2012 Rhode Island International Film Festival, Ian’s film ‘In the Grey Zone’ (89 min/ Japan/ 2012) won the “Audience Choice Award First Prize for Best Documentary”, and at the same festival Ian was presented with the “Filmmaker of the Future Award”. Ian’s latest film, ‘A2-B-C’ (71 min/ Japan/ 2013), recently received the “Nippon Visions Award” (best film by new-coming Japan-based director) at the 2013 Nippon Connection Film Festival. Ian has lived in Japan for 10 years and currently lives in Tokyo.

Ian Thomas Ash – Awards :

Nippon Visions Award (best film by new-coming Japan-based director)
at the 2013 Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany, for ‘A2-B-C’ (2013, Japan)

Audience Choice Award First Prize for Best Documentary
at the 2012 Rhode Island International Film Festival for “In the Grey Zone” (2012, Japan).

Filmmaker of the Future Award
at the 2012 Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Prix de Canton Vaud (best first film)
at the 2006 Visions du Reél International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, for “the ballad of vicki and jake” (2006, UK).

The 10-member commission is one of several panels investigating the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The report follows a six-month investigation involving more than 900 hours of hearings and interviews with more than 1,100 people. The commission’s chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, said in a scathing introduction that cultural traits had caused the disaster.

Il y a bientôt 15 mois débutait le désastre nucléaire de Fukushima. Bien qu’il fut provoqué par le Grand séisme de l’Est du Japon et par le tsunami qui s’ensuivit, les principales causes de l’accident nucléaire résident dans les failles institutionnelles du lobbying politique et de la réglementation du secteur de l’industrie. Les institutions humaines […]

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Source AJW