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Lifting Fukushima evacuation orders

28 feb 2017

The lifting of evacuation orders in four municipalities around Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holding’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant over the weekend does not normalize the lives of former residents forced out of their hometowns due to the radioactive fallout from the March 2011 triple meltdowns at the plant. The government needs to keep up support for the residents — both those returning to their hometowns and those choosing to stay out for various reasons — to help them rebuild their lives, which were shattered by the nuclear disaster six years ago.

Since 2014, the government has been moving to lift its evacuation orders issued to areas once designated no-go zones around the Tepco plant where the level of radioactive pollution is deemed to have declined to acceptable levels through decontamination efforts. The lifting of the evacuation orders in parts of the Fukushima towns of Namie, Tomioka and Kawamata and Iitate village on Friday and Saturday paves the way for the return of about 32,000 former residents. The total areas designated as no-go zones have now been reduced to roughly one-third of their peak — although areas that used to be home to 24,000 people will continue to be off-limits to former residents due to still high radiation levels.

Last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said reconstruction from the March 11, 2011, disasters — the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear fiasco — is making steady progress and is “entering a new stage” with the lifting of evacuation orders to the former no-go zones around the Tepco plant. Also at the end of March, public housing assistance was terminated for people who had voluntarily evacuated from areas located outside the no-go zones out of fear of radioactive pollution.

However, government decisions alone will not return evacuees’ lives to a state of normalcy. In areas where evacuation orders have earlier been lifted since 2014, only 13 percent of the former residents have returned to their hometowns. In Namie and Tomioka, where some parts of the towns will continue to remain off-limits due to high radiation levels, more than 50 percent of former residents told a Reconstruction Agency survey last year that they have no plans to return in the future.

Some of the former residents cite continuing concerns over the effects of radioactive contamination, while others point to the slow recovery of infrastructure crucial to daily life such as medical services and shopping establishments in their hometowns. Other former residents have started life anew in the places to which they have evacuated.

The prospect is also bleak for businesses that used to operate in the areas. According to a survey by the association of Fukushima Prefecture chambers of commerce and industry, about half of the companies located in the no-go zones were unable as of last September to reopen their businesses as they lost their customers and business partners in the years since the 2011 disaster. Many of the busineses that have reopened after the evacuation orders were lifted said they have not been able to earn the same level fo profits as before the nuclear crisis.

Reconstruction from the March 2011 disasters continues to lag in Fukushima compared with the other devastated prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate, because of the additional woes caused by the Tepco plant disaster. Nearly 80,000 Fukushima residents remain displaced from their homes six years on — roughly half the peak figure of 165,000 but still accounting for a bulk of the national total of 123,000 as of February.

With the lifting of the evacuation orders, monthly payments of consolation money from Tepco to the residents of former no-go zones will be terminated in a year. Fukushima Prefecture’s housing aid, essentially funded by the national government, to more than 20,000 Fukushima people who voluntarily evacuated from their homes outside the no-go zones was cut off at the end of last month — although substitute assistance programs will be continued on a limited scope.

Officials say that decontamination and restoration of social infrastructure have progressed in the former no-go zones around the Tepco plant. However, administrative decisions such as the lifting of evacuation orders alone will not compel evacuees to return to their hometowns or rebuild their communities shattered by the nuclear disaster. The government must keep monitoring the real-life conditions of residents in affected areas and extend them the support they need, as well as continue to improve crucial infrastructure so more evacuees feel they can return home.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/04/03/editorials/lifting-fukushima-evacuation-orders/

April 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima residents to return six years after nuclear meltdown

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Fukushima, Japan is set to welcome back residents after the nuclear power station disaster in 2011 deserted 70 percent of the area.

Six years after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked Japan and triggered a meltdown of the power station, the majority of the affected residents within the Fukushima prefecture can return home following forced evacuation orders, The Asahi Shimbun reports.

Residents of the towns Namie, Iitate, and the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata, totalling 22,100 people, were told they could return home Friday – with the exception of some no-go zones where radiation levels are still too high, according to Nippon.com.

Further evacuation orders were lifted for the town of Tomioka on Saturday. Residents took part in a candlelight vigil on Friday night in memory of those who died in the disaster, thought to number more than 8,000.

