The “flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” kept at a Tokyo shrine for about 30 years as a prayer for the abolition of nuclear weapons, will be moved to Fukushima Prefecture, the location of Japan’s worst nuclear accident, after a ceremony Thursday marking the 10th anniversary of the meltdowns.

The flame will be relabeled a “non-nuclear flame,” connecting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were devastated by the August 1945 U.S. atomic bombings, with Fukushima and Bikini Atoll, where a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in March 1954 exposed Japanese fishermen and others to radioactive fallout.

Unlike the other catastrophes, the health aftereffects of which have lasted generations, future health problems directly linked to radiation from the Fukushima disaster are “unlikely to be discernible,” a U.N. panel says. The effects in terms of lost livelihoods, homes and communities, however, will continue to be felt for decades to come.

Returning to Fukushima's nuclear zone | REUTERS
Returning to Fukushima’s nuclear zone | REUTERS

Ten years on, the landscape for Fukushima Prefecture and its people, as well as the nuclear sector in Japan, looks quite different. Kyodo offers a Q&A on where we are now on a number of fronts, from nuclear plant decommissioning to decontamination and the status of evacuees.

Today, Japan faces a new challenge in the form of COVID-19, although many of the problems with the government’s response to that scourge will be familiar to those who were paying attention 10 years ago, argues Kazuto Suzuki — among them, abrupt decisions, poor communication and a lack of foresight.

In another commentary, Yoichi Funabashi looks at three key consequences of the nuclear disaster, in terms of perceptions of nuclear power in Japan, the role of the Self-Defense Forces and the country’s alliance with the United States. He also reminds us that were it not for some lucky breaks — like the wind direction — things could’ve been much worse.