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11 years after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, residents angered by the retreat from decontamination of the entire area: “It is only natural to clean up the mess and return it.

February 19, 2022
 It will soon be 11 years since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Many people who have left their homes in areas where it is difficult to return are still uncertain about their future. Last year, the government announced a new policy to decontaminate only the areas around the homes of those who wish to return to their homes in areas where the lifting of evacuation orders was not foreseeable. This is a step backward from the previous policy of decontaminating the entire area, and the residents are angry, saying, “They won’t decontaminate unless we decide to return? (Natsuko Katayama)

In August 2021, the government decided to partially lift the evacuation order for the remaining difficult-to-return areas in seven cities, towns, and villages in Fukushima Prefecture by decontaminating homes and roads by 2029 in response to requests from people who want to return to their homes and live there. The government plans to begin decontamination in fiscal 2024, but has yet to decide what to do with the homes and land of those who do not wish to return. The “designated recovery and revitalization zone,” where decontamination was prioritized within the zone, accounts for only about 8% of the area that is difficult to return to.

The grass around the house grows into trees, and the surrounding fields are filled with thick-trunked willows and kaya (November 18, 2021). At Hatsuke, Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture

The trees around our house and in the fields have grown so thick that we can’t do anything about them… Every time Kazuo Kubota, 70, and his wife Taiko, 66, who have been living as evacuees in Fukushima City, return to their home in the difficult-to-return area of Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture, they sigh.
 Their house is located in the Hatsuki district of Tsushima, Namie Town, about 30 kilometers northwest of the nuclear power plant. The fields are overgrown with trees that can grow up to three meters high. We can’t even cut the kaya with a sickle anymore,” said Kazuo. The plastic greenhouse for leaf tobacco is now just a skeleton, with thick branches sticking up from below. His house was also ransacked by wild boars and other animals, and he gave up clearing it.

The leaf tobacco workshop was overgrown with ivy and there was no place to step.

 Still, Taiko feels relieved when she returns to Hatsuke. Surrounded by nature, she feels the four seasons. Horseradish grows in the stream beside my house, and salamanders live there. I want to return here as soon as possible.
 He hopes to have the area around his house decontaminated and the house demolished, the land cleared, and the house rebuilt so that he and Kazuo’s mother, Tsuya (95), can return to the area together.
 If we could have lived in Hatsuke, our family would have been much closer,” said Taiko. Before the nuclear accident, the family used to go everywhere together, but after the evacuation, they were separated.

The kitchen is a mess of stuff and animal feces.

Tsuya, who used to work in the fields early in the morning and take care of her favorite flowers, began to stay at home more and more often and developed dementia. The family became increasingly strained and quarrelsome. With no one to talk to about her care, Taiko developed alopecia areata and continued to go to the hospital.
 In the same town of Tsushima, there is a “Specific Reconstruction and Regeneration Center Area (Reconstruction Center)” where decontamination is being carried out ahead of time, covering 1.6% of the total area of Tsushima. On the other hand, Hatsuke, located to the west of the Reconstruction Center, has relatively low levels of radiation, but has not been decontaminated except along the main road.
 When Taiko sees places in Namie that have been decontaminated over and over again, she feels her guts boil over.
 If the area had been decontaminated even once, I would have been motivated to do my best,” she said. Why is it that all other areas are decontaminated before being sent home, but the hard-to-return area, which has the highest radiation dose, is not decontaminated until the residents decide to return?

His eldest son is said to be saying, “I want to start a farm in Hatsuke after I finish raising my child. However, there is a strong concern that decontamination limited to the living areas of those who wish to return to the area will result in “unevenness” and many contaminated areas will remain.
 That is why Kazuo is so angry. “I still want to go back here. My parents cultivated this land and passed it down to me. I want to leave it to the next generation. If we pollute the land, it is only natural to clean it up and return it.”
 ”Eleven years have passed. I want to go home. I want to go home. I’ll do whatever I can to return to Hatsuke and die,” Tsuya said, but then he said, “I’ve given up. I’ve given up.”
 Taiko said as if she were praying. “I don’t know how long we will be able to move. I want the decontamination work to be done as soon as possible.”

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/161254?fbclid=IwAR1uxzg0lKenZIqG_0ZRGfiZWib5AWPNUUBE82VIgRNFnt5-gC727aRL6QA

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

A lonely evening at home for Fukushima man retracing past

Mitsuhide Ikeda pours sake while seated in front of photos of his deceased parents at his home in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

December 11, 2021

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Settling in for the night, Mitsuhide Ikeda poured sake into a glass and raised a toast to framed photos of his deceased parents: “I finally made it back home. Let’s drink together.”

The last time the 60-year-old cattle farmer spent a night at home was 10 years and nine months ago.

Large parts of this town that co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were declared “difficult-to-return” zones after the triple meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Ikeda’s parents died after the nuclear accident.

The Shimonogami district where the Ikeda’s home is located lies about five kilometers southwest of the Fukushima nuclear facility.

As part of efforts to rebuild the areas around the plant, the government recently began letting residents return home for an overnight stay as a means of preparing for the day when they can do so permanently.

Unsurprisingly, concerns about radiation levels are still on the minds of many former residents. His wife, Mikiko, 64, refused to accompany him for that reason. Ikeda was the only individual in his neighborhood who took up the offer to return home.

Dangerously high radiation levels registered immediately after the disaster that made it impossible for anybody to live in the area have gradually fallen. The government spent vast sums on the time-consuming process of decontaminating topsoil as a way of reducing radiation levels.

It intends to lift the evacuation order for some parts of Okuma in spring. That would be the first step for setting the stage for residents to return home.

The temporary overnight stay program began in Katsurao on Nov. 30 and is gradually being expanded to five other municipalities, including Okuma.

A check for radiation in November on the Ikeda plot found one spot with a reading of 3.8 microsieverts per hour, above the level deemed safe enough for the government to lift the evacuation order.

Even though the Environment Ministry is planning additional decontamination work, Mikiko was unsettled by the reading and concluded it would be impossible to pick up the threads of their past life in Okuma.

Other changes in the close to 11 years since the nuclear disaster make a return to Okuma unrealistic.

While a large supermarket, hospital and bank branch remain standing in the town, there is no indication when those facilities might resume operations.

In the interim, the Ikedas plan to commute to Okuma from the community they moved to as evacuees.

The overnight stay program is restricted to an area close to what was once the bustling center of the town. About 7,600 residents lived there before the nuclear disaster.

The town government envisions that as many as 2,600 people will reside in the town within five years of the evacuation order being finally lifted if plans proceed to rebuild social infrastructure.

But the writing is on the wall for many people.

According to the Environment Ministry, about 1,150 homes in the district had been torn down as of the end of September.

And as of Dec. 8, only 31 residents in 15 households applied for the overnight stays.

Even Ikeda admits that Okuma will likely never return to the community he knew before 2011.

“Too much time has passed,” he said.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14500400

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Last Fukushima town to reopen welcomes back its first residents

Three people have moved back to Futaba, which aims to attract about 2,000 over the next five years

Yoichi Yatsuda plays with his dogs in Futaba, Japan.

February 16, 2022

Late last month, Yoichi Yatsuda slept in his own home for the first time in more than a decade.

As a resident of Futaba, a town in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there was a time when simply spending the night in his family home had seemed an impossible dream.

The 70-year-old was one of tens of thousands of people who were forced to flee and start a life in nuclear limbo when the plant had a triple meltdown in March 2011.

As Japan reeled after the earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, Yatsuda and his wife, Analisa, and an estimated 160,000 other residents of Fukushima prefecture packed a few belongings and left, believing they would be back within weeks.

“If you had told me at the beginning that I would have to wait this long to come home, I would have given up straight away,” said Yatsuda, a retired professional keirin cyclist who has lived in more than 10 places since the disaster.

Today, the couple are attempting to rebuild their lives in Futaba, the last of dozens of towns and villages to have ended their status as no-go zones after radiation levels were deemed low enough for people to return.

Futaba is the last of dozens of towns and villages to have ended their status as no-go zones.

They made periodic visits to repair and refurbish their house, which was once overrun by wild boar, and have been allowed to stay overnight on a trial basis since late January. Local authorities hope more people will follow when the evacuation order is officially lifted in parts of the town later this year.

Yatsuda’s homecoming has been bittersweet. Before the disaster, Futaba was home to about 7,000 people. Just 15 residents applied to take part in the trial, and to date only three, including Yasuda and his wife, have moved back permanently.

Many of his former neighbours have found jobs and built new lives in other parts of the region and across Japan. In a poll by the reconstruction agency, just 10% of Futaba’s former residents said they would like to return, while 60% had no plans to go back.

Those with young children are the most reluctant to contemplate returning to a town that has no schools, shops, restaurants, hospitals or public services. Those with homes that survived the tsunami – which killed 50 people in Futaba – have had them demolished, leaving the town dotted with empty plots of land.

Yatsuda’s only neighbour – although he lives a short drive away – is Yasushi Hosozawa, who lives in a tiny room above a parking space and a shed filled with his beloved fishing rods.

“I was born here, and I always felt that if I was ever given the chance to return, then I would take it,” said Hosozawa, whose wife and son run a restaurant in another Fukushima town farther inland. “I love fishing and have my own boat moored here … that was a big factor in deciding to come back.”

Yasushi Hosozawa: ‘There used to be lots of people here. But look at it now … it’s a wasteland.’

The 78-year-old, a former plumber and cafeteria owner, returned late last month to find that his water supply had yet to be reconnected, meaning he had to drive to the railway station to use the toilet. “There used to be lots of people here,” he said, pointing at patches of grass where his neighbours’ homes once stood. “But look at it now … it’s a wasteland.”

Like many Fukushima residents, Yatsuda has little positive to say about Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company that operates the nuclear plant, where decommissioning work is expected to last decades. “I believed Tepco when they said that something like the 2011 disaster could never happen,” he said. “It’s all about trust. When I returned to Fukushima 40 years ago, I was assured that this was a safe place to live.”

While no one expects life in Futaba to ever return to its pre-disaster normality, local officials believe more people will resettle. The town has set a target of attracting about 2,000 people, including new residents, over the next five years, and new public housing for 25 households will open in October.

The town currently has no open schools, shops, restaurants, hospitals or public services, but aims to attract 2,000 people over the next five years.

“Very few people want to come back, so can you really say that the town has recovered?” said Yatsuda, who will plant flowers in his garden this spring and, he hopes, reopen the gym behind his home where he trained aspiring keirin racers before the disaster.

“The problem is people can’t see physical signs of recovery with their own eyes. Unless the authorities do more to create jobs and attract new residents, I can’t see things improving much in the next 10 years.”

The stress of life as an evacuee has taken a toll on his mental and physical health, but he has no regrets about returning to a town that, its three current residents aside, still resembles a nuclear ghost town. “This is our house. This is where we played with our children when they were little,” he said.

While the couple have no concerns about radiation, they have accepted that, for now, they must travel outside the town to spend time with their eight grandchildren.

“We used to enjoy seeing friends and playing with our grandchildren here,” said Analisa. “It would be great if younger families moved here … I desperately want to see and hear children again.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/16/futaba-last-fukushima-town-to-reopen-welcomes-back-its-first-residents

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima man returning home wants to tell sons about his ‘error’

A slogan for promoting the use of nuclear power, worked out by Yuji Onuma, is seen on a signboard installed in the downtown area of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, in March 2015. The signboard was removed in 2016.

February 14, 2022

FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–The town where Yuji Onuma in his youth dreamed up a slogan promoting the “bright future” that nuclear power promised remains deserted and a shell of its former self.

But Onuma, 45, is now hoping to pass along a different message to his sons of the dangers of nuclear power, as he plans to continue visiting his former home after more than a decade away. 

Evacuees from this town, cohost to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, are being allowed to stay overnight at their homes for the first time in 11 years since the nuclear disaster.

The temporary stays are ahead of a full return envisaged in the limited area of Futaba in summer this year. Futaba is the only municipality where all residents remain evacuated.

OVERNIGHT STAY REKINDLES MEMORIES

An Asahi Shimbun reporter accompanied Onuma, his wife and their two sons as they returned home from Jan. 29 through 30 on a “preparatory overnight stay” program that started on Jan. 20. 

Around noon on Jan. 29, Onuma was in the Konokusa district of Futaba, 6 kilometers to the northwest of the nuclear plant, with his wife and two sons.

The district is designated a “difficult-to-return” zone, where an evacuation order remains in place because of the high levels of radiation from the triple meltdown at the plant, and is outside the area for the preparatory stay program.

Houses in the district were seen with entrances closed off with barricades.

“Damage from the nuclear disaster is not always easy to see, but I still want you to know something about it,” he told his family as they walked along a street.

Onuma pointed to a barbershop that he used to go to as a young boy. He also pointed to the home of a classmate and a road he would take to go to a driving school.

“There were people’s livelihoods in every single one of these houses before we were evacuated,” he told his family members in the midst of the totally deserted landscape.

“Oh!”

The abrupt shout came from Yusei, the oldest of Onuma’s sons. Right before the eyes of the 10-year-old was a house that was flattened by the massive tremor of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered a tsunami and the nuclear disaster, on March 11, 2011.

A rainwater drainage pipe covered with moss was seen lying on the ground. A tree was spotted growing through an opening between the tiles of the house’s roof.

Difficult-to-return zones account for more than 90 percent of the landmass of Futaba, where no one has yet returned to live. Ties with fellow townspeople have grown so thin that Onuma learned about the deaths of his neighbors and a classmate only through an information bulletin of the town government.

“It’s so sad,” Onuma said. “I could have offered incense for them if only it had not been for the nuclear disaster.”

The preparatory overnight stay program started in the area designated a “specified reconstruction and revitalization base,” where the evacuation order is expected to be lifted in June.

In the designated area, many houses have been demolished. Onuma’s home stands alone, surrounded by empty lots.

Onuma also had planned to have his home demolished, as no elementary school or junior high school was likely to be reopened any time soon.

What the youngest of his sons said changed his mind. Onuma quoted 8-year-old Yusho as saying, when the family was visiting Futaba last March, “I like Futaba. I want to come to Futaba again.”

Encouraged by his son’s remarks, Onuma in April began improving the living conditions at his home, including tidying it up and decontaminating it.

He said he hopes to keep returning here with his family during summer vacations and on other occasions so he can see how the community will continue changing in the future.

ARCHITECT OF FUTABA’S ONCE PROUD SLOGAN

An overhead signboard once greeted visitors to a central shopping street in Futaba’s downtown area. It carried a slogan saying, “Nuclear power is the energy of a bright future,” which Onuma submitted when he was an elementary school pupil to win a local competition.

Being the author of the iconic slogan was, for some time following the nuclear disaster, a source of distress for Onuma.

He once thought that atomic energy could be entrusted to provide people’s power needs for the future. However, in the twinkling of an eye, the nuclear accident changed the lives of so many people.

Onuma said he has a different view of nuclear power now.

“I have to tell my children everything, including my own ‘error,’ so the same thing will never be repeated,” Onuma said.

He planted pansies, which can mean “remembrance” in the language of flowers, on a flower bed outside his home.

“I hope to convey pre-disaster remembrances of Futaba to my children,” he said. “And I also hope to go on creating new ‘remembrances’ in this town, where the clocks have stood still for 10 years and 10 months and counting.”

EVACUATION ORDER MAY BE LIFTED IN JUNE

Futaba was home to 7,140 residents when the quake and tsunami struck. The town remains totally evacuated due to the nuclear disaster that resulted, and its residents are taking shelter across 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Part of Futaba’s difficult-to-return zones has been designated a specified reconstruction and revitalization base. The town government is hoping to have the evacuation order lifted in the reconstruction base area in June.

The preparatory overnight stay program, which allows evacuees who want to return to spend the night at their homes in advance to prepare for their lives there, started in Futaba on Jan. 20.

Many townspeople of Futaba, in the meantime, have rebuilt their lives in other communities to which they have evacuated. Only 19 individuals from 13 households had applied for a preparatory overnight stay by Jan. 27, with Onuma’s two sons being the only minors among them.

The town government has set the goal of having 2,000 residents, including new settlers, five years after the evacuation order is lifted.

When parties including the Reconstruction Agency and the town government took a survey last year, however, some 60 percent of Futaba’s residents said they had decided against returning, and only about 10 percent said they wished to return.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14538699

February 17, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Trickle of residents return to Fukushima’s last deserted town

Futaba, whose population of around 5,600 was forced to flee over radiation fears, had been the final deserted municipality in the Fukushima region

Jan. 21, 2022

TOKYO – Five former residents of the last remaining uninhabited town near Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant returned on Thursday to live there for the first time since the 2011 disaster.

Following extensive decontamination, numerous areas around the plant in northeast Japan have been declared safe after a huge earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown over a decade ago.

TV footage showed the returnees inspecting the buildings, with one testing a tap outside his house.

“It’s out! This is the first time in 10 years and 11 months that running water comes out,” he said.

Futaba, whose population of around 5,600 was forced to flee over radiation fears, had been the final deserted municipality in the Fukushima region.

But restrictions were lifted in a small part of the town in March 2020 and the government is preparing to lift the cordon on a wider area later this year.

A local official told AFP that five people from four households are returning to live in Futaba on a trial basis, the first of just 15 people who have applied to a scheme, working towards a permanent return to the town.

The group had already been back to visit Futaba, but Thursday marks the first time they will stay overnight.

They can live there as part of the trial until at least June, when the wider cordon is expected to be lifted and their residence can become permanent, the official said.

The scheme “aims to ensure that residents will be able to live without problems, by, for example, checking if the sewers function well and there are facilities to support everyday life”, a cabinet office official in charge of supporting Fukushima residents told AFP.

More than 18,400 people died or remain missing after the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 which sparked the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The government has undertaken an extensive decontamination programme in the region, literally scraping layers of topsoil, among other methods to remove radiation.

It has gradually declared areas safe for residents to return, with just 2.4 percent of the prefecture still covered by no-go orders as of last year.

But in some places, evacuees have been reluctant to return even after measures are lifted, worried about persistent radiation or fully resettled in other places.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/trickle-of-residents-return-to-fukushima%27s-last-deserted-town

January 24, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima town prepares for return of residents

Jan. 4, 2022

Tuesday marked the first business day of 2022 in Japan. Officials in Fukushima Prefecture’s Futaba Town are planning to welcome residents back later this year.

The town’s residents have not returned since an accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate. Part of the plant is located in the town. The accident occurred in March 2011. Futaba is the only municipality that evacuees have not returned to. The town had a population of about 7,000 before the disaster.

After years of decontamination efforts, the residents are expected to be allowed to return to some areas, starting in June.

Futaba Town officials held a ceremony on Tuesday to mark the first day of the year. The event took place at a town office in Iwaki City. Iwaki is located about 60 kilometers south of the center of Futaba Town.

Futaba Town Mayor Izawa Shiro told about 40 officials that this is going to be a very busy year, as the residents are expected to return.

Izawa said he will be on the frontlines of the town’s reconstruction efforts. He also asked the officials to join him.

Beginning on January 20, residents will be permitted to stay overnight in the town, in order to start preparing for their return. The evacuation order is expected to be lifted in June.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20220104_12/

January 6, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

A lonely evening at home for Fukushima man retracing past

Unsurprisingly, concerns about radiation levels are still on the minds of many former residents. His wife, Mikiko, 64, refused to accompany him for that reason. Ikeda was the only individual in his neighborhood who took up the offer to return home.

Mitsuhide Ikeda pours sake while seated in front of photos of his deceased parents at his home in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

December 11, 2021

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Settling in for the night, Mitsuhide Ikeda poured sake into a glass and raised a toast to framed photos of his deceased parents: “I finally made it back home. Let’s drink together.”

The last time the 60-year-old cattle farmer spent a night at home was 10 years and nine months ago.

Large parts of this town that co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were declared “difficult-to-return” zones after the triple meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Ikeda’s parents died after the nuclear accident.

The Shimonogami district where the Ikeda’s home is located lies about five kilometers southwest of the Fukushima nuclear facility.

As part of efforts to rebuild the areas around the plant, the government recently began letting residents return home for an overnight stay as a means of preparing for the day when they can do so permanently.

Unsurprisingly, concerns about radiation levels are still on the minds of many former residents. His wife, Mikiko, 64, refused to accompany him for that reason. Ikeda was the only individual in his neighborhood who took up the offer to return home.

Dangerously high radiation levels registered immediately after the disaster that made it impossible for anybody to live in the area have gradually fallen. The government spent vast sums on the time-consuming process of decontaminating topsoil as a way of reducing radiation levels.

It intends to lift the evacuation order for some parts of Okuma in spring. That would be the first step for setting the stage for residents to return home.

The temporary overnight stay program began in Katsurao on Nov. 30 and is gradually being expanded to five other municipalities, including Okuma.

A check for radiation in November on the Ikeda plot found one spot with a reading of 3.8 microsieverts per hour, above the level deemed safe enough for the government to lift the evacuation order.

Even though the Environment Ministry is planning additional decontamination work, Mikiko was unsettled by the reading and concluded it would be impossible to pick up the threads of their past life in Okuma.

Other changes in the close to 11 years since the nuclear disaster make a return to Okuma unrealistic.

While a large supermarket, hospital and bank branch remain standing in the town, there is no indication when those facilities might resume operations.

In the interim, the Ikedas plan to commute to Okuma from the community they moved to as evacuees.

The overnight stay program is restricted to an area close to what was once the bustling center of the town. About 7,600 residents lived there before the nuclear disaster.

The town government envisions that as many as 2,600 people will reside in the town within five years of the evacuation order being finally lifted if plans proceed to rebuild social infrastructure.

But the writing is on the wall for many people.

According to the Environment Ministry, about 1,150 homes in the district had been torn down as of the end of September.

And as of Dec. 8, only 31 residents in 15 households applied for the overnight stays.

Even Ikeda admits that Okuma will likely never return to the community he knew before 2011.

“Too much time has passed,” he said.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14500400

December 12, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021, Japan, PERSONAL STORIES | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima residents demand stricter decontamination to enable safe return

Residents of the Yonomori district in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, march with a portable shrine in April 2007.

January 22, 2021

“Will Tomioka go back to how it was before?” Looking at the results of a survey, Kazuyoshi Kamata, vice head of the Yonomori Station northern administrative district in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, reflects on his hometown and its reconstruction following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triple meltdown in 2011.

In the surveys conducted by the Reconstruction Agency last fall, Tomioka residents listed important conditions in deciding whether they would return to their hometown or not, such as the reopening and construction of new medical, welfare and elder care facilities as well as the resumption and improvement of shopping complexes.

One condition that stands out among the list, though, is a further reduction in the amount of radiation, which 1 in 3 residents raised as an important issue. The government has been decontaminating specially designated areas, where it was once thought that settlement was limited for good but which can be reopened for residents. It has set the annual radiation exposure limit to be lower than 20 millisieverts as one of the standards to lift the evacuation orders.

Now that nearly 10 years have passed since the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, Kamata stressed the need for the government to decontaminate the area under stricter standards so that residents will feel safer returning to their hometown.

“In order to maintain people’s feelings for their hometowns, I want (the government) to stick to the stance of rebuilding our Tomioka in the form that we all want, including restoring the (basic living) environment.”

Tomioka’s Yonomori district used to be bustling with an increasing population, said Kamata, adding that younger generations supported the local community by planning events utilizing a famous row of cherry blossom trees and developing agriculture centered around rice crops.

“The district was a place full of energy where everyone, regardless of generation, was involved in making the local community,” said Kamata.

At the Yonomori cherry blossom festival held in spring, for example, smiles spread among residents as children strolled around, and the event also featured a mikoshi, or Shinto palanquin, from Otoshi Shrine.

The government is also doing its part in reconstructing the specially designated area in Tomioka by establishing zones focused on revitalizing businesses and agriculture. With creating agricultural corporations and making use of tourism resources such as roadside cherry blossom trees as the two main pillars, the government is working to attract about 1,600 people to live there, which is 40% of the population before the accident.

In the meantime, residents have been raising concerns about the 20 millisieverts condition, demanding a higher standard and more decontamination. In places that have recorded higher radiation levels, it is expected there will be damage from harmful rumors about things including tourism and agriculture.

“Without people, reconstruction would not begin. Creating conditions to invite more people without concerns is of utmost importance,” said Kamata, arguing that alongside other areas, restoring the living environment, including decontamination with the aim of lowering the annual radiation exposure to 1 millisevert or less, will be needed for future generations to live in Yonomori.

“Once the evacuation order is lifted, I want the local community to regain its connections within (the district),” said Kamata, hoping to take on a role of handing down the district’s traditions and way of life, as well as traditional scenery, to younger generations once he returns. As a vice-head of the administrative district, though, Kamata also intends to communicate crucial issues to the local government while residing in the area.

The lifting of the evacuation order in the specially designated area is expected in the spring of 2023, 12 years after the order was first issued.

“Without tackling issues such as restoring the living environment and infrastructure, as well as decommissioning of the Fukushima No.1 plant in a diligent manner, people won’t come back,” said Kamata. Now he hopes the government will share his passion for the hometown’s rebuilding.

This section features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the prefecture’s largest newspaper. The original article was published Jan. 12.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/01/22/national/fukushima-decontaminating-town/

January 25, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Japan nuclear fallout: Okuma residents encouraged home

48272088_303.jpg
April 10, 2019
Eight years after a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, part of nearby Okuma has been declared safe for residents to return. But there has been no rush to go home as radiation levels remain high.
The evacuation order for parts of Okuma was lifted by the Japanese government on Wednesday.
But just 367 of the town’s pre-2011 population of 10,341 have registered to go home, according to local media reports in Japan.
Okuma sits alongside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and 40% of the town has been declared safe for a permanent return. But a survey last year found only 12.5% of former residents wanted to do so.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to attend a ceremony in Okuma on Sunday to mark the occasion. But the government has been accused of promoting the return of residents to showcase safety ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
“This is a major milestone for the town,” Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said in a written statement. “But this is not the goal, but a start toward the lifting of the evacuation order for the entire town.”
Lingering radiation
There are plans to open a new town hall in May to encourage more people to go back to their town which was devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdown at the plant in March 2011. But the town center near the main train station remains closed due to high radiation levels which exceed the annual exposure limit. There will be no functioning hospital for another two years.
Much of Okuma still records high radiation levels and is off-limits. All of nearby Futaba remains closed, with the former 40,000 residents unable to return home. In a report from an investigation published last month, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said “radiation levels remain too high for the safe return of thousands of Japanese citizen evacuees.”
Reluctance to return
The government lifted the evacuation order for much of neighboring Tomioka two years ago. But only 10% of Tomioka’s population has so far returned. Some 339 square kilometers (131 square miles) of the area around the plant are designated unsafe. 
Fears of exposure to radiation remain high among former residents, especially those with children. In its report, Greenpeace accused the government of failure: “In the case of workers and children, who are in the frontline of hazards resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government continues to ignore international radioprotection recommendations.”
Part of the Okuma is being used to store millions of cubic meters of toxic soil collected during the decontanimation operation. Authorities say it will be removed by 2045 but no alternative storage site has yet been found.
In all, 160,000 people were evacuated out of the area when three of Fukushima’s six reactors went into meltdown, leading to radiation leaks.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Schools reopen, but student numbers fail to rebound in disaster-hit Fukushima municipalities

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Four elementary schools in Fukushima Prefecture link up via a teleconference system in February and conduct a joint class on ethics.
March 19, 2019
FUKUSHIMA – Eight years after the March 2011 disasters, elementary and junior high schools have reopened in 10 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities after the lifting of nuclear evacuation advisories. Student numbers have not rebounded.
According to statistics released last May, the number of students stood at only about 10 percent of the level before 3/11.
During the protracted evacuations, many families rebuilt their lives in new locations, leading to the sharp fall in students in Fukushima. As a result, local governments are facing difficulties keeping schools operating.
… A man in his 60s who is a member of a neighborhood community association in the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata is disappointed by the steep decrease in the number of children.
“The disappearance of children’s voices is like the lights going out,” the man, who did not want his name published, said….
… The central government is working to improve small-class education in depopulated areas through the use of information and communications technology.
Read more:

March 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Post-disaster recovery of Fukushima folk dances lags without return of evacuees

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The Sanbiki Shishi-mai, or “Three lion dance,” is performed by local children for the first time in eight years at Yasaka Shrine in the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 7, 2018.
February 26, 2019
FUKUSHIMA — A recent survey found that activities for 80 folk performing arts, including kagura and nenbutsu odori dancing, which were suspended after the 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 15 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture had resumed.
Thirty percent of such arts were having trouble continuing, with some having suspended activities again or being forced to change or cut back on performances, according to the survey by Minzoku Geino o Keishosuru Fukushima no Kai, a Koriyama-based nonprofit organization that supports folk performing arts in the prefecture.
“Without both passionate skilled leaders and sympathetic companions, performances won’t last long even if they resume,” a specialist said.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima, the impossible return to the villages of the former evacuation zone: the example of Iitate

Translation Sean Arclight
The commune of Iitate, in the department of Fukushima, was hard hit by the fallout from the disaster of March 2011. Deserted by the inhabitants after the evacuation order, it bears the aftermath of the accident and several years of abandonment. While authorities encourage return and abolish aid to refugees, former residents are afraid to return to an environment where radioactivity remains above international standards.
Summary
From the same author, see also on Géoconfluences: Cécile Asanuma-Brice, “The nuclear migrants”, October 2017. http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/informations-scientifiques/dossiers-regionaux/japon/un-autre-regard/migrants-du-nucleaire
The Tohoku disaster, which was accompanied by an unprecedented industrial disaster with the explosion of the Fukushima daiichi power station on March 11, 2011, has not finished generating debate and tensions over the proposed solutions for the management of the protection of the inhabitants. The situation is complex, mixing international and national industrial interests, the need for local revitalization and health and social management. The inhabitants are torn between the desire for an impossible return, the policies of resilience constrained [1] and the difficult resettlement in their new host community (Asanuma-Brice, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).
In this article, we propose to make an initial assessment of the situation in Iitate, an old village evacuated after the disaster, reopened to housing in 2017, and whose former residents saw the public financial aid suspended at the shelter in April 2018.
1. The village of Iitate: between ocean and mountain
The department of Fukushima is crossed by two large mountain ranges: Ousanmiyaku, the longest mountain range in Japan, which crosses the main island from Aomori Prefecture to the north, ending in the south of Tochigi, and Abukumakochi (commonly known as Abukumasanchi) stretching from south of Miyagi to the north of Ibaraki Department. These two rocky mountain ranges cut the territory into three zones: in the west the region of Aizu, in the center Nakadôri and in the east, the area of ​​Hamadôri which runs along the coast to extend to the Pacific (figure 1 ).
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Figure 1. Localization of Iitate in Hamadôri Region and Fukushima Prefecture
Iitate is located northwest of Hamadôri, on the emerged part of the Pacific Plate. The inhabited area is engulfed in the heart of the Abukumakochi Mountains, whose highest point on the perimeter of the community is Mount Hanatsukaya (918.5 meters). The population was approximately 6,000 at the time of the accident. The forests that cover almost the entire territory (Figure 2) are rich in a variety of trees: ginkgo biloba, keyaki (Zelvoka serrata), fir, beech, harigiri (kaopanax pictus, a thorn), osmanthus, oaks … In addition to the forest (75% of the forest area of ​​which about 50% is state-owned), the territory of the commune was mainly devoted to agriculture (8% of meadows for raising beef, known as “black beef”, 6.2% of rice fields, 4.9% of fields, the remaining 7% are scattered in various activities [source: http://iitate-madei.com/village01.html%5D ).
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Figure 2. A forest environment about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima daiichi power station
The location of the urbanized areas within the basins between each mountain has made them particularly vulnerable to the deposits of isotopes carried by the winds coming from the Fukushima dai ichi plant (Asanuma-Brice, Libération, 2018).
The municipality is thus at the extreme north-west of the torch of contamination, the winds carrying the cloud laden with nuclear material having rushed into it. As the radioactive cloud flew over the area on March 14th, the snow deposited contamination on the ground, soiling for many years a lush nature.
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Figure 3. Radiation doses and prohibited area after the disaster
In 2011, a few months after the readjustment of the evacuation zone first demarcated in a semi-circle of 20 km around the power plant (Figure 3), the village of Iitate is finally evacuated as well as all the communes on which the radioactive cloud had fallen (Figure 4). If since 2016 the evacuation order had been pushed back under the pressure of the inhabitants, it has been effective since March 2017. In April 2018, the financial aid to the shelter allocated to the former inhabitants of the village are abolished. Since 2014, the government had opted for a risk communication budget to influence refugees on their return. The government and international institutions maintain the argument of too high a cost that would be linked to a shelter policy (Asanuma-Brice, 2014).
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Figure 4. Status of prohibition lifts in the area, situation in 2018
This decision is not without arousing the confusion of scientists specialized in nuclear physics who believe that it is still much too early to take such measures. This is particularly the case of Professor Imanaka Tetsuji, a professor at the Nuclear Experimentation Center at Kyôto University, or Kôji Itonaga, a professor in the Department of Biological Resources at Nihondaigaku University in Tokyo. Both of them presented the results of their expertise at the Iisora ​​symposium, which was held in Fukushima on 17 February 2018 by former village residents and researchers of various persuasions to discuss the relevance or otherwise of this decision (figure 5).
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Figure 5. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Imanaka (Kyota University Nuclear Experiment Center) presents his results: “Is 20 msv an acceptable safety rate? “. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
2. Did the decontamination work?
In the village of Iitate, the situation is still far from settled. The multiple decontamination campaigns have not been able to overcome the radioactivity rate, which is still equivalent to 10 times the pre-accident standard for measurements made around dwellings, and 20 times for measurements taken in the mountains. In August 2017, a measurement campaign carried out by Professor Itonaga’s team (University of Japan / Nihondaigaku) ​​on 8 houses in the village revealed rates ranging between 0.15 and 0.4 microsievert / h for measurements made on the floor, and 0.23 to 0.78 microsievert / h for measurements made near the ceiling of dwellings. In 2014, the rates were considerably higher, up to 2 microsievert / hour depending on the case. There is therefore a drop, but nevertheless deemed insufficient by the two teachers to allow the return to housing, especially as outside homes, rates recorded are flying quickly. The average measured on the ground is 0.65 microsievert / h, that made at 1 meter from the ground is 0.59 microsievert / h. These houses surrounded by forest suffer the effects of surrounding vegetation that can not be decontaminated. These houses paradoxically become victims of their natural environment, polluted for many years to come. Rainfall following steep gradients carries isotopes to valleys where dwellings are located which in turn see the increased contamination rate despite repeated waves of decontamination.
On the sample taken, Professor Itonaga (Figure 6) estimates that it will take another fifty years before the average level of environmental irradiation returns to 1 msv / year, a rate internationally defined as acceptable for the population [2]. In addition, this rate of acceptability has been increased to 20 msv / year, the municipality being part of the perimeter classified as a state of emergency. The removal of the evacuation order is therefore decided in the state by the administration which, while recognizing the instability of the environment still classified “emergency zone”, forced, by removing subsidies to the shelter and by closing temporary housing estates, residents return to live in areas still contaminated.
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Figure 6. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Itonaga (Department of Biological Resources, Nihondaigaku University, Tokyo) leads the debate with the speakers of the day, composed of scientists and former residents of the village of Iitate. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
In 2017, the authorities declared that they wanted to recycle all the waste below 8,000 Bq / kg, although the norm before the accident was 100 Bq / kg, in road works. Nevertheless, the radioactivity levels measured in the Iitate region are more than twice this threshold, with peaks of up to 40 000 Bq / kg for the measurement of only cesium 134 and 137 in the surrounding mountains. In June 2017, measurements on the sap of trees in the mountains adjacent to the dwellings revealed levels of 143 298 Bq / kg (by association of the measurement of 2 cesium 134 and 137) for an oak tree and 39 185 Bq / kg for the sap of a cherry tree (see Box 1).
Although the contamination is disparate and mobile depending on precipitation, and the decontamination is momentarily effective on a lot of soil for which 15 cm of surface soil replaced by healthy soil had been scraped off, the half-life of cesium 137 being thirty years, it seems difficult to consider a decline in the general rate of radiation irradiation before the end of this period.
 Radioactivity, becquerels, cesium, what are we talking about?
The becquerel per gram (or per kilogram) characterizes the overall content of radioactive elements. Cesium 134 and 137 are the two main nuclides dispersed in the environment after the explosion of the Fukushima plant. It is found in large quantities and potentially far from the plant. Other nuclides such as plutonium or strontium are also present, but in smaller quantities and mainly within a hundred kilometers around the plant because these particles are heavier. The half-life of cesium is 30 years on average. However, “cesium is an alkali metal. For the human body, it strongly resembles potassium. But the body contains significant amounts of potassium, it is essential to humans […]. And for this reason, when the cesium is released into the environment, the body considers it as it does with the alkali metal potassium, that is to say, it integrates and accumulates in our body. “*
* Hirano, Kasai, 2016, extract translated from Japanese by Robert Stolz and English by Geoconfluences
 
3. The village of Iitate, an impossible return?
The village of Iitate which extends over 230 km² had already begun its demographic decline before the evacuation, from 9 385 inhabitants in 1970 to 6 209 in 2010 (Figure 7). It is only composed of 41 people according to the authorities in 2015. In 2018, part of the population returned to live in these territories, unable to pay rent elsewhere without subsidies from the state, and today about 700 people who returned to live in the village.
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Figure 7. Communal population of the village of Iitate 1970-2015
Of the initial pre-disaster population, 4,934 persons [3] in 2,032 households fled to the interior of Fukushima Prefecture, with the vast majority in Fukushima itself (3,174 people) ( Figure 9). Only 297 persons, divided into 156 households, migrated out of the department, mainly to the Tokyo area (Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tokyo departments, see Figure 8). A total of 90% of the population has moved in seven years while 546 people in 288 households plan to return to the village. For the latter, the breakdown by household shows that they are almost exclusively couples without children, the size of these households being 1.9 persons. They are preparing to enter an ecosystem mainly composed of forests, formerly anthropized, but left abandoned for 7 years. Thus, the rice fields formerly in activity would require a colossal work to be rehabilitated. The forests themselves are no longer maintained and nature has regained its rights in the vast majority of the territory.
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Figures 8 and 9. Destination of refugees from the village of Iitate
The lifting of benefits in April 2018 led, for most of the elderly without resources, to a forced return to a deserted region. Of the 4,934 people who sought refuge within the department, 384 of them, divided into 233 households, were housed in seven temporary housing sites that were being closed. 363 persons (174 households) were rehoused in public housing, or 8% of the total, 1,053 (550 households) are relocated to private sector housing rented by the public services, and the 49%, made up of 3,119 people in 1,060 households, is hosted by parents. 15 single people are in retirement homes.
In December 2017, a survey conducted by Professor Itonaga’s laboratory of 52 households totaling 195 people revealed the main trends in residents’ intentions regarding the return policy (Figure 10).
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Figure 10. Decisions of residents about their return and their house in Iitate.
These statistics show that of the 28.9% of households that decided to return, 11.1% of households do so to comply with the order of the administrative authorities, but 17.8% because they can not to assume their daily lives elsewhere without the help of the allowances. 20% of these households, despite the financial strain they are in, will not return, and 46.7% have not yet decided in December 2017.
The results of the multiple-choice questionnaire concerning the types of housing within the village of Iitate for the inhabitants who returned to live in the village show that while 25% of these 17 households were able to renovate their former home, 25% will preserve it in its current state, and 12.5% ​​do not plan to rebuild it, for lack of physical and / or financial means. However, most buildings were made with natural materials and therefore perishable (wood structure, tatami, etc.). Japan is under the influence of a humid sub-continental climate in summer, which results in the simultaneous recording of high heat with a very high level of humidity. A monsoon season (May-June) precedes two typhoon seasons that sweep the archipelago in June and September, producing very high rainfall and generating regular floods. All these reasons make frequent renovation of buildings necessary. These buildings, which have been vacant for seven years, are for the most part in an advanced state of disrepair. In addition, animals have reconquered these spaces long uninhabited. Houses ravaged by wild boars or cattle, come to discover the places, are not rare. We can therefore assume that in the 37.5% of households that will preserve their habitat in the current state, a good part will live in precarious and unstable conditions.
The main reason (68.9%) for which the inhabitants do not wish to return to their village is the fact of having to live without the proximity of their children and grandchildren who, as for them, will not return.
A significant part of the former inhabitants justifies their decision of no return by the refusal to live in a territory where mountains and forests are still contaminated (64.4%). Forests covering more than 70% of the town, this point is important and can not be easily resolved. The same percentage of people (about 65%) are reluctant to return because of the renewal of nature on the village. Among other things, there is the overabundance of wild animals that have regained their rights over these territories [4].
For 62.2% of them, the absence of shops, hospitals and other daily services are at the origin of their decision of no return.
53.3% believe that the level of ambient radioactivity is still too high to consider returning to live in their village. 51.1% mention the impossibility of having an agricultural activity, 51.1% are worried about future health effects. A similarly large number of inhabitants, 46.7% will not return because of the presence of sacks of contaminated soil strewn on the territory of the municipality. Secondary reasons (below 40%) relate to the inability to consume mushrooms and other mountain plants, the absence of neighbors and the breakdown of community links. For some residents of Iitate, it’s simply “inhuman to get people to find that” (McNeill & Matsumoto, 2017).
4. What are the inhabitants’ demands?
The question of whether the government or TEPCO took responsibility for the accident led the residents to form associations to defend their rights in court. Nevertheless, these approaches are parallel and do not respond to situations of resettlement forced by the authorities. We list below some points regularly mentioned by the inhabitants during our field surveys:
it would be desirable for the authorities to recognize the difficulty of maintaining the right of residence in municipalities where the rate of contamination remains high due to “long-term industrial pollution”. Thus, for the inhabitants who wish to return, allowances should be put in place in order to allow the renovation of their habitat, as well as the decontamination works which are imposed at regular rate.
a constant and free health monitoring of the re-entrant populations
frequent radioactivity measurements, not only atmospheric, but also plants and other consumer products.
for those who decide to live outside the municipality: help and support should be established to ensure, if not possession, in any case the rental of a secure property in the place as well as job search support for people of working age. For people who are no longer able to work, a grant must be awarded to them to enable them to support their daily lives.
the problems relating to simultaneous membership of two separate communes due to the duplication of the place of settlement also remain to be resolved. This generates questions relating to the payment of local taxes, the right to vote as well as various everyday documents (driver’s license, administrative point of attachment for any employment procedure, etc.).
a recurring problem is the presence of radioactive waste in the territory that participates in maintaining a high level of ambient radioactivity. The need to create adapted legislative rules recognizing the damage caused by the obligation to live in a territory affected by an industrial disaster and to obtain the appropriate compensation.
Conclusion
The removal of the evacuation order in the contaminated areas of Fukushima prefecture plunges the population into the deepest disarray. The impossible choices that the inhabitants have been facing for seven years now lead them too many times to turn to the ultimate exit: suicide.
On March 3, 2018, the local newspaper, Fukushima Minpo wrote: “In the heart of the shelter, more than 2,211 people died from reasons directly attributable to the stress of the shelter.” The most affected municipalities are Minamisôma (507 people), Namie (414) Tomioka (410 people), Futaba (147 people), in other words, the communes whose population was evacuated without support for a possible reintegration in their place of residence. ‘Home. The number of deaths in question here exceeds those attributable to the natural disaster (tsunami or earthquake). Of a total of 4,040 inhabitants of Fukushima County who lost their lives for reasons directly related to the disaster, 1,605 (39.7%) people died as a result of the natural disaster and 2,211 (54.7%) because of the mismanagement of the shelter.
The suicide of these people is attributable to the stress of the forced return policies, the prolongation of the accommodation for seven years in temporary housing (whereas this period is limited to four years in the law), the maintenance in the hope of a possible return of people, often elderly, who are confronted with a deplorable reality of the environment in which they return nevertheless, for not being able to assume their life elsewhere.
On February 21, 2018 national and local newspapers dedicated theirs to the suicide of a 102-year-old man from the village of Iitate. ” Oh ! I think I lived too long, “were the last words of Mr. Okubo, a farmer of Iitate like so many others.
To complete:

 

From the same author:
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice : (2018) « L’être en son milieu, du rapport humain-objet-milieu au Japon comme ailleurs sur la planète », Libération, 11 juin 2018,
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2017) “Atomic Fission and Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown: When politics prevails over scientific proof”, in Christophe Thouny and Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (eds.), Planetary Atmospheres and Urban Society After Fukushima, Palgrave McMillian.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice, « Les migrants du nucléaire », Géoconfluences, octobre 2017.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016). La mémoire de l’oubli, une forme de résistance à la résilience, publication des actes du colloque « Après le désastre, réponses commémoratives et culturelles », Éditions de l’Université de Tôkyô (en français).
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016) Franckushima, rédaction de la Préface et chapitres, Direction Géraud Bournet, L’utopiquant.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « De la vulnérabilité à la résilience, réflexions sur la protection en cas de désastre extrême : Le cas de la gestion des conséquences de l’explosion d’une centrale nucléaire à Fukushima », Revue Raison Publique, no. « Au-delà du risque Care, capacités et résistance en situation de désastre », Sandra Laugier, Solange Chavel, Marie Gaille (dir.)
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « À Fukushima, la population est dans une situation inextricable », CNRS Le Journal, mars 2015.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2014) « La légende Fukushima », Libération, septembre 2014.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2013) « Fukushima, une démocratie en souffrance », Revue Outre terre, mars 2013.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2012) « Les politiques publiques du logement face à la catastrophe du 11 mars », in C. Lévy, T. Ribault, numéro spécial de la revue EBISU de la Maison franco-japonaise n° 47, juin 2012.
Autres articles de l’auteure à consulter ici :

https://cnrs.academia.edu/C%C3%A9cileAsanumaBrice 

 

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Few return to Fukushima schools after evacuation lifted

Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up. The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster…
Those municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming pools and gymnasiums to attract more children…
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Three first-graders gather at their classroom on April 6 in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after a ceremony welcoming them to the elementary school.
 
Near-empty classrooms marked the start of the new academic year in municipalities where evacuation orders dating from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster were recently lifted.
 
Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up.
 
The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster.
The low return rate highlights the daunting task for officials trying to revitalize local communities, given fears that an absence of children offers only murky prospects of survival.
 
Municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming polls and gymnasiums to attract more children.
 
Schools reopened in Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, where evacuation orders were lifted in spring 2017 with the exception of difficult-to-return zones, as well as in Katsurao, where most of the village was deemed safe to return to in 2016.
 
Those municipalities had set up temporary schools at locations where many residents evacuated.
 
After the lifting of the evacuation orders, the percentage of residents who have returned to their former communities range from 3.5 percent in Namie to 33.9 percent in Kawamata.
Most of the returnees are senior citizens.
 
Younger residents apparently are reluctant to return due to lingering concerns about radiation and also because many have made a fresh start in the areas where they moved to after the disaster.
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Only trickle of former residents returning home to Fukushima

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March 22, 2018
Close to a year after evacuation orders were lifted in four municipalities near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, only 6.1 percent of evacuees have returned to live in their former communities.
 
According to a survey of displaced residents, the top reasons cited for not returning were the condition of their homes, concerns about radiation and the lack of hospitals and stores.
The Asahi Shimbun has conducted annual surveys of evacuees since June 2011 with Akira Imai, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute for Local Government.
 
In the latest survey, questionnaires were sent in mid-January to 329 individuals who participated in past surveys. Valid responses were received from 161 individuals now residing in 19 prefectures around Japan aged between 28 and 91.
Of the respondents, 114 were still living as evacuees.
 
Close to 70 percent of the respondents said the measures taken by the central and local governments leading up to the lifting of the evacuation order on March 31 and April 1, 2017, were insufficient.
 
Regarding those results, Imai said, “The lifting of the evacuation order was conducted without adequate consideration for the hopes of the evacuees to have their communities returned to their former condition.”
 
Last year’s lifting of the evacuation order covered areas of the four municipalities of Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and Kawamata that were outside the difficult-to-return zones.
 
In the joint survey, respondents were asked about measures taken by the central and local governments to decontaminate irradiated areas and construct social infrastructure. A combined 109 respondents said the measures were insufficient or somewhat insufficient.
 
They were asked their reasons for not returning.
Multiple answers were allowed, and the most popular response given by 59 people was because their homes were not habitable. Forty-eight people raised concerns about radiation exposure on their health.
 
The inconvenience of not having shops and hospitals nearby was cited by 56 people.
 
One 46-year-old resident of Namie who lives as an evacuee with her husband and two children in central Fukushima Prefecture has no plans to return because there are no hospitals in the community capable of looking after her oldest daughter, who has an illness that could require emergency care.
 
While the rates at which evacuees have returned to the four municipalities range between 3.5 percent and 31.1 percent, the rates have not necessarily increased dramatically in the other municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted before spring 2017.
 
While the rates are between 80 and 81 percent for Tamura and Kawauchi, it is only between 19 and 34 percent in the three other municipalities where the orders were lifted prior to spring 2017.
 

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

7 years after 3/11 / Public servants face massive workload

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Officials of the town government of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, work past 10 p.m. on March 2.
March 10, 2018
The work of local government officials of municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture has significantly changed in the seven years since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is because a large number of residents and officials in the affected municipalities were forced to evacuate.
 
The government officials have struggled with unprecedented types of duties — such as those concerning the return of residents, which has not progressed smoothly — and dealing with other accumulated tasks all at the same time. However, the future of their hometowns remains unclear.
 
In Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, later this month it will be one year since an evacuation order was lifted.
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In the central part of the town, where the evacuation order was lifted, a small number of residents have slowly trickled back. However, the number of residents as of the end of January was only 490. This is 2.3 percent of the town’s population before the nuclear accident, which numbered 21,000.
 
In addition, about 100 of the current residents are local officials who live in apartments rented by the municipal government. Many of them live alone, separated from their families, who have become accustomed to living in the places they evacuated to.
 
The officials live this way partly because they need to be able to quickly respond to emergencies, such as new natural disasters. There is also a huge volume of work, which they cannot handle if they commute to the government offices from outside the town.
 
Five industrial complexes are concurrently being developed in the town. To encourage more residents to return home, it is necessary to create a large number of jobs.
 
This project is a task the officials have never undertaken before, as Namie is a small municipality whose core industries were agriculture and fishing.
 
One of the officials said, “Even one such project would have been a huge task that we might experience only once in a decade or two, [but] we are doing this work in as many as five locations.”
 
Another official said, “This would never have happened before the nuclear plant accident.”
 
The town government officials travel around the nation for purposes such as negotiating with evacuated landowners to purchase their land plots, and asking companies to set up business bases in the town.
 
The officials are also dispatched to eliminate wild boars, the number of which has rapidly increased while residents have been absent. They also need to arrange repairs to damaged roads, public facilities and agricultural water systems.
 
At night, lights are seen only in the windows of the town government office, while most of the town is in darkness.
 
The fiscal condition of the town government is almost totally different from before the nuclear disaster. Its finances rely almost entirely on the central government’s budget.
 
As many of the town’s residents have not been able to sufficiently rebuild their daily lives, measures to reduce or exempt them from residential tax have continued. Therefore, the percentage of the town government’s municipal tax revenues against its total revenue fell drastically, from 25 percent to 1 percent.
 
Administrative work in municipalities where the number of residents continues to be zero also presents a special situation.
 
In the case of Okuma in the prefecture, where an evacuation order remains in place across the whole town, the town government relocated its offices to nearby municipalities. For example, its section in charge of reconstruction policy is in a satellite office in Aizuwakamatsu in the prefecture. Its section for welfare-related work is in a satellite office in Iwaki in the prefecture, as about 4,600 town residents live in Iwaki as evacuees.
 
Town government officials in the satellite office in Iwaki, who are usually busy assisting elderly residents who live in temporary housing units, make 300-kilometer round trips to Aizuwakamatsu every week for meetings with other officials and other work purposes.
 
There are times when officials head to the town of Okuma to observe decontamination work to remove radioactive substances. In these job reports, the officials write “Okuma” as the destination of their business trips. An official in his 50s expressed the sadness he feels when he writes such reports, saying, “I wonder which municipal government I belong to.”
 
There are municipalities where the wounds caused by the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake have still not healed.
 
In Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, 36 town government officials, including experienced public servants working in the personnel section, died or went missing.
 
In addition, the records of government officials’ qualifications, credentials and job evaluations were lost. An official in charge of this issue lamented that “managing the organization [of the town government] became difficult, and it has been adversely affecting the morale of our workplaces.”
 
In Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, the town government lost 39 people to the disaster. They included the mayor and eight senior officials at the section chief level.
 
Though younger town government officials were promoted, they do not have experience in supervising junior staff. Currently, those who joined the town government after the Great East Japan Earthquake account for half of all officials.
 
One of the senior officials said, “If we fail in fostering human resources, it will directly result in delays in reconstruction.” Many other senior officials share the same sense of crisis.
 
Civil engineering and construction work that began in the year of the disaster, such as raising land heights, relocating residential areas to higher ground, and building coastal levees, has progressed in visible ways.
 
However, survivors and local government officials in disaster-hit areas have the feeling that these reconstruction projects are somehow frustrating and lopsided.
 
A labor union conducted a survey of employees of municipal governments that were affected by the nuclear plant accident, with spaces in which respondents were asked to freely write down their feelings.
 
The written replies included, “For the past seven years I have never once felt free from unease,” and “I don’t know when our reconstruction efforts will end.”
 

March 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment