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Evacuation order lifted for Fukushima town

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The Japanese government has lifted the evacuation order for most parts of a town in Fukushima Prefecture. It was issued after the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The directive for Tomioka Town was lifted at midnight on Saturday in all areas except for no-entry zones with high radiation levels.

The town became the 9th municipality to be released from the order. The decree was initially imposed on 11 municipalities in the prefecture.

The government also withdrew the directives for some areas in Kawamata Town, Namie Town, and Iitate Village at midnight on Friday.

Areas still subject to the government evacuation order now make up 369 square kilometers. That is one-third of the initial size.

About 9,500 Tomioka residents are now allowed to return to their homes.

But in a survey conducted by the Reconstruction Agency and other institutions last year, only 16 percent of Tomioka’s residents said they wanted to return to their hometown.

The town government had opened a shopping mall and a medical facility ahead of the lifting of the evacuation order.

In the future, it will be a challenge for the town to revive industries, decontaminate no-entry zones, and provide continued support for residents living outside the town.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170401_03/

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April 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Lifts Evacuation Orders for 3 Fukushima Areas

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Fukushima, March 31 (Jiji Press)–Japan on Friday lifted its evacuation orders for the village of Iitate and two other areas that had been enforced due to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in northeastern Japan.

The move came six years after Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> power station suffered meltdowns after the huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, triggering evacuation orders in many places in Fukushima Prefecture, including Iitate and the other two areas.

Residents of Iitate, the town of Namie and the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata, totaling some 22,100 at the end of February, can now return home, except in a handful of places included in no-go zones where radiation levels are still too high.

With the evacuation order set to be removed for the town of Tomioka on Saturday, Okuma and Futaba, the host towns of the crippled power station, will be the only Fukushima municipalities without an area where an evacuation order has been lifted.

Meanwhile, municipalities where evacuation orders have been removed have their own problems: a slow return of residents.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017033000961

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan further scales down evacuation zones around Fukushima plant

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FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The government on Friday lifted the remaining evacuation orders for large parts of areas less seriously contaminated by the radiation due to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

The government lifted evacuation orders that had affected some parts of the towns of Kawamata and Namie as well as the village of Iitate. A large part of the town of Tomioka will also be released from the evacuation order Saturday.

The move will scale down the evacuation zones to about one-third of what they had originally been. But it is uncertain whether many residents will return to their homes amid radiation fears, while the most seriously contaminated areas around the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remain a no-go zone.

Initially, 11 municipalities — many of which are located within a 20-kilometers radius of the crippled nuclear complex — had been subject to the evacuation orders. They were later rezoned into three categories based on their radiation levels, with the most seriously contaminated land defined as the difficult-to-return areas.

Through radiation cleanup work and efforts to rebuild infrastructure, the government said in 2015 that it aimed to remove by the end of the current fiscal year through Friday all the evacuation orders except for those issued to the difficult-to-return zones.

But the government failed to do so in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Okuma and Futaba have some areas not designated as highly toxic, but both towns will remain under full evacuation orders due to insufficient infrastructure, according to government officials.

The areas where evacuation orders will be lifted by Saturday had a registered population of about 32,000, or 12,000 households, around the end of February. Even after the move, seven municipalities will be partially or fully subject to evacuation orders.

As for the difficult-to-return zones, the government plans to create areas where they will conduct intense decontamination and lift the evacuation orders for those areas in about five years’ time.

The number of Fukushima people who fled from their homes in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also triggered the nuclear crisis, stood at about 77,000 people as of March. The maximum number was about 165,000 marked in May 2012.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170331/p2g/00m/0dm/015000c

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Footholds Should Be Built in Fukushima No-Go Zone: LDP Team

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Tokyo, Aug. 17 (Jiji Press)–Reconstruction footholds should be set up in the no-go zone heavily contaminated by the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan, a Liberal Democratic Party team proposed Wednesday.


The footholds should be used for decontamination work and infrastructure development so that evacuation orders for residents of the zone will be lifted in around five years, said the ruling party’s Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake.