 

So far, the homecoming has not been as successful as government officials had hoped, as not many people are willing to go back. In fact, only 14.5 percent of residents have returned to areas that previously had their evacuation orders lifted, according to the Japan Times.

The government’s fiscal 2017 budget set aside 23.6 billion yen ($212 million) to restore the healthcare system and other essential facilities to encourage the return of evacuees.

Okuma and Futaba, the two towns closest to the Fukushima nuclear plant, are the only remaining municipalities still deemed as “difficult-to-return zones.”

Activist hunters have started culling radioactive boars that freely roam the ghost towns near the crippled power plant in anticipation of returning residents.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster, which brought about the closure of all of Japan’s 44 working reactors, is said to be the world’s second worst after the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy.

https://www.rt.com/news/383053-fukushima-residents-return-japan/#.WOCSbF0ln18.facebook

April 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

SYMPOSIUM: Locals, experts discuss radiation risks, solutions, future in Iitate

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FUKUSHIMA–Even after six years, lingering concerns over radiation loom large over the lives of evacuees from a village in northeastern Tohoku ravaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster in 2011.

Residents have agonized over whether to return to their homes in the village of Iitate, one of the most heavily contaminated areas, since evacuation orders are to be lifted on March 31.

Masanobu Akaishizawa, 67, head of an administrative district of Iitate, expressed his concerns at a recent symposium held here in mid-February.

Experts say radiation doses don’t affect us as long as we stay home,” he said. “But I wonder about the quality of my life if I can neither go to the mountains nor the river.”

Iitate was in the direct path of radioactive materials that spewed from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., following the triple meltdown due to the earthquake, tsunami as well as the government and TEPCO’s shortcomings on March 11, 2011.

Ahead of the lifting of the evacuation order for most of the village of Iitate on March 31, researchers and journalists, who have conducted field surveys since immediately after the accident, shared their views on radiation effects on health and avoiding health risks with villagers at the symposium.

The symposium, titled “Think about the future of Iitate villagers,” was hosted by the Iitate-mura Society for Radioecology, which comprises academics and citizens who committed themselves to continue their support for residents through their expertise.

During the session, Tetsuji Imanaka, a researcher at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, estimated the annual average radiation exposure to residents if they immediately return to the area after the evacuation orders are lifted. He put the figure at approximately 5 millisieverts of radiation.

How can residents come to terms with the health risks caused by radiation exposure? That’s the issue,” Imanaka said.

Katsumi Furitsu, a doctor at the Hyogo College of Medicine, highlighted the government’s responsibility.

Furitsu has conducted research in the areas devastated by the crippled Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Low-dose radiation exposure also has health risks in accordance with the amount,” Furitsu said.

Offering appropriate health management and medical benefits (for the disaster victims who have been exposed to radiation) is the government’s minimum responsibility just like it issued ‘hibakusha’ (A-bomb victims) health books in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Furitsu emphasized.

Hibakusha health books have been awarded to those certified by the government as radiation victims of the 1945 atomic bombings, making them eligible for special health-care benefits, including allowing them access to free medical assistance.

Such a book could also become a powerful weapon to force the government to take responsibility for Fukushima evacuees for future damage to their health potentially related to radiation exposure.

Villagers expressed, however, concern that this could lead to possible future discrimination.

We understand the necessity of issuing the radiation exposure record books to protect victim’s health,” said one resident. “But high school girls have fears and worries about possible future discrimination that is likely to be caused by possessing the books by posing such questions as, “Can we get married?” or “Can we have children?”

In response to those poignant voices from the disaster victims, Furitsu said, “In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same concerns were expressed. However, unjustified discrimination occurred not because of the health book, but because those who should take responsibility didn’t take it.”

The government should take measures that help residents who had been burdened with unnecessary risks,” Furitsu said, referring to such matters as providing health management, medical benefits, education and other activities to raise awareness of discrimination against disaster victims, especially if they have been exposed to low-dose radiation.

Yoshinobu Ito, 73, a farmer who moved to Iitate before the disaster, was especially worried about the risk radiation could have on children when they return to the village.

He released the results of measurements of radiation levels around his house that he has taken since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Although the levels of radiation dose have dropped, they are still 10 times higher than the figures before the disaster. Even if I return to Iitate, rebuilding agriculture is a hardship,” said Ito.

The effects of radiation also cast a shadow over Japanese cattle farmers such as Kiyomi Shigihara, 62, of Nagadoro in the southernmost section of Iitate. Nagadoro was designated as the only “difficult-to-return zone” in the village.

With regard to the government policy of decontaminating only reconstruction base areas and then lifting an evacuation order after five years, Shigihara said, “Under these circumstances, even if I return home, there’s nothing I can do.”

Unable to repress his emotions, Shigihara wiped tears from his eyes.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703250003.html

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Coming Home to a Nuclear Wasteland

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Roaming, Radioactive Boars Slow Return of Japan’s Nuclear Refugees

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A wild boar is seen at a residential area in an evacuation zone near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 1, 2017.

The ongoing scourge of Japan’s Fukushima — radiation — is now roaming the disaster-hit area on four legs.

Hundreds of radioactive wild boars moved into deserted towns after the nuclear crisis.

Now they scour the empty streets and overgrown backyards of the Namie town for food, an unexpected nuisance for those returning home six years after the meltdown.

Namie and another town, Tomioka, are within the 20 kilometer exclusion zone from the Fukushima plant and set to partly reopen for nuclear refugees this month.

But the boars have been known to attack people.

Local authorities are hiring teams of hunters to clear out the uninvited guests.

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Shoichiro Sakamoto, head of Tomioka Town’s animal control hunters group, patrols at a residential area in an evacuation zone near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture

 

After people left, their ecosystem changed,” said local hunter Shoichi Sakamoto. “They began coming down from the mountains and now they aren’t going back. They found plenty of food, and no one will come after them. This is their new home now.”

Since last April 300 animals have reportedly been caught just in Tomioka.

The boars have been destroying local farms and eating plants contaminated with radiation.

Some of the boars tested by the government showed levels of radioactive material 130 times above Japan’s safety standards.

Five towns in Fukushima have partially reopened since the disaster so far.

But three weeks before the evacuation order is to be lifted in Tomioka, the average radiation level is still well above Japan’s goal. Homes are still damaged or abandoned, and the streets are littered with bags of radioactive waste.

http://www.voanews.com/a/radioactive-boars-japan-nuclear-refugees/3756664.html

 

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

To return ‘home’ or not is a tough call for evacuees from Fukushima

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A large portion of Naraha town in Fukushima Prefecture lies within 20 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

When I visited recently, I saw mounds of black bags, presumably filled with contaminated soil. Large trucks rumbled on in endless streams. The town’s convenience stores seemed to be flourishing, thanks to an influx of reactor-dismantling crews and reconstruction workers.

After an evacuation order was issued in the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, Naraha remained uninhabitable for a long time. It was only 18 months ago that the evacuation order was finally lifted.

“We are merely at the starting line now,” said the mayor at the time.

And true to his observation, the town still faces a long, arduous road ahead. So far, only about 10 percent of Naraha’s 7,000-plus residents have returned.

I met Takayuki Furuichi, 40, who was among the first to return home. Before the disaster, Furuichi worked at a facility for the disabled in Naraha. After his return, he established an NPO for home-visit nursing care. In addition to visiting the disabled and the elderly, his NPO staffers also provide day-care services for disabled children.

Furuichi said it was his “iji,” or stubborn pride, that brought him back to Naraha.

“It’s too vexing to just let my hometown remain in this sorry state. I want to provide support for fellow returnees,” he said.

But he also feels conflicted. Now overrun with large service vehicles, the town looks completely different from before. And worries about radiation have not gone away.

“I cannot really urge anyone to come home,” he lamented.

The lifting of the evacuation order was a step forward. But this also presented a new dilemma to people who had become accustomed to their lives as evacuees. They are still grappling with the tough decision of whether to return home or stay put, or simply hold off any decision for now.

“To use a marathon analogy, Fukushima’s reconstruction is at the 30-km point,” Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura noted recently. But for people who were forced to leave their homes in 2011, the race has only just begun and is in a fog.

This spring, evacuation orders will be lifted in four municipalities, including the town of Namie. This brings to the townspeople not only a sense of relief, but anxiety and vacillation as well.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703020029.html

 

March 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Up to 20µSv/h at Namie Junior High School, Fukushima


Namie Junior High School, Namie, Futaba, Fukushima prefecture.
Measures taken on February 5, 2017, on March 31, 2017 the japanese government will lift the evacuation order in Namie, for its inhabitants to return….
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At 1m above the ground : 3.5μSv/h

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At 50cm above the ground : 6μSv/h

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At 5cm above the ground 20μSv/h

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Measurement location
https://goo.gl/maps/27kyf41xyUr

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 3 Comments

Only 13% of evacuees in 5 Fukushima municipalities have returned home as of Jan.

 

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FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — Only 13 percent of the evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted, local authorities said Saturday.

Some residents who used to live in the cities of Tamura and Minamisoma, villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao, and the town of Naraha may be reluctant to return to their homes due to fear of exposing children to radiation, the authorities said.

The evacuation orders to residents in those municipalities were lifted partly or entirely from April 2014 through July 2016. As of January, about 2,500 people out of a combined population of around 19,460 registered as residents of those areas were living there.

Evacuation orders for four more towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture are scheduled to be lifted this spring, but it is uncertain how many residents will return to those areas as well.

In the prefecture, eight municipalities are still subject to evacuation orders around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant due to high radiation levels. Three nuclear reactors at the plant melted down and the structures housing them were severely damaged by hydrogen gas explosions days after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011 knocked out electric power needed to run critical reactor cooling equipment.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170129/p2g/00m/0dm/047000c

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Fukushima prefecture

January 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Evacuees Trapped by the Return Policy

The policy to return the population to the still contaminated areas is in progress in spite of the evacuees’ protests.

In three months, at the end of March 2017, the evacuation order will be lifted except for the “difficult-to-return” zones. In parallel, the housing aid for the so-called “auto-evacuees” from the areas situated outside of the evacuation zones will come to an end. The “psychological damage compensation” for the forced-evacuees will finish at the end of March 2018.

In this context, the local governments’ employees are going around the temporary housing, offered freely to “auto-evacuees” (1), in door-to-door visits to apply pressure to expel the inhabitants. It is difficult to see in this act anything other than harassment and persecution.

In November, Taro YAMAMOTO, Member of Parliament in Japan, posed a series of questions at the Special Commission for Reconstruction. We shall cite some extracts. (See Fukushima 311 Watchdogs for the full translation).

***
Taro YAMAMOTO
Here are some testimonies.

I am afraid of the investigators of the Tokyo Metropolitan Prefecture visiting door to door. I hide under the cover for fear of hearing the ringing at the door. When I opened the door, the investigator stuck his foot into the door so that I could not close it. With a loud voice so that all the neighbors could hear, he shouted at me “you know very well that you can only live here until March”. I know, but I cannot move. “

The next person. “The Tokyo Metropolitan Prefecture demands that we move out in a fierce and haughty manner. We had to leave our home because of the accident at the nuclear power plant. I do not understand why they are expelling us again.”

Constant phone calls, visits without notice, and they shout at me asking what my intention is. They send documents to file, and leave passing notices in the mailbox. I am completely exhausted, physically and psychologically. “
END OF QUOTE
***
The same kind of persecution is deployed inside Fukushima prefecture.

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You can see the photo of the notice taped on the apartment door of Mr. Yôichi OZAWA in the social housing for job seekers in mobility, used as temporary housing offered free of charge to nuclear accident victims, situated in Hara-machi district of Minamisoma town.

Mr. OWAZA left his home at 22km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant where the radioactivity was too high. In spite of the contamination, his home was not included in the evacuation zone, which stopped 20km from the NPP. Thus, he is considered as “auto-evacuee”, jishu-hinansha, and as such subject to the same harassment as the “auto-evacuees” in the Metropolitan regions of Tokyo or in West Japan.

Because of this zoning based on the geographic distance from the crippled NPP that divides Minamisoma town, the evacuees of Hara-machi district are subject to expulsion persecution, whereas those of Odaka district are exempt from such acts.

The door picture was posted in the Facebook of Mr. Tatsushi OKAMOTO on December 24th 2016 with the text below.

On the notice we can read:
Please contact us, for we have things to communicate to you.
December 13th 2016
Kuroki Housing Management Office
Cellphone #: XXXX
Manager: XXXX

Here is the paper taped on the door of a house for evacuees.
It is shocking, this way of taping the notice.
They treat us like a non-paying renter or as if we are not paying our taxes!
No consideration of the dignity of the person.
It is like the Yakuza’s way of collecting money!
Currently in Fukushima, the victims are facing a double or triple suffering.
Who is to be blamed? What have we done to deserve this, we, the victims?

_______

(1) Minashi kasetsu jyûtaku. Rental housing managed by private or public agencies offered to evacuees of which the rent is taken in charge by the central or local government.

_____

Reference links
山本太郎公式ホームページの質問書き起こし Texte of questions of Taro Yamamoto in his official HP (in Japanese)

山本太郎の質問の英訳フランス語訳の記事
English translation of Taro Yamamoto’s questions

山本太郎議員が使った、ふくいち周辺環境放射線モニタリングプロジェクトの汚染地図(日本語)
Contamination map used by Taro Yamamoto (in English)

Read also:
Harassment of Evacuees by Prefectural Housing Authorities to evict them for March 2017

Source :

https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/%e8%bf%bd%e3%81%84%e8%a9%b0%e3%82%81%e3%82%89%e3%82%8c%e3%82%8b%e9%81%bf%e9%9b%a3%e8%80%85%e3%81%9f%e3%81%a1-evacuees-trapped-by-the-return-policy/

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Harassment of Evacuees by Prefectural Housing Authorities to evict them for March 2017

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All the people evacuated in 2011 and who benefited of a housing compensation, are now suffering harassment from the various prefectures’ housing authorities, pressuring them to get out of those appartments before coming March 2017

This picture show the notice taped to the entrance door of an evacuee’s appartment, marking and stigmatizing the evacuee’s family to all the neigbors. Those evacuees are victims. Why treat in such manner people who are victims, already suffering plenty enough hardships and losses? What the hell is wrong with you? What are the sins of the victims?

The Japanese government, for the first time, is using state funds for decontamination work in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture.
The environment ministry earmarked roughly 30 billion yen, or about 250 million dollars, in the fiscal 2017 budget plan, which was approved by the Cabinet on Thursday.
The allocation will be for cleaning up no-entry areas where radiation levels remain prohibitively high.
The government had so far made the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, pay for the cleanup, based on the principle that the entity responsible for the contamination should bear the cost.

If the Japanese Authorities can provide funds to help Tepco, the entity responsible for the contamination, why can they provide funds to help the victims, whose rights and needs should prevailed over those of the responsible corporation responsible for that nuclear disaster? Why the Japanese central government can coordinate with those various prefectures housing authorities for those evacuees to continue to live in a free-radiation environmnent?

The Japanese government decided to stop the evacuees housing compensation on March 2017  so as to force the evacuees’ return to live with radiation in the ghost towns now declared “safe” by the Japanese government. In preparation of the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, all must be back to normal, and is now declared “safe and clean”. Economics prevailing over scientific realities and people lives.

Japanese culture is looked upon as being a very refined, sophisticated, advanced culture. Is there no place for compassion in Japanese culture? Those victims are suffering from double-triple suffering already. Do you have to turn it into persecution?

Is not the right to live in a radiation-free environment a basic human right? To force them by all kinds of gimmicks to return to live in a contaminated territory, is then a violation of their basic human rights, their right to preserve their own health!

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Protest at Japanese Embassy in Paris Against Fukushima Evacuees Forced Return and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Today October 22, 2016, in Paris, the French Green Ecology Party (EELV), Green Peace France and Réseau Sortir du Nucléaire, joined together to organize a Fukushima protest in front of the Japanese Embassy.

They denounced the Fukushima evacuees forced return by the Japanese government, and insisted that no one should be compelled to live in irradiated town with high level of radiation. That it is plainly criminal on the part of the Japanese Government.

Since Eastern Japan and Tokyo included, have been contaminated by the now five years and a half ongoing nuclear catastrophe at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a catastrophe yet neither under control nor resolved,  the 2020 Olympics should be relocated somewhere else.

Some officials of the French Green Ecology Party (EELV) and personalities of Green Peace France and Réseau Sortir du Nucléaire attended the protest.  Among those were also present Yannick Jadot and Michele Rivasi, both Europe Ecology deputies at the European Parliament, one of the two to be the French Ecology Party presidential candidate at the coming French presidential election in 2017. Were also present members of the Japanese community.

 

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Michele Rivasi and Yannick Jadot

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October 22, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Residents Who Fled Fukushima Meltdown Fear Return to Ghost Town

Japan seeks to lure evacuees back to town near nuclear plant

Abe looks to win support for restarting mothballed reactors

Weed-engulfed buildings and shuttered businesses paint an eerie picture of a coastal Japanese town abandoned after a monstrous earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns in the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Namie, one of the communities hardest hit by the 2011 disaster, had 21,000 residents before they fled radiation spewing from the reactors eight kilometers (five miles) away. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now looking to repopulate the town as early as next year, a symbolic step toward recovery that might also help soften opposition to his government’s plan to restart Japan’s mostly mothballed nuclear industry.

The national and local governments are trying to send us back,” said Yasuo Fujita, 64, a sushi chef who lives alongside hundreds of other Fukushima evacuees in a modern high rise in Tokyo more than 200 kilometers away. “We do want to return — we were born and raised there. But can we make a living? Can we live next to the radioactive waste?”

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The main street in Namie, Fukushima

So far few evacuees are making plans to go back even as clean-up costs top $30 billion and Abe’s government restores infrastructure. That reluctance mirrors a national skepticism toward nuclear power that threatens to erode the prime minister’s positive approval ratings, particularly in areas with atomic reactors.

Mothballed Reactors

Officials in his government are calling for nuclear power to account for as much as 22 percent of Japan’s electricity supply by 2030, nearly the same percentage as before the Fukushima meltdown, in part to help meet climate goals. Only two of the nation’s 42 operable nuclear plants are currently running, leaving the country even more heavily reliant on imports of oil and gas.

A poll published by the Asahi newspaper this week found 57 percent of respondents were opposed to restarting nuclear reactors, compared with 29 percent in favor. One of Abe’s ministers lost his seat in Fukushima in an upper house election in July, and the government suffered another setback when an anti-nuclear candidate won Sunday’s election for governor of Niigata prefecture, home to the world’s largest nuclear plant.

Some 726 square kilometers — roughly the size of New York City — of Fukushima prefecture remain under evacuation orders, divided by level of radioactivity. While the government is looking to reopen part of Namie next year, most of the town is designated as “difficult to return to” and won’t be ready for people to move back until at least 2022.

“We must make the area attractive, so that people want to return there,” Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura said this week. “I want to do everything I can to make it easy to go back.”

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Workers are cleaning by scraping up soil, moss and leaves from contaminated surfaces and sealing them in containers. Still, the operation has skipped most of the prefecture’s hilly areas, leading to fears that rain will simply wash more contamination down into residential zones. Decommissioning of the stricken plant itself is set to take as many as 40 years.

The bill for cleaning up the environment is ballooning, with the government estimating the cost through March 2018 at $3.3 trillion yen ($32 billion). That’s weighing on Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., which is already struggling to avoid default over decommissioning costs.

They are spending money in the name of returning things to how they were” without having had a proper debate on whether this is actually possible, said Yutaka Okada, senior researcher at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo. “Was it really right to spend this enormous amount of money?”

Namie officials, operating from temporary premises 100 kilometers away in the city of Nihonmatsu, are plowing ahead with preparations. A middle school in the town is scheduled for remodeling to add facilities for elementary pupils — even though they expect only about 20 children to attend. Similar efforts in nearby communities have had limited success.

Only 18 percent of former Namie residents surveyed by the government last year said they wanted to return, compared with 48 percent who did not. The remainder were undecided.

Staying Put

Fujita, the sushi chef, has joined the ranks of those starting afresh elsewhere. He opened a seafood restaurant near his temporary home last year, and is buying an apartment in the area. In a sign the move will be permanent, he even plans to squeeze the Buddhist altar commemorating his Fukushima ancestors into his Tokyo home.

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For those that do return, finding work will be a headache in a town that was heavily dependent on the plant for jobs and money.

Haruka Hoshi, 27, was working inside the nuclear facility when the earthquake struck, and she fled with just her handbag. Months later she married another former employee at the plant, and they built a house down the coast in the city of Iwaki, where they live with their three-year-old son. They have no plans to return.

“It would be difficult to recreate the life we had before,” she said. “The government wants to show it’s achieved something, to say: ‘Fukushima’s all right, there was a terrible incident, but people are able to return after five years.’ That goal doesn’t correspond with the reality.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-20/residents-who-fled-fukushima-meltdown-fear-return-to-ghost-town

 

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Long-term stays start in Tomioka

 

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Shizuo Suzuki stands in front of his shop in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on Wednesday, with the empty shopping street visible in the background.

TOMIOKA, Fukushima — Long-term stays (see below) for residents of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, started on Saturday. Evacuation orders for the town limits issued after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant still stand.

The success of the project will hinge on how many residents the town can get back, with a view to having the evacuation orders lifted in April next year.

Shizuo Suzuki, 63, who resumed business 2½ years ago on a shopping street in the town’s Chuo district, which is part of a zone people are allowed to enter during the daytime, is hoping for some of the bustle of the town to return.

Suzuki’s hardware shop is on Chuo shopping street, which is on the west side of the JR Joban Line’s Tomioka Station. Suzuki took over the shop, which was established in 1952, after his father died in 1998. Before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the shop mainly dealt with materials such as cement, gravel and reinforced steel, supplying local building companies.

Although the earthquake didn’t do much damage to the shop, the nuclear plant accident which followed forced Suzuki and his 58-year-old wife to move out. After they drifted around various places in Fukushima Prefecture, including a gymnasium in Kawauchi, a neighboring village to the west of Tomioka, and a home of their relatives in Aizuwakamatsu, they finally settled in Iwaki.

Entering Tomioka became easier when the government eased regulations in 2013. The area around Suzuki’s shop was designated a residence restriction zone, making it possible for him to resume business there.

Suzuki, who was then working part-time at a construction company in Iwaki, decided to go back to his shop in January 2014. Although he did not know how many customers would come, he was looking forward to working in his hometown again.

I wanted to stay positive and uphold my sense of purpose in life,” he said. Commuting from Iwaki, he cleaned up the shop and resumed business in March 2014, after decontamination of the area was complete.

Suzuki still commutes to Tomioka from Iwaki, which takes about an hour each way by car. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Five or six workers involved in decontamination work or building demolition in the neighborhood visit the shop daily and purchase items such as shovels, crowbars and ropes. As Suzuki’s shop is the only one to have resumed business in the area, the bustle of the shopping street has not yet returned.

According to the municipal government, shops that have reopened other than Suzuki’s are limited to convenience stores and gas stations. The town plans to open a commercial facility, publicly funded and privately operated, that includes a home-improvement center and restaurants at the end of November, for long-term-stay residents and in preparation for the lifting of evacuation orders.

Streets will come back to life as people start returning for long stays. I hope other shops will resume business too,” Suzuki said. He had his home next to the shop demolished as it had decayed while he was away. He intends to rebuild his house and live in the town when other residents start to return.

Long-term stay

In anticipation of the lifting of evacuation orders, registered residents are allowed to stay in their houses to find out what problems they may face when they return to the town. The number of registered residents in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, as of July 12 was 9,679 from 3,860 households. According to the central government, 119 residents from 56 households have applied for long-term stays as of Thursday.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003221490

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

Only 28% of Fukushima children returning to former schools

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Only 28 percent of children are returning to their public elementary and junior high schools in five towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture following the lifting of evacuation orders imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned. The majority of schoolboys and girls are opting to stay out of their hometowns due to anxiety over radiation exposure and resettlement at evacuation sites.

The trend raises concerns that the number of young people in these towns and villages will dwindle and the survival of the municipalities is at stake.

The five municipalities are the towns of Hirono and Naraha and the villages of Iitate, Kawauchi and Katsurao. They set up temporary elementary and junior high schools at evacuation sites after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster triggered the multiple core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Hirono and Kawauchi reopened their public schools in 2012 and Naraha and Katsurao will follow suit in April 2017. Iitate plans to reopen its schools in April 2018, one year after the evacuation order is lifted.

Once these public schools have reopened, the temporary schools at evacuation sites are shut down, prompting children from the five affected municipalities to choose one of three options — return to their hometowns, commute to their former schools by school bus or other means, or attend schools at evacuation sites.

According to the Mainichi study, 55 percent of 259 pupils and students from Hirono and Kawauchi have returned to their former elementary and junior high schools because the evacuation orders were relatively short. But only 139 students or 15 percent of students from Naraha, Katsurao and Iitate responded to a survey in 2015-2016 that they would return to their original schools. Only three students, or 4 percent, of 74 students from Katsurao said they would return to their hometown schools.

As for students from Naraha, 17 percent of students replied that they would attend their hometown schools but half of them hoped to commute to their hometown schools from outside the town. If young evacuees in Iwaki, a major evacuation destination, try to commute by train and bus, a one-way trip takes one hour. An official of the Naraha board of education expressed concerns that these students are really serious about commuting to their hometowns. A Kawauchi village official says that the returns of child-rearing generations are the village’s lifeline. These municipalities operate school buses to encourage the evacuees to return to their hometowns as a stopgap measure rather than as a permanent solution.

Yusuke Yamashita, an associate professor of urban and rural sociology at Tokyo Metropolitan University, says, ”There are some parents who send their children to temporary schools before eventually returning to their hometowns. If these municipalities reopen their schools hastily, some families may abandon plans to return home (out of safety fears). It is important for the communities to offer as many options as possible by keeping temporary schools.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160910/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

September 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

10% return to Fukushima town since evacuation order lifted in ’15

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Returnees, mainly older people, attend an event marking the first anniversary of the lifting of the evacuation order in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 4.

NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–Only 10 percent of Naraha residents have returned home near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in the year since the evacuation order was lifted, a rate that could threaten the town’s survival.

More than half of the returnees are senior citizens, and a vast majority of town’s children do not plan to attend school in Naraha next year.

The town set of a goal of having 50 percent of evacuees return home by next spring.

But lingering fears of radiation contamination are keeping many residents away, despite repeated tests effectively showing no danger to health in the town.

Work is still under way at the plant to prepare for decommissioning, and we are concerned about radiation exposure,” said a 67-year-old man who plans to move back to Naraha with his wife. “We cannot encourage our grandchildren to return.”

Naraha’s population was about 7,300 before the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

As of Sept. 2, the number of returnees to the town was 681.

Naraha, most of which lies within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, was the first of seven municipalities to have its nearly full evacuation order lifted.

The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted on Sept. 5, 2015.

The central and prefectural governments are closely watching how things play out in the town to carry out rebuilding efforts in other affected communities.

The Reconstruction Agency’s survey released in March found that more than 50 percent of Naraha evacuees are looking forward to their eventual return home.

We expect the town’s population to go up in steps,” said an official with the town’s chamber of commerce and industry.

But the official acknowledged that business activities will not be sustainable with only a 10-percent returning rate.

A senior town government official said, “If evacuees stay away, we would have to think about a merger (with other local governments).”

Those aged 65 or older account for 53 percent of Naraha’s current population, double the rate in 2010.

A total of about 680 students attended the two elementary schools and one junior high school in the town before the disaster.

Although the three schools are expected to re-open next April, a recent town government survey showed that only about 80 of the eligible 450 children plan to attend school in Naraha.

The average radiation dose in front of the Naraha town hall in July was 0.1 microsievert per hour, almost the same as the average dose near JR Fukushima Station in the prefectural capital, which is far from the crippled plant and was never issued an evacuation order.

The Naraha dose is also lower than 0.23 microsievert per hour, the long-term goal for additional radiation exposure, which excludes background radiation.

Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said he hopes construction of housing and commercial facilities will pave the way for evacuees to move back to their hometown.

With our expectations, we somewhat inflated the repatriation goal,” Matsumoto said. “As housing, commercial and other facilities are put in place, the number of returnees will rise.”

The town is working on a project to build a “compact town,” where shops and housing units, as well as a prefectural government-supported clinic, are located within easy access from each other.

Costs for the project are covered by grants from the central and prefectural governments.

The commercial facility is scheduled to open in spring 2018.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609050042.html

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