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Areas reopening after Fukushima nuclear disaster need sustained gov’t support

June 10, 2022

Evacuation orders that have been in place since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster are set to be lifted in part of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Katsurao, one of the so-called difficult-to-return zones, on June 12.

Difficult-to-return zones, which people are forbidden from entering in principle due to high radiation levels, have been left behind in the recovery process. The latest move marks the first time that people will be able to live in one of these areas since the meltdowns triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The central parts of six difficult-to-return towns and villages including Katsurao have been designated as “zones for reconstruction and recovery,” and the national government has been carrying out decontamination work there. The part of the village of Katsurao set to reopen for living is one of such zones, finally marking a step forward more than 11 years after the accident.

However, of the 82 people in 30 households registered in that part of Katsurao, at this stage only eight people in four households have expressed their intention to return.

Evacuation orders were lifted in 2016 for other parts of Katsurao that fell outside the difficult-to-return zone, five years after the onset of the disaster. Another six years have passed since then, and residents have apparently become hesitant to return.

Through next spring, it is expected to become possible for people to permanently return to designated reconstruction and recovery zones in five remaining towns and villages including the towns of Futaba and Okuma, which the crippled nuclear power station straddles.

Many residents, however, are reluctant to return as those areas face an uncertain future. While local bodies are planning to secure medical care and attract commercial facilities into the areas, there is a need to steadily prepare such a living environment.

Besides worries about the future, an additional source of concern for people is that decontamination work in areas outside the specified reconstruction and recovery zones has yet to commence.

The government promised to create an environment enabling all residents wanting to return to do so in the 2020s. But the only places outside the restoration and recovery zones that the government has decided to decontaminate are returning residents’ homes and their vicinities. It has not revealed how it plans to handle other land and homes.

If the scope of decontamination work is not fixed, there will likely be many residents unable to decide whether they can return with peace of mind. The government needs to quickly present a course of action.

The road to recovery of the difficult-to-return zones is still far off. An official at Katsurao Murazukuri Kosha, a public corporation that is promoting the revival of the village, stressed, “First, it’s important to properly support the lives of people who have returned. We want to move forward one step at a time from there.”

The government has a responsibility to accomplish the revitalization of Fukushima. It must listen to the voices of residents, and continue to offer sustained support.


June 13, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , ,

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