At a general meeting, the headquarters broadly agreed on a draft outline of the party’s planned sixth reconstruction proposal for areas damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


The government plans to remove all evacuation advisories in municipalities affected by the nuclear accident by the end of March 2017, excluding in the no-go zone where radiation levels are still too high for local residents to return home anytime soon.


The LDP will submit the proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month, after finalizing it through discussions with its coalition partner, Komeito.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016081700893

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima banks hope to lure nuclear evacuees back by reopening branches

FUKUSHIMA – Regional banks in Fukushima Prefecture are reopening outlets in radiation-contaminated areas to help lure residents back more than five years after the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant laid waste to the region in March 2011.

Residents have been slow to return despite the phased lifting of evacuation orders in cleaned-up areas, so regional banks are eager to play a trailblazing role by allowing residents to use their branches as places to socialize.

Abukuma Shinkin Bank, based in Minamisoma, reopened its Odaka branch there in March 2013 and the branch in the town of Namie on July 12.

The evacuation order for the central part of Namie is expected to be lifted by the end of next March, but there are still structures that collapsed from the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.

We’ll put the light on in the town where people do not live,” said Yoshihiro Ota, president of Abukuma Shinkin, stressing the significance of reopening the Namie branch.

Abukuma Shinkin became the first financial institution to reopen a branch in Namie, which sits next to the town of Futaba, one of the two municipalities that host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, which lost all power after being swamped by tsunami spawned by the temblor. The plant is run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.

We hope our branch, where local people can stop by freely and enjoy chatting, will become a place that can console them,” said Takahiro Abe, chief of the Namie branch.

Being the first to reopen a branch in the town will hopefully allow us to attract people and see rises in deposits and loans,” Abe added.

In April, Toho Bank, based in the city of Fukushima, restarted its branch in Naraha, another town close to the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Although the evacuation order for Naraha was lifted last September, only 8.1 percent of its residents had returned as of July 4.

Financial institutions are indispensable regional infrastructure,” said Hiroshi Yamaka, chief of Toho Bank’s Naraha branch. “Regional banks have a major role to play in helping residents return home.”

But it is not easy to achieve industrial revival in contaminated areas neglected by the long evacuation.

A male business owner who visited Abukuma Shinkin’s Namie branch on the day it reopened said, “The bank told me that they will lend me money, but I can’t decide on new investment because I’m old and there’s no one I can hand over my business to.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/07/24/business/fukushima-banks-hope-to-lure-nuclear-evacuees-back-by-reopening-branches/

July 27, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima residents need time in deciding on their futures

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The central government lifted an evacuation order for the southern part of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 12 for the first time since the massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a devastating accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

It marks the sixth time that evacuation orders have been lifted for locales in Fukushima Prefecture, following such municipalities as Naraha and Katsurao. The number of local residents affected by the latest move is more than 10,000, higher than in any previous instance.

Residents of such municipalities in the prefecture as Iitate, Tomioka and Namie have yet to be allowed to return to their homes. But the central government plans to lift evacuation orders on all areas of the prefecture excluding “difficult-to-return zones,” where levels of radiation remain dangerously high, by March 2017.

The longer people in disaster-affected areas live as evacuees, the more difficult it becomes for them to rebuild their lives.

The lifting of an evacuation order based on the progress that has been made in decontaminating polluted areas and restoring damaged infrastructure will give local residents an opportunity for a fresh start. In Minami-Soma, residents who have been hoping to restart their former lives have already returned to their homes. Various organizations are expanding their activities in the city to help rebuild the local communities.

In previous cases, however, only 10 to 20 percent of the residents said they would immediately return to where they lived before the catastrophic accident occurred.

In addition to residents who have decided to move to other parts of the nation, there are also many people who find it difficult to return home for the time being due to reasons related to employment, education, nursing care and other factors. Some people want to wait a while longer to see how their communities will be revived.

Sooner or later, all evacuees will face the choice of returning or migrating.

For both groups, measures to support their efforts to rebuild their livelihoods should be worked out. But support should also be provided to people who cannot make up their minds yet.

A situation where evacuees are under strong pressure to make their decisions quickly should be avoided.

Take the issue of compensation paid to local residents in affected areas, for example. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, is paying 100,000 yen ($945) of compensation per month to each of the people affected. But the utility’s cash payments are scheduled to be terminated in March 2018.

A time limit has also been set for the company’s compensation to people who have seen their incomes fall or disappear in the aftermath of the disaster.

Excessive dependence on compensation could hamper the efforts of evacuees to restart their lives.

But there are people who have no prospects of returning to their lives before the accident and therefore have no choice but to depend entirely on a monthly payment from the utility.

A way should be found to keep compensating those who really need the money for a certain period after evacuation orders are lifted, according to the circumstances of individual evacuees.

One idea worth serious consideration is the establishment by lawyers and other experts of a neutral organization to assess the circumstances of evacuees for this purpose. This is an approach modeled on the standard procedures for out-of-court dispute settlements.

The concept of “residents” should also be reconsidered. There are many evacuees who have decided to move to other areas but still wish to maintain their hometown ties. These people say they want to return home someday or to get involved in rebuilding their communities in some way.

Scholars have offered ideas to respect their wishes. One would allow them to have a dual certificate of residence for both their previous and current addresses. Another would permit them to become involved in the efforts to rebuild their hometowns while living in other areas.

These ideas can be useful not just for the reconstruction of disaster-stricken areas but also for the revitalization of depopulated rural areas around the nation.

Reviving communities that have been ravaged by the nuclear disaster will inevitably be an unprecedented and long-term process, which requires flexible thinking.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201607190028.html

July 19, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan: Returning home after Fukushima nuclear disaster

Minamisoma returnees keen to rebuild lives after lifting of evacuation order for first time since 2011 nuclear disaster.

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Around 20 percent of Minamisoma’s residents decided to come back

Fukushima, Japan – This week, authorities lifted an evacuation order for nearly all parts of Minamisoma city, Fukushima prefecture, allowing more than 10,000 people to return to their homes for the first time since 2011’s nuclear disaster.

Tens of thousands of people across the prefecture had to abruptly leave their homes five years ago after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan’s northeast wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The lifting of the evacuation order marked the largest number of people allowed back into their hometown – yet only around an estimated 20 percent of Minamisoma’s 10,807 residents in 3,487 households decided to come back.

Since 2014, the government has been gradually lifting up evacuation orders within a 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, following the progress of some clean-up efforts.

Our team drove to Minamisoma from Tokyo along the country’s northeastern coast.

It was not difficult to spot the on-going clean-up efforts.

A great number of big contaminated waste disposal bags were piled up at temporary holding areas on fields across Fukushima prefecture.

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Some holding areas were massive in size, occupying huge chunk of the fields, with a string of trucks constantly dropping off black bags.

Roads into contaminated towns were still blocked by big barricades, and checkpoints were put in place to only allow people with a special permit to enter.

As we drove past contaminated areas, the reading on our Geiger counter, which measures the level of radiation, would from time to time jump above usual levels, reaching as high as 3μSv/h – the government’s long-term reduction goal for areas within a 20km radius of the nuclear power plant stands at 0.23μSv/h.

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Passing through the still largely empty, yet seemingly peaceful streets of Minamisoma, we arrived at the Odaka station in the city’s Odaka district.

Although the train service had been resumed for the first time in more than five years on the 9.4km stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi station, only a handful of passengers were seen during the day.

Trains arrived and departed, largely empty.

What caught my attention was a large screen in front of the station, showing radiation levels in real time.

The reading was 0.142μSv/h, which was higher than 0.06μSv/h in Tokyo – but still below the 0.23μSv/h government goal.

Such screens were set up across the city to assuage the public’s lingering concerns over radiation contamination.

Over the past few years, a growing number of Minamisoma residents settled somewhere else, worried over the potential long-term health effects of a return back home.

However, people who did decide to come back were trying their best to ensure that life in their hometown, albeit slowly, returned to normal.

About a three-minute walk distance from the station, we spotted around 30 young students and residents.

Preparations were under way by a number of local organisations to celebrate the opening of a community centre in a makeshift building, where residents could freely come and talk about their life back in hometown.

An old lady asked passers-by to take a seat as she served local food. Young students were hanging out withtheir friends, doing hula hoop and blowing bubbles.

Many of the returnees told us that despite the uncertainties and doubts, they hoped to restore a sense of community – and thus prove to friends and families who were having second thoughts about coming back that it was worth returning home.

“Although we cannot bring back Odaka to what it used to be before the disaster, as residents here, we want to bring back its spirit and the community,” Yoshiki Konno, a local resident and the head of an NGO, told.

“That is the most important thing we must do.”

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2016/07/japan-returning-home-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-160717182129794.html

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Some restricted zones to be lifted near Fukushima nuclear plant

Soft propaganda from the Asahi Shimbun, supporting the Government lifting of the evacuation order in some of the restricted zones, encouraging people to return into the evacuated zones.

Saying “In some of the areas, however, radioactive contaminants have been washed away by rain or blown away by wind. Radiation from those substances has also dissipated naturally.”

Conveniently omitting to mention, that  in many decontaminated places, radiation soon returns to pre-decontamination level, thanks to the accumulated radionuclides of the mountain forests (80% of Fukushima prefecture) always ruisseling down with the rain or carried everywhere by the wind, not mentioning also that something in Fukushima Daiichi still fissioning, releasing radionuclides loaded gassings into the environment.

 

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A gate is set up on a national road in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, restricting entrance to “difficult-to-return zones.” Permits from the central government are required to enter the areas.

For the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, the government will lift the designation of some “difficult-to-return zones” around the crippled nuclear plant.

The rescinding is expected to be done gradually from around 2021. By that time, the government plans to undertake intensive decontamination work in central districts of municipalities, where residents will likely return, and districts along main roads.

The “difficult-to-return zones,” which cover a total of 337 square kilometers, are areas where the radiation level exceeded 50 millisieverts per year after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Those areas are off-limits, in principle.

In some of the areas, however, radioactive contaminants have been washed away by rain or blown away by wind. Radiation from those substances has also dissipated naturally.

In front of the Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center of Fukushima in the central district of Okuma town, the radiation level is now about 9 millisieverts per year, about one-fifth the level of five years ago.

According to the policies of the government and the ruling parties, if radiation levels are reduced to 20 millisieverts or lower in some areas due to decontamination work, people are allowed to live there.

Of the areas, those where residents or workers for decommissioning of crippled nuclear reactors are expected to live will be subject to intensive decontamination work along with areas on both sides of main roads.

The government and the ruling parties will discuss the lifting of “difficult-to-return zones” with seven municipalities, including Okuma, and will make the official decision in August.

However, even if the designation is lifted, it is uncertain if residents will return to their homes.

According to the annual survey conducted by the Reconstruction Agency on evacuees, only about 10 percent of households evacuating from four municipalities around the nuclear plant are hoping to return home.

Before the nuclear crisis occurred, about 24,000 people of 9,000 households were living in areas that are currently designated as “difficult-to-return zones.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201607170022.html

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation order lifted in Minami-Soma after 5 years, affecting 10,000 people

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For the first time in five years, a train begins service on the 9.4-kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on East Japan Railway Co.’s Joban Line at 7:33 a.m. on July 12.

Evacuation order lifted in Minami-Soma after 5 years

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–In good news for residents, an evacuation order for the southern part of the city here was lifted on July 12 for the first time since the massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant five years ago.

However, due to lingering fears of radiation contamination, less than 20 percent of the populace are set to return to their homes.

The central government allowed residents back into the southern region of the city after midnight on July 11. It marks the sixth time that evacuation orders have been lifted for locales in Fukushima Prefecture, following such municipalities as Naraha and Katsurao.

The latest lifting in Minami-Soma affects a total of 10,807 residents in 3,487 households in all parts of the Odaka district and parts of the Haramachi district, making it the largest number of people to be let back into their homes since evacuation zones were established following the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Two residents living in a household in an area designated a “difficult-to-return” zone in the southern part of the city are still not allowed back home.

However, only about 2,000 residents signed up to stay overnight at their homes in the area ahead of the lifting of the evacuation order.

That is likely because many still fear the effects of radiation from the destroyed power plant, which straddles the towns of Futaba and Okuma to the south of Minami-Soma. In addition, five years was more than enough time for residents who evacuated elsewhere to settle down.

With at least some of the residents returning home, East Japan Railway Co. resumed service on the 9.4-kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations on the Joban Line for the first time in more than five years on the morning of July 12. The first train of the morning entered Odaka Station carrying 170 or so people on two cars as traditional flags used in the Soma Nomaoi (Soma wild horse chase) festival on the platform greeted passengers.

The central government is pushing to lift evacuation orders on all areas of the prefecture excluding difficult-to-return zones by March 2017.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201607120054.html

Japan lifts evacuation orders in Fukushima affecting 10,000 people

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The government on Tuesday further scaled down areas in Fukushima Prefecture subject to evacuation orders since the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, enabling the return of more than 10,000 residents to the city of Minamisoma.

Following the move, the city will become mostly habitable except for one area containing one house. But many residents seem uneager to return, having begun new lives elsewhere.

The government is in the process of gradually lifting evacuation orders issued to areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and in certain areas beyond the zone amid ongoing radiation cleanup efforts.

Eight municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have areas defined as evacuation zones, which are divided into three categories based on their radiation levels. The most seriously contaminated area is called a zone “where it is expected that the residents have difficulties in returning for a long time.”

In Minamisoma, the government lifted evacuation orders for areas except for the difficult-to-return zone. As of July 1, the areas had a registered population of 10,807, or 3,487 households.

To encourage evacuees to return, the central government and the city reopened hospital facilities, built makeshift commercial facilities and prepared other infrastructure.

Radiation cleanup activities have finished in residential areas, but will continue for roads and farmland until next March.

The government hopes to lift the remaining evacuation orders affecting areas other than the difficult-to-return zones by next March, officials said.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160712/p2g/00m/0dm/031000c

 

 

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Advisory lifted for most of evacuated village of Katsurao close to crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant

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Radioactive waste contained in thousands of black plastic bags are placed in rice paddies in the village of Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, where an evacuation advisory was lifted for most of the village Sunday.

FUKUSHIMA – The government Sunday lifted its evacuation advisory for most of Katsurao, a village near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

This is the first time that an evacuation advisory has been lifted for an area tainted with relatively high levels of radiation with annual doses projected at between more than 20 millisieverts and less than 50 millisieverts.

The government’s move allows 1,347 people in 418 households to return home for the first time since the March 2011 disaster at the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

But only a few people are expected to return home for the time being due to inconveniences in everyday life in the village. Municipal bus services remain suspended while shops have yet to resume operations.

The village government plans to offer free taxi services for elderly people so that they can go to hospitals and commercial facilities outside the village.

Earlier this month, the village’s chamber of commerce and industry started services to deliver fresh foods and daily necessities to homes.

The evacuation advisory remains in place for 119 people in 33 households from the remaining Katsurao area where annual radiation doses are estimated at over 50 millisieverts.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/12/national/advisory-lifted-for-most-of-evacuated-village-of-katsurao-close-to-crippled-fukushima-nuclear-power-plant/

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation lifted for Fukushima village; only 10% preparing return

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Lights appears at only a few houses in Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 11, the eve of the government’s lifting of the evacuation order following the 2011 nuclear accident. Waste from decontamination operations is covered with sheets in the foreground. (Yosuke Fukudome)

The government on June 12 lifted the evacuation order for Katsurao, a village northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but most of the residents appear reluctant to return home.

The lifting of the order covers more than 90 percent of the households in Katsurao. The entire village was ordered to evacuate after the crisis at the Fukushima plant started to unfold on March 11, 2011.

Katsurao is the fourth municipality in Fukushima Prefecture that had the evacuation order lifted, following the Miyakoji district in Tamura, the eastern area of Kawauchi village and Naraha.

Government officials said cleanup and other efforts have reduced radiation levels in Katsurao to a point that poses little problem. The lifting of the evacuation order means that 1,347 people from 418 households, out of 1,466 people from 451 households in Katsurao, can return to their homes to live in the village.

But only 126 people from 53 households, or 10 percent of those eligible to return, have signed up for a program for extended stays in the village to prepare for their return, according to Katsurao officials.

The officials said they believe that many evacuees would rather go back and forth between temporary housing and their homes in Katsurao for the time being, given the situation in the village.

Medical institutions and shops have yet to resume operations in Katsurao. And nearly half of the rice paddies there are being used for the temporary storage of radioactive waste produced in the cleanup operation.

Local officials say they have no idea when the waste can be moved out of the village for permanent storage.

Among the Katsurao residents eligible to return are those with homes in the government-designated “residence restricted zone,” where the annual radiation dose was projected at more than 20 millisieverts and up to 50 millisieverts as of March 2012.

This was the first time evacuees from such a zone have been permitted to return home.

Only the “difficult-to-return zone” carries a higher annual radiation dose.

The government plans to lift evacuation orders for other parts of the prefecture by the end of March 2017, except for the “difficult-to-return zone,” where the annual radiation dose was estimated at 50 millisieverts or higher as of March 2012.

The additional lifting of the evacuation orders would allow 46,000 of 70,000 displaced residents to return to their homes to live.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201606120031.html

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Demolition work delay hinders Fukushima villagers’ homecoming

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Farmer Hidenori Endo is seen at the empty lot where his home used to stand in Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 6, 2016.

FUKUSHIMA — Though the nuclear disaster evacuation order for the Fukushima Prefecture village of Katsurao is set to be lifted on June 12, just 14 percent of demolition work needed before homes can be rebuilt has been completed.

The village currently comprises three evacuation statuses: “areas preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders” with annual accumulated radiation doses of 20 millisieverts or less; “restricted residency zones” with annual accumulated radiation doses from over 20 millisieverts to 50 millisieverts; and “difficult-to-return zones.” As of June 12, the 1,347 residents from 418 households in the former two categories will be allowed to move back home. A return schedule for the 119 residents from 33 households with homes in areas in the last category has yet to be determined as radiation levels remain high.

A survey by the village government showed that nearly 50 percent of residents wished to return home. However, as of June 8 only 126 people, or less than 10 percent of residents, had registered to stay overnight in preparation for their complete return.

The Environment Ministry began demolishing houses in 2012 for those who wanted to rebuild their homes in 11 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities subject to nuclear disaster evacuation orders. Of 347 demolition requests in Katsurao, only 14 percent have been completed. Officials say that field research and paperwork are taking time. Overall, a little less than 40 percent of requested work has been done in all 11 municipalities.

Eight municipalities — including Katsurao and the city of Minamisoma, where evacuation orders are to be lifted on July 12 — are requesting the central government to speed up demolition work as the delay is hindering residents’ return to their hometowns. A senior Katsurao village official says locals have been complaining about the demolition work not advancing as planned.

The Environment Ministry hopes to complete about 90 percent of demolition work by March 2017 by streamlining paperwork, but many residents are expected to be unable to return home even after evacuation orders are lifted, as it will take time to rebuild houses after the demolition is completed.

A ministry official explained that there are people who will be able to return home immediately after the evacuation order is lifted, and that it would be inappropriate to keep the orders in place until all the demolition work is done. At the same time, the official said that the ministry will give those who wish to return priority in the demolition work schedule.

Fukushima University social welfare professor Fuminori Tamba, who helped map out disaster recovery plans for municipalities under evacuation orders, pointed out that the lack of progress in demolitions is problematic, since securing housing is the minimum requirement for residents to return. He added that the availability of housing should be considered when lifting evacuation orders.

Katsurao farmer and cattle rancher Hidenori Endo, 74, applied for demolition of his decaying home and barn last summer. Tired of waiting, Endo paid a private firm nearly 10 million yen to tear down the buildings in May.

“I wanted to go home as soon as possible,” Endo said.

He now lives in a temporary housing unit in the town of Miharu, about 30 kilometers from his Katsurao home. Endo travels an hour by car daily to his property to restart his farming business, but taking good care of his cattle is difficult to do going back and forth. To reboot his business, Endo first needs to rebuild his home. Construction work is to begin this summer, but he does not yet know when the work will be completed, and will have to live in the temporary housing for at least another year.

The central government has set prerequisites, such as infrastructure development and operation of everyday services, for lifting nuclear crisis evacuation orders. However, housing is not included in these criteria.

“Even if I could go shopping, there isn’t much I could do if there was no place to live. It’s not right to be unable to return to home even with the evacuation order gone,” Endo lamented.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160611/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Another evacuation order lifted in Fukushima

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The Japanese government has lifted its evacuation order for most parts of a village near the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima. Katsurao Village became the 4th such municipality after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Officials lifted the restriction on Saturday midnight except some areas where the radiation level remains high. All of over 1,400 residents there were forced to evacuate. Now most of them are allowed to return home.

According to a survey the village conducted last year, nearly half of the respondents said all or at least parts of their family want to return home when the order is lifted.

Local authorities say they will work to ease concerns over radiation and provide medical services. They will also ask shops to reopen there to sell foods and everyday essentials.
The evacuation order remains in 9 municipalities in Fukushima. This is forcing more than 90,000 people to continue living away from home.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160612_04/

Villagers divided over lifting of order

People from Katsurao have had mixed responses to the lifting of the evacuation order.

Residents who have decided to return to the village include Rinko Matsumoto and her husband.

Matsumoto planted corn seedlings on Sunday in front of her home. She used to eat home-grown corn with her children and grandchildren when they were all living together before the accident.

She says she is happy to be returning home, but that she will miss family members who have no plans of coming back anytime soon.

Akira Miyamoto and his wife spent the day tending roses in their garden and playing with their dog.

Miyamoto says this is the day Katsurao Village has come back to life. He says he wants to enjoy living there surrounded by nature.

Yoshio Matsumoto is one of the former residents who have decided not to return.

Matsumoto lives in temporary housing in another municipality. He says he is not going back home because he is worried about radiation and few of his neighbors are returning.

He says his home has been decontaminated many times, but windy or rainy weather causes radiation levels to rise.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160612_13/

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation advisory to be lifted for most of Iitate, Fukushima, next March 31

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FUKUSHIMA – The central government has informed the municipal assembly of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, that it plans to lift the evacuation advisory for most of the village next March 31.

Preparation work for the displaced residents to return to their homes is scheduled to start July 1, as requested by the municipal government in April.

The advisory will be left in place for the Nagadoro district because radiation levels there remain too high to allow people to return.

The government issued the evacuation advisory for the entire village after it was hit by fallout from the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant roughly 40 km away.

In June last year, decontamination work was completed in the village’s residential areas, reducing the average radiation level in the air to 0.8 microsievert per hour.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/07/national/state-lift-evacuation-advisory-fukushima-village-iitate-next-march-31/

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Government Decides to Lift Evacuation Orders for Three Municipalities

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Government Decides to Lift Evacuation Orders for Three Municipalities

On May 31, the Japanese government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters decided to lift three evacuation orders in Fukushima Prefecture, as follows: Katsurao Village on June 12, Kawauchi Village on June 14, and Minamisoma City on July 12.

The evacuation order for Kawauchi Village had been partially lifted on October 1, 2014, and the recent decision completes the process there.

In Minamisoma City, the section of the JR Joban Line between Haranomachi Station and Odaka Station, which is still unusable because of the evacuation order, is expected to be reopened after the lifting of the order for the town on July 12.

The basic policy for Fukushima’s reconstruction, approved at a Cabinet meeting in March, said that the government would speed up the establishment of an environment so as to lift all evacuation orders by March 2017 at the latest.

However, that still excludes those areas designated as places “where residents will not be able to return home for a long time.”

http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-decides-to-lift-evacuation-orders-for-three-municipalities/

Abe visits villages in Fukushima

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will lead efforts to revive communities in Fukushima, including areas where radiation levels remain prohibitively high.

Abe on Friday inspected the villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Evacuation orders for parts of the 2 villages are due to be lifted in mid-June.

In Katsurao, former residents asked the prime minister to support people who plan to return and resume farming and other businesses.

Abe told them that the desire to revive the hometown is the driving force for reconstruction. He promised to do his best to restore community ties and vitality.

Abe told reporters the government plans to present ideas by the summer for restoring heavily-contaminated areas declared unfit for return.

He said it will be a long process, but that his government is determined to see it through.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160603_39/

feb 19, 2016

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment