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Evacuation of Okuma Town Lifted, a First in a Town where Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is Located

July 1, 2022
 At 9:00 a.m. on July 30, the evacuation order was lifted in Okuma Town, one of the hard-to-return zones still restricted due to radioactive contamination caused by the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma and Futaba Towns, Fukushima Prefecture). Eleven years and three months have passed since the accident, and this is the first time that people have been able to live in the difficult-to-return zone in the municipality where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located. The town is moving forward with the attraction of companies related to the decommissioning of the plant and the construction of housing, but it is not clear how many people will be able to live in the area.
 The reconstruction site is mainly located in the residential area around Ono Station on the JR Joban Line and covers approximately 860 hectares, or 10% of the town’s land area. At the time of the nuclear accident, more than half of the population (11,505) lived there. Even now, approximately 5,900 people are registered residents, accounting for 60% of the total. The town has set a target of 2,600 residents in five years.
 Mayor Atsushi Yoshida said at a crime prevention patrol ceremony held in front of Ono Station, “It takes time to get back to the bustling town we once were. We have finally made a start.
 In April 2019, the evacuation order will be lifted in the southwestern part of Okuma Town, where about 380 residents are now living after the entire town was forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident.

Specified Reconstruction and Revitalization Zone (Reconstruction base): A zone designated by the government after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident as a “difficult-to-return zone” with high radiation levels, where government funds are being used to decontaminate the area in advance to enable residents to resume their lives. Of the seven municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that remain in the difficult-to-return zones, six, with the exception of Minamisoma City, are located in these zones. The reconstruction base in Katsurao Village was lifted on June 12. The base in Futaba-cho, where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located, is expected to be lifted in July or later.

◆There are many issues to be addressed, and the future will be tough.
 In Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where the evacuation order has been lifted, there are still some areas that have not been fully decontaminated, and some houses that have not been demolished and decontaminated yet. The situation remains inconvenient with no stores or hospitals, and residents who wish to return to their homes said, “There are a lot of issues. The future will be tough,” said one resident.
 About 6 km southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Mitsuhide Ikeda, 61, a part-time farmer, keeps 17 head of cattle in his pasture. On March 30, while feeding his cows with his wife Mikiko (64), Ikeda said, “I am happy to be able to go back to my home freely. I hope to resume livestock farming someday and also produce rice, vegetables, and fruits to show that it is possible to grow food in the area that was once a hard-to-return zone.

Mitsuhide Ikeda, who said he wants to return to livestock farming in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 30.

Eleven years ago, on the morning of March 12, Ikeda and his wife refused to dispose of their cattle, even after the sudden evacuation, saying, “We cannot take away the lives of our cows, our precious family members who have supported our lives. Once they caught the cows that had fled, they continued to care for them while commuting from Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where they had evacuated from, about 25 km south of the town.
 Two years ago, he built an office where he can sleep on the site of his former home adjacent to the pasture, but even after the evacuation order was lifted, he continues to commute from Hirono Town. Even after the decontamination of his property, he found areas where the radiation level was 15 microsieverts per hour, well above the government’s long-term target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, and had to have the area re-decontaminated. There were many such places throughout the neighborhood. Mitsuhide said, “The government could have bought up all the areas with high radiation levels and not decontaminated them.
 Mikiko does not want to live in Okuma because “shopping is inconvenient. Mitsuhide also said, “There is no one around for hundreds of meters, so when something happens, there is no one to shout out. It would be difficult to live there right now,” he spilled. Still, he is determined to fulfill his desire to be a cattle breeder on his ancestral land.

◆It’s just a transit point
 A woman, 60, who evacuated to Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, feels that the lifting of the evacuation order is “just a passing point. After her house was placed in a recovery center, she asked the town what would happen to her house after the evacuation order was lifted, but she did not know.
 I couldn’t see what was going to happen to the town,” said the woman. Her house has been demolished, but the surrounding area has been ransacked by burglars and animals, and there are still buildings that have not been decontaminated. I like Okuma because I can feel the four seasons and smell the grass being cut,” she said. But even if I was told I could go home, I would not be able to lead a settled life in a place where the living environment is not well maintained.”
 The woman would like to build a house and live with her husband if the town’s environment is improved, but she cannot make up her mind right now. In a survey of residents’ intentions, 20% said they could not decide whether or not to return, but these people are the most likely candidates to come back. If we don’t take good care of them, they won’t come back.

July 3, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , ,

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