” FUKUSHIMA – A recent decision to remove pro-nuclear signs spanning roads in a deserted town that cohosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant has prompted the slogan’s author to make a call to let them stand as symbols of the disaster.
Futaba native Yuji Onuma, 39, who now lives in Koga, Ibaraki Prefecture, was a sixth-grader at a public elementary school when he wrote the slogan, which adorns a sign at the entrance to Futaba that reads: “Nuclear power: The energy for a bright future.”
He visited the town Monday to persuade its officials to keep the signs, which came to symbolize it, as a warning to future generations.
Signboards bearing pro-nuclear slogans were erected in two places in Futaba. The one created by Onuma was installed near a public gymnasium.
Onuma got involved with the signs by reportedly taking first prize in a slogan contest that was organized by the town in 1987.
After the triple core meltdown contaminated the area with radioactive fallout in 2011, Futaba was at the center of the exclusion zone and its 6,300 or so residents were ordered to evacuate.
The area has since been reclassified as a “difficult to return to” zone because of the radiation.
The municipal authorities decided to take down the promotional signs because they are now worn out and pose a safety risk to visitors.
As it does every spring, Futaba has welcomed the end of winter with its cherry blossoms. But if the town follows through, this year will be the last in which anyone will see the signs.
No one, however, visits Futaba to admire the landscape. And the traffic lights still change even though there is no longer any traffic in the deserted town.
“When I created the slogan, I believed nuclear energy would bring a prosperous future for the town and would help improve the lives of its people,” Onuma said, adding that seeing the sign he designed always made him proud.
But the way the pro-nuclear signs were depicted in the media as a symbol of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant made him feel ashamed to have been involved in touting Japan’s nuclear safety myth, he said.
What changed his view was the birth of his two sons, who are now aged 3 and 1. He said this helped him realize the signs he designed should be preserved as a reminder of the disaster.
“I believe that it’s the responsibility of people like me, who were involved in promoting nuclear power, to pass down the lessons learned from the disaster to the next generations,” he said. ”