This series of photographs explores why people chose to remain after nuclear disasters struck their locales and their lives afterward. They are excerpted from Would You Stay?, by Michael Forster Rothbart. TED Conferences, October 28, 2013.
The 1986 nuclear meltdown and explosion at Chernobyl scattered radioactive fallout across 30 European countries. Yet in the regions of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, which suffered the worst contamination, the majority of the population stayed. Their lives remain littered with unanswered questions about safety and their futures, but they refuse to go. Chernobyl is home.
A generation later, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns and multiple explosions in a power plant that's still leaking nuclear waste, the people of Fukushima, Japan, confront the same impossible questions. Attempts are being made to remove radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reactor Unit 4, but much uncertainty remains about the future.
Photojournalist Michael Forster Rothbart traveled to both Chernobyl and Fukushima to try to understand both why people refuse to leave, despite the risks, as well as what happens to those who do move away. Forster Rothbart hopes to help reveal with his photos the true value of home and to confront the ultimate question after a nuclear accident: Would you stay?