Nuclear catastrophe is always an unmitigated disaster. The only beneficiaries, albeit in a perverse fashion, are animals, which tend to flourish in areas humans evacuate. This has certainly been the case for wild boars around Fukushima, which have multiplied so rapidly, they’ve become a problem for neighboring towns.
On Friday, March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck offshore near Tokyo and caused a 30-foot high tsunami that crashed into Japan’s coast, killing 18,000 people, according to The Washington Post. Water poured into the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, flooding the generators designed to keep the plant’s reactors cool. Later that day, an explosion rocked the plant, and more than 200,000 residents living within 12 miles were evacuated as radioactive material began leaking into the surrounding land. In the ensuing days, two more explosions shook the plant, and several fires broke out.
It was a true nuclear meltdown.
Since 2011, no humans have been able to live on the poisoned land. Wild boars, meanwhile, have thrived heartily. No evidence suggests that the radioactive contamination harms the beasts, and the lack of people there to hunt them has allowed them to breed with abandon.
Since the meltdown, the damage wild boars have caused to agriculture by eating crops in the Fukushima area has doubled, reaching ¥98 million or just more than $900,000, according to Yomiuri. That price tag will only rise as the boar population, lacking natural predators, continues to increase–during the past two years, the number of boars that have been hunted has increased more than 300 percent, from 3,000 to 13,000.
Normally, boar meat is highly desired in Japan–in fact, The Japan Times called pork “the nation’s most popular meat”–but these animals have been eating contaminated plants and small animals in the power plant’s “exclusion zone.” The Sunday Times reports recent tests have found high levels of caesium-137 in the area, which has a half-life of 30 years.
These animals are unfit for human consumption, which presents another problem: hunters can attempt to reduce the population, but they have to do something with the carcasses. According to Texas A&M wildlife and fisheries professor Billy Higginbotham, the average size of a male hog is around 200 pounds. Considering this average, if 13,000 are killed, hunters have around 2,600,000 pounds of potentially dangerous flesh requiring disposal.
The best solution would be incinerating the bodies, which requires a special facility that can filter out radioactive materials to prevent the resulting smoke from blanketing nearby areas and contaminating them. One such facility exists in the city of Soma, but the $1.4 million crematorium’s capacity is severely limited. It can only handle three boars a day (or 21 a week, which is only 1,092 each year; not quite 13,000).
The battle between animals and humans has long raged, but for farmers living near the exclusion zone of Fukushima, it’s become a matter of economic survival.
Radioactive mutated wild boars. The concept makes the imagination run rampant.