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Government to phase out insurance fee exemption for Fukushima evacuees

A damaged clothing store is seen Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, in March as the whole town remains evacuated following the 2011 nuclear disaster

Apr 8, 2022

The government said Friday it will start phasing out from as early as fiscal 2023 medical insurance fee exemptions for evacuees affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a move that will increase the financial burdens on such people.

The phase-out affects evacuees who are now able to return or have already returned to the areas of their former residency following the lifting of evacuation orders.

The government aims to completely end the exemptions of health and nursing care insurance fees about 10 years after the evacuation orders were lifted in principle, with the 10-year period calculated as starting from April in the year after the lifting.

Reconstruction minister Kosaburo Nishime said the phase-out specifically took into account when evacuation orders were lifted to “avoid sharply increasing the burden” on the evacuees.

As for the 10-year timeframe, Nishime told a news conference the government believes that by then, the former residents would have returned to their hometowns and made some progress in rebuilding their livelihoods.

As for steps for former residents of zones still designated as off-limits in the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the Fukushima No. 1 plant crippled by the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster, the government will hold further discussions.

Many low-income people evacuated due to the nuclear crisis have so far been completely exempted from paying insurance fees as well as from a proportion of charges for the medical and nursing care services they receive.

As of late March, more than 32,000 people who evacuated after the nuclear disaster remain in other areas within Fukushima or outside the prefecture, according to government data.

The immediate target of the phase-out policy will be those who lived in areas where evacuations orders were lifted by 2014, such as the town of Hirono.

At first, the evacuees will be requested to shoulder half the amount of insurance fees before preferential treatment is scrapped completely in fiscal 2024.

Former residents of areas where the evacuation orders were lifted between 2015 and 2017 will see the phase-out policy begin in the period of fiscal 2024 to 2026, with the exemption ending entirely in two years.

The Fukushima No. 1 plant spewed out a massive amount of radioactive materials after the tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake flooded the facility, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the complex and forcing some 160,000 people to flee at one point.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/04/08/national/fukushima-medical-insurance/

April 9, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Bullying, suicide attempts…11 years for a girl in Fukushima… Before evacuation, she was cheerful: “It’s OK. You’ll just make more friends.”

A woman holds a group photo and high school diploma taken in Fukushima before the evacuation. She sometimes looked at the photos at the beach when she was having a hard time.

March 11, 2022

Serialization “At the End of the Tunnel: Trajectory of the Girl and Her Family” (1)

On her last day of high school, a girl (18) nearly burst into tears when her name was called by her homeroom teacher at the presentation of her diploma. The teachers and friends at this school made me smile from the bottom of my heart. I was sad to graduate. I didn’t think so when I was in elementary and junior high school.
 On March 11, 2011, just before the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occurred, the girl was 7 years old and entering the second grade of elementary school. During the summer vacation after moving on to the next grade, she evacuated from Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata. In the place where she sought a safe haven, she was bullied, saying “Fukushima is dirty” and “radioactive,” and cried out repeatedly that she wanted to go back to Fukushima. When she was in high school, she even attempted suicide.
 Days went on in a long dark tunnel with no way out. Now, under a clear sky, I feel as if I have finally escaped from that exit. Whenever you feel lonely, come back to us. From April, she will attend a vocational school in Niigata Prefecture to fulfill her dream.
Classmates transferred one after another… “It’s my turn now,” she said.
 March 11, 2011, 2:46 p.m. I was watching TV with my grandfather at home in Koriyama City. Furniture fell over and dishes broke as a result of the violent shaking. The cell phone was beeping incessantly with earthquake early warnings. I hit my head and body hard against the leg of the sunken kotatsu and the desk I was squatting on, and cried out in fear. I’m going to die, aren’t I? When she ran out of the house, she found a blizzard.
 At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, hydrogen explosions occurred at the Unit 1 reactor on March 12 and at the Unit 3 reactor on March 14. A relative who had family members in the Self-Defense Forces told her father, “I heard the nuclear power plant is dangerous. We’re going to run away,” and her parents decided to evacuate temporarily.
 In the early morning of the 16th, the car with the family of four, including her one-year-old sister, headed for Niigata. At the shelter where they took shelter, there was hot food and hot spring baths. A private room was prepared for the family’s young child, and the mother was small, saying, “Even though we are not from the evacuation zone. Every day was fun because I could play with other children who had evacuated.
 When she returned to Koriyama in time for the new school term in April, she found her days suffocating. The children wore long sleeves, long pants, hats, and masks to avoid exposure to radiation, and the classroom windows were closed. The school building was covered with blue tarps, and the topsoil in the schoolyard had been stripped and piled up for decontamination. The homeroom teachers told us not to touch the soil.
 In the middle of the first semester, one by one, her classmates moved away from the school. I think it’s dangerous here, so I’m thinking of going to Niigata. When my parents asked me about it, I thought, “My turn has come.
 I was sad to leave my beloved father and grandparents who remained in Fukushima for work, but I knew that my parents were trying to protect me and my sister. So I thought positively and answered cheerfully. ‘That’s fine. You’ll just make more friends.”
 At the closing ceremony of the first semester, I was filled with sadness when my friends told me, “It will be okay wherever you go,” and “I’ll be waiting for you to come back to Fukushima again. That day, we took a group photo in class. It is a treasure that I still look back on from time to time. (Natsuko Katayama)
 Based on more than a year of interviews, this report tells the story of the girl and her family over the past 11 years in four installments.

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/164844?fbclid=IwAR3848Nmfb-xZ1lPserU_cd1k-dFoGKLZvwJlaTS9XhiP5HCACZ2hTpQ2es

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

3/11 Fukushima disaster evacuee has been ‘wandering’ for 11 years while growing vegetables

Hisae Unuma is seen in the city of Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, on Sept. 22, 2021.

March 10, 2022

KUKI, Saitama — It will soon be 11 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. A woman who lived near the nuclear plant continues to live as an evacuee in Saitama Prefecture, saying, “I am still in temporary housing and wandering around with no place to return to.”

Hisae Unuma, who leads a displaced life in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, works hard every day as a vegetable farmer, something she had no experience doing before the disaster.

The 68-year-old woman’s home was located in the Fukushima prefectural town of Futaba, 2.5 kilometers from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. She was a farmer who bred the Japanese Black cattle and grew rice. She was particular about the grass she used to feed the cattle, and recalled that the conception rate of her cows was “one of the top three in the county of Futaba.” The farmer believes that “land is the source of life,” and she had put compost in her rice paddies and also made efforts to grow delicious rice. All of this was lost in an instant.

After the disaster, Unuma evacuated to the city of Kazo, where the Futaba town hall was also temporarily moved. In order to “build up her strength for when she returns to Futaba,” she learned to grow vegetables from scratch and rented farmland to start growing them.

Unuma now delivers vegetables she grows to local schools for lunches and sells them at a market. Her husband, whom she shared her life with, passed away from cancer in 2017. People tell her, “We are waiting for your vegetables,” and that is a big support for her.

Her home in Futaba is located in a “difficult-to-return” zone with high radiation levels, and she is only allowed to return home on a temporary basis. When she visited in February, it looked as if her home would collapse at any moment.

“Even if I wanted to go back, I can’t. I am not young enough to want to go back,” Unuma said.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20220310/p2a/00m/0na/010000c?fbclid=IwAR3YrWvgzWovKXenRYNu1Li19rfvUHiSQ2v7LmTIGW_WStjq-QSzl9NkXwU

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Supreme Court orders damages for Fukushima victims in landmark decision

A victory sure, but $3,290 for 10 years of misery and a devastated life it is cheaply paid…

A barricade set up at a no-go zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in February

March 4, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld an order for utility Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay damages of ¥1.4 billion ($12 million) to about 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first decision of its kind.

NHK said the average payout was about ¥380,000 ($3,290) for each plaintiff in three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 against the utility. The three suits are the first to be finalized.

A massive tsunami unleashed by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 off Japan’s northeastern coast struck Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011, leading to the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the days after the disaster and tens of thousands have still not been able to return.

Friday’s decision came as the court rejected an appeal by Tepco and ruled it negligent for not taking preventive measures against a tsunami of that size, the broadcaster said.

The court withheld a verdict on the role of the government, which is also a defendant in the lawsuits, and will hold a hearing next month to rule on its culpability, NHK added.

Lower courts have been split over the extent of the government’s responsibility to foresee the disaster and order steps by Tepco to prevent it.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/03/04/national/crime-legal/supreme-court-fukushima-plant-lawsuit/

March 7, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s top court orders damages for Fukushima victims in landmark decision -NHK

A worker wearing a protective suit and a mask take photograph at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, February 23, 2017.

TOKYO, March 4 (Reuters) – Japan’s Supreme Court upheld an order for utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen ($12 million) to about 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first decision of its kind.

Public broadcaster NHK said the average payout of about 380,000 yen ($3,290) for each plaintiff covered three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 against the utility, which are the first to be finalised.

A massive tsunami unleashed by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 off Japan’s northeastern coast, struck Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March 2011, to cause the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first few days, and tens of thousands have not yet been able to return.

Friday’s decision came as the court rejected an appeal by Tepco and ruled it negligent in taking preventive measures against a tsunami of that size, the broadcaster said.

A worker wearing a protective suit and a mask take photograph at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma
A worker wearing a protective suit and a mask take photograph at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi

TOKYO, March 4 (Reuters) – Japan’s Supreme Court upheld an order for utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen ($12 million) to about 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first decision of its kind.

Public broadcaster NHK said the average payout of about 380,000 yen ($3,290) for each plaintiff covered three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 against the utility, which are the first to be finalised.

A massive tsunami unleashed by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 off Japan’s northeastern coast, struck Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March 2011, to cause the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first few days, and tens of thousands have not yet been able to return.

Friday’s decision came as the court rejected an appeal by Tepco and ruled it negligent in taking preventive measures against a tsunami of that size, the broadcaster said.

The court withheld a verdict on the role of the government, which is also a defendant in the lawsuits, and will hold a hearing next month to rule on its culpability, NHK added.

Lower courts have split over the extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and ordering steps by Tepco to prevent it.

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-top-court-orders-damages-fukushima-victims-landmark-decision-nhk-2022-03-04/

March 7, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Homesick,

(Sub in Eng, French & Spanish)
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Murai braves danger and wanders through the no-go zone in order to spend time with Jun, his eight-year-old son.

Behind the scene : vimeo.com/670872326

Written and directed by Koya KAMURA (insta : @koyakamura)
Production : OFFSHORE
Produced by Rafael ANDREA SOATTO
Co-production : TOBOGGAN
Co-produced by Hiroto OGI, Kaz SHINAGAWA

* César 2021 – Official selection *
58 official selections / 40 Awards

February 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima evacuee shares her feelings via illustrated books

The cover of the picture book “Nagai Orusuban” (Long housesitting)

December 3, 2021

SAKAI–Nobuko Shiga is still working through the trauma from the Fukushima nuclear crisis that ruined her hometown and upended her life.

But she has decided to channel her pent-up rage into creating something positive that may help the healing process.

She has created two illustrated books with the hopes of sharing her feelings and experiences, and hopes to pass on stories from early in her life as well as what happened after that fateful day. 

When the magnitude 9.0-earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, Shiga, now 81, was living with her retired husband in Namie in eastern Fukushima Prefecture.

The accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, situated only 9 kilometers southeast of their residence, drastically changed the course of her life.

She left her house with her pet Shiba Inu dog, named Ran, a day after the disaster. She traveled by car and spent nights at a gymnasium in a mountainous area and at Fukushima Airport before she arrived in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, where her daughter lived.

Shiga was left reeling over the way she was treated while trying to open a bank account there for her new life. Clerks at two banks told Shiga that she could not have one, after learning that she was fleeing from Fukushima Prefecture.

The bank operators later apologized, but she was still left with no clear explanation why. Looking back on the incident, Shiga thinks the nuclear crisis was likely why the banks had refused, and she said she still feels her heart ache over it.

Radioactive fallout made it impossible for residents to freely enter Namie. Shiga had planned to enjoy her golden years with her spouse at their home. But the yard has been left to grow wild and her friends are forced to live far apart from each other.

But Shiga soon learned that Bungeisha Co. was searching for manuscripts for picture books. She quickly finished writing her first title, “Nagai Orusuban” (Long housesitting).

Nobuko Shiga shows off her two illustrated books on Oct. 15 in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. (Yasufumi Kado)

The book features paintings by Shiro Ishiguro. It went up for sale on an online book shopping site and elsewhere in 2019 for 1,210 yen ($10.50), including tax. A digitized version is available as well.

In the work, a dog named Ran, just like Shiga’s, suddenly becomes separated from his owner, a young boy. Ran spends days with a pig, chickens and cows, and they all join forces to work together.

While the real-life Ran passed away peacefully at the end of his natural life five years ago, many animals that were left behind in the region affected by the nuclear accident had starved to death.

Shiga said she cannot forget a pig emerging abruptly from a bush and coming close to her, as if it was pleased to have an encounter with a human, when she returned temporarily to Namie.

Her hope to console the souls of abandoned animals motivated her to work on the title.

Shiga finished a course at Fukushima University and once served as a Japanese language teacher in a junior high school in Fukushima Prefecture. But this was her first time creating an illustrated book.

Despite that, the publication received an enthusiastic response from readers. Muneyuki Sato, a renowned singer based in Sendai, said he “read it while shedding tears.”

In September this year, her second work, “Kaminari Ojisan” (Thunderbolt old man), illustrated by Kenji Tezuka, was released by Bungeisha for 1,100 yen, including tax.

It starts with the sound of wooden clappers made by the organizer of the “kamishibai” picture-card theater. Shiga said she ran to that kind of theater with pocket money in her hands during her childhood, every time she heard the unique clapping.

Reflecting the creator’s own days as a child in the eastern part of Fukushima Prefecture, the work portrays exchanges one summer between children and an old man offering kamishibai dramas in a somewhat mysterious ambience.

“Local acquaintances said the picture book rekindled fond memories from bygone days,” Shiga said shyly.

Shiga was born in 1940 and has lived in Saitama, Fukuoka, Fukushima, and Miyagi prefectures due to her father, who worked for the former Japanese National Railways, relocating several times for his job.

She said few children in distant Sakai know much about the nuclear accident.

“The catastrophe should not be forgotten,” said Shiga. “I want readers to understand such a thing can occur so long as nuclear plants exist on Earth.”

Speaking with friends of similar age from Fukushima Prefecture, Shiga cannot help but ask herself, “What have our lives been for?”

They spent their childhood days in the wake of World War II and worked hard, only to find themselves deprived of their normal lives by a nuclear disaster.

Shiga has yet to make up her mind on publishing her next book, but she said she has no plans to wait for her life to end just by doing nothing.

“I do not want to live dazed,” she said. “I will leave something as a legacy.”

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14485156?fbclid=IwAR3sJwolWaa9hkiymGJdI3VRRAMRscqz57o_hc8kNQvw7nDUwKhBuecy8JU

December 5, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Agency to phase out health care aid for evacuees in Fukushima

A house is torn down after it was left vacant by its occupants in Futaba, a town co-hosting the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, in July 2021.

November 10, 2021

The agency spearheading rebuilding efforts stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is now in talks with local authorities about phasing out assistance programs to help evacuees meet their medical and nursing care costs.

Kosaburo Nishime, the minister in charge of rebuilding, acknowledged Nov. 9 that the Reconstruction Agency is engaged in discussions to assess what local governments want in the planned overhaul of the program.

Under the current program, residents of 13 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture who were ordered or advised to evacuate in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011 have had full or partial reductions of their health or nursing care costs. The number of evacuees from those municipalities totaled 150,000 as of August 2011.

The agency plans to begin scaling back the size of the aid as early as in fiscal 2023, according to a senior agency official.

The target that will come under the review concerns residents of 11 municipalities where the evacuation orders had been lifted by April 2017.

The agency plans to phase out the assistance over several years after notifying the appropriate authorities a year in advance of the end of the aid program.

But about 22,000 evacuees, including those from Okuma and Futaba, the towns co-hosting the crippled nuclear plant, as well as those who are not allowed to return due to continuing high levels of radiation, will not come under the planned review, according to agency officials.

The agency will consider that situation at a later date.

The move toward a full-scale review was prompted by concerns raised within the agency about the fairness of extending the assistance program when many residents in the same municipality had no access to such benefits.

For instance, Tamura and Minami-Soma have two types of evacuees, depending on where affected communities are located in their cities: residents ordered to evacuate and those who evacuated voluntarily. The latter are not eligible to receive any reduction in their health and nursing care costs.

This has given rise to a growing sense of resentment among those without access to the assistance in light of the fact the aid program has now been in place for many years.

On the other hand, plans to review the program have already met with fierce opposition from local officials.

“It is totally unacceptable,” said Ikuo Yamamoto, the mayor of Tomioka.

Evacuation orders were lifted in April 2017 for most parts of the town. But some areas are still off-limits.

“We are still in the middle of rebuilding,” Yamamoto complained. “I strongly request that the central government keeps the current program going as it is.”

Yuichi Harada, who is 72 years old and lives as an evacuee in Nihonmatsu after he fled Namie, both in the prefecture, said a blanket review of the program was the wrong approach.

“Some evacuees have to pay a lot more in medical fees than before as their health started to deteriorate” due to the evacuation, he said. “The government should fine-tune the program to reach out to people who badly need assistance.”

The central government sets aside about 25 billion yen ($221 million) annually for health and nursing care assistance to evacuees.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14478893

November 10, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear crisis evacuees face unresolved issues 10 years on

Almost 10 years on from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan and triggered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, Seiichi Nakate still has not returned home.

He is just one of around 30,000 evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture who remained scattered around the country as of February this year, according to government data.

Photo taken Oct. 22, 2017 shows makeshift housing in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, built for evacuees from Futaba, a town co-hosting the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

March 5, 2021

And while the numbers — including those who voluntarily fled without an evacuation order — have halved from their peak of 62,831 in March 2012, many of the issues facing evacuees remain unresolved.

Nakate, who was living in the prefectural capital of Fukushima when the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, said the disaster had “pulled the rug out from under” him and left him feeling like he was “fading away.”

While the city was not designated for forced evacuations after the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 60 kilometers away, concerns over radiation led Nakate and his wife to decide two weeks later that she and their two children should move to western Japan while he stayed on in the city.

It was not until around a year and a half later that the family finally started living together again, setting up home in Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, where they still remain.

Nakate, 60, currently co-heads Hinan no Kenri, a Hokkaido-based group fighting for the rights of Fukushima evacuees throughout Japan.

The movement was established in 2015 amid government efforts to promote the return of people to Fukushima — a drive that he says was conducted without consideration to the needs and desires of evacuees.

“It had been more than four years since the accident, and the central and local governments were moving forward with lifting evacuation orders, ending compensation, and promoting the return of evacuees as if ignoring our existence and will,” Nakate said.

His organization has a variety of demands for the central government, the foremost being a survey of the actual situation of evacuees, which he believes it has deliberately avoided doing so far.

Critics say the figures compiled by the central government do not accurately reflect reality as they are based on a system under which evacuees voluntarily register themselves as such with their new municipalities of residence.

In December last year, the Fukushima government, using central government data, reported that there were around 36,000 evacuees across Japan, including those within the prefecture. But the total reported by individual local municipalities in Fukushima added up to more than 67,000.

The picture is complicated by the fact that there is no consistency in how municipalities count their evacuees, with some continuing to list all the people who were registered as residents at the time of the disaster.

Nakate also highlighted that economic disparities among evacuees appear to be widening, in part due to “the narrow scope of compensation and the lack of government support.” For example, evacuees who fled from areas without evacuation orders were not eligible for any compensation in terms of rent.

And while some evacuees have fully settled into their new homes, others have been compelled to resettle in the crisis-hit prefecture due to financial difficulties, often caused by family members living separately, he says.

One of the “most pressing issues” his organization is dealing with is trouble over the termination of a scheme financed by Fukushima Prefecture for evacuees to live in vacant units of housing complexes for government workers in other parts of Japan.

The housing was initially offered for free but this arrangement expired in March 2017 for those who fled without an evacuation order, with the accommodation then offered for a maximum of two more years if normal rent was paid.

But some families, claiming financial difficulties, have decided to stay put. The Fukushima government, which had shouldered the rent, demanded in 2019 twice the normal rent as damages and filed a suit last year against four families still living in a Tokyo condominium for bureaucrats.

Yayoi Haraguchi, a sociology professor at Ibaraki University and head of nonprofit organization Fuainet:

Yayoi Haraguchi, a sociology professor at Ibaraki University, said that while most Fukushima evacuees have settled into a rhythm, issues such as poverty, unemployment, a sense of alienation, and mental distress have continued over the past decade.

“It may look like things are alright, but many unseen issues lie under the surface,” said Haraguchi, 48, who also heads Fuainet, a local nonprofit organization providing support to Fukushima evacuees in Ibaraki, northeast of Tokyo.

Haraguchi said she has encountered evacuees in their 20s to 40s who have fallen into depression or become social recluses after they were unable to find a job. Yet others are struggling financially despite having received government compensation for a period of time.

“A study by Fukushima Medical University Hospital showed that those who evacuated to outside Fukushima Prefecture were more likely to suffer from mental issues than those who had evacuated to somewhere within the prefecture,” she said.

While the initial evacuations were often hurried, many of those remaining outside the prefecture have since moved in search of a better life, she said, often choosing to settle in Ibaraki Prefecture bordering Fukushima to its south.

Part of Ibaraki’s appeal to evacuees, she explained, is its cheaper cost of living compared to Tokyo and relatively mild climate.

Post-disaster evacuations were also not limited to Fukushima, with some residents of Tokyo — located about 200 kilometers away from the crippled nuclear power plant — choosing to leave the capital, and even the country, due to their perceptions of how the radiation contamination could affect their health.

Freelance journalist and translator Mari Takenouchi, now based in Okinawa:

Freelance journalist and translator Mari Takenouchi, who has long held strong antinuclear views, fled from Tokyo to Okinawa with her infant son just days after the disaster. She says she picked the southern island prefecture as it is one of the few places in Japan free of nuclear power plants.

“If (the government) doesn’t shut down its nuclear power plants, it is dangerous to live in mainland Japan,” she said. “Japan is on the border of four (tectonic) plates, and 20 percent of the world’s major earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater occur here.”

Since moving to Okinawa, the 54-year-old has worked to create greater awareness about the effects of radiation on children and fetuses. “The situation after the Fukushima accident has not become better, but worse. Considering the occasional earthquakes, all of us are still at great risk,” she said.

Kaori Nagatsuka, a former Tokyo resident who moved to Malaysia with her two children after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis:

Kaori Nagatsuka, 52, another former resident of Tokyo, moved to Malaysia with her 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in March 2012, also due to concerns over her children’s health.

Shortly after moving to Penang, Nagatsuka assisted other evacuees who were considering migrating outside of Japan by letting them stay in her home and volunteering to show them around potential schools for their children.

“There were quite a lot of people who wanted to emigrate in consideration of their children’s health but in the end couldn’t for various reasons,” said Nagatsuka, who now works for a local Malaysian company as a travel and education consultant.

Nagatsuka said she chose Malaysia due to its lower cost of living compared to other countries and relative proximity to Japan. But despite her husband remaining in Tokyo due to work, she has not returned home even once since leaving.

The family meets on occasion in either Malaysia or Taiwan, where their daughter, now 19, currently studies. And while her children are free to choose where they want to live in the future, Nagatsuka says she personally has taken a liking to Malaysia and has no plans to return to Japan.

“If I return to Japan, my children will likely come and visit me and that worries me because I think it could damage their health,” she said. “I raised my children with an aim that they could live in any country and I fulfilled my goal, so I’m glad I came here.”

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/03/4f4dce2cf53d-feature-fukushima-nuclear-crisis-evacuees-face-unresolved-issues-10-years-on.html

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Radiation criteria sow confusion for evacuees

Workers decontaminate a road in a special reconstruction district in the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, in October. | FUKUSHIMA MINPO

February 26, 2021

Traffic was lighter on the Joban Expressway in the Futaba district in Fukushima Prefecture during the New Year holiday, with people avoiding traveling back to see their relatives due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Roadside signs show the radiation levels of areas near the no-go zones put in place after meltdowns in 2011 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, reflecting the fact that, even after 10 years, Fukushima residents are unable to return to their homes.

The no-go zones, which are considered uninhabitable for the foreseeable future due to high radiation levels, stretch through six Fukushima towns and villages: Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Katsurao and Iitate. Parts of those zones are now designated as special reconstruction districts, where the government will concentrate its decontamination efforts so that residents can return to their homes in the future.

A decade after the tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster, decontaminating the areas damaged by the fallout is a crucial part of the reconstruction that will pave the way for evacuees to come back to their homes and resume the life they had before the disaster.

But two figures of radiation exposure levels — 20 millisieverts a year and 1 millisievert a year — that the government provides as safety criteria are causing confusion among residents, triggering criticism of what could be called a double standard.

One of the criteria for the government to lift evacuation orders is whether the area’s annual cumulative radiation level has become 20 millisieverts or below, based on a recommendation from the nongovernmental International Commission on Radiological Protection.

When there is a nuclear disaster similar to that at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the ICRP recommends that annual radiation exposure should be limited to between 20 to 100 millisieverts immediately after the disaster. It then recommends the exposure is lowered to between 1 to 20 millisieverts during the reconstruction period.

As the minimum recommended exposure level right after a disaster, the 20 millisieverts mark became the radiation level yardstick for the central government to order the evacuation of a certain area after the nuclear meltdowns.

Meanwhile, the government has set up a long-term decontamination goal of reducing the radiation levels of contaminated areas to an annual 1 millisievert and below. This is to keep a lifetime exposure level below 100 millisievert — the level at which it starts to affect one’s health.

Therefore, the government stipulated the annual 1 millisievert exposure level in its reconstruction policy plan for Fukushima approved by the Cabinet in July 2012. The Environment Ministry aims to keep radiation levels in the special reconstruction district under 1 millisievert as a long-term goal.

However, the no-go zones had been above 50 millisieverts on an annual basis immediately after the nuclear meltdowns. The radiation level is on the decline with natural attenuation of radioactive cesium as well as weathering effects, but there are still patches with high radiation levels.

Even within the no-go zones, there is no easy way to carry out decontamination. Typically it is done by mowing lawns, raking up fallen leaves, washing down roads and other surfaces with a high-pressure water hose, and wiping off the walls and roofs of buildings and housing.

“It’s not easy to bring down radiation levels to 1 millisievert or below just with decontamination,” said an Environment Ministry official in charge.

In Article 1 of the radiation decontamination legislation established after the nuclear disaster, it is stipulated that the purpose of decontamination is to “minimize the health risks of radioactive exposure as much as possible.”

Despite the criteria for easing evacuation orders and the long-term goal on bringing down radiation levels, it is unclear how the government can lower radiation levels to 1 millisievert after evacuation orders are lifted for no-go zones.

The two figures are creating a confusion among local residents, who are torn between the desire to return to their homes and concerns over the radiation level.

“I won’t feel safe until annual radiation levels are below 1 millisievert,” one resident said, while another said, “Can you say for sure that an annual exposure of 20 millisieverts won’t affect our health in the future?”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/26/national/fukushima-radiation-criteria/

February 28, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima struggling to get people back, 10 years after disaster

An elementary school building in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is seen deserted in January. Municipalities near the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been struggling to bring residents back. February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

Fukushima – Municipalities near the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture have been stepping up efforts to bring residents back, a decade after the March 2011 triple reactor meltdown.

In areas in 10 Fukushima municipalities that were once off-limits due to radiation from the nuclear disaster, the ratio of actual to registered residents is as low as 31.8%.

Years of evacuation orders following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have left many registered residents unwilling to return, leaving officials concerned about the survival of their municipalities.

Taki Shoji, an 87-year-old former evacuee, returned from the city of Aizuwakamatsu further inland in the prefecture to the town of Okuma in April 2019 after an evacuation order was lifted.

In Aizuwakamatsu, Shoji struggled with snow-removing work during wintertime that he was not accustomed to.

“Living in a large house makes me feel calm,” he said, referring to his life in his warmer, coastal hometown.

Shoji needs to go to a neighboring town by bus to shop because local stores offer only a limited supply of goods. He is looking forward to the opening in spring of a commercial facility in Okuma that houses convenience and grocery stores. It “will allow me to go shopping by foot,” he said.

The ratio of actual to registered residents is especially low, at less than 20%, in the towns of Namie and Tomioka, where it took about six years for people to return after the nuclear accident.

A survey of Namie and Tomioka residents last summer by the Reconstruction Agency and others showed that greater access to shopping and medical and welfare services is needed for evacuees to return to their hometowns.

These municipalities are taking steps to encourage people to relocate to them.

The village of Iitate, where the ratio of actual to registered residents stands at about 30%, offers support measures for those willing to relocate, including up to ¥5 million in subsidies for the construction of a new house. As a result, the number of people who have relocated to Iitate topped 100 in summer last year.

Namie plans to create new jobs mainly in the renewable energy industry to bring more people to the town. “The current population is not enough to maintain infrastructure and administrative services and it’s difficult to keep the town afloat,” Namie Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida said.

The government will start a new program in fiscal 2021, which begins in April, to provide up to ¥2 million per household to people relocating to Fukushima areas affected by the nuclear accident.

Fukushima Prefecture plans to promote support for both evacuees’ return to hometowns and relocation by making use of the aid from the government. “Unless there are people, there will be no reconstruction,” a prefectural official said.https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/22/national/fukushima-residents-struggle/

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

Court rules Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable, increases liabilities

Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable, court rules, with more damages claims likely

Government and company Tepco ordered to pay some damages for 2011 event, but ruling could spur further claims

Plaintiffs and their supporters march in Japan ahead of the court ruling in Sendai on the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster on Wednesday.

Oct 1, 2020

A Japanese court has found the government and Tepco, the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, negligent for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 nuclear disaster, and ordered them to pay 1bn yen ($9.5m) in damages to thousands of residents for their lost livelihoods.

The ruling on Wednesday by Sendai high court could open up the government to further damage claims because thousands of other residents evacuated as reactors at the coastal power station overheated and released a radioactive cloud, following the devastating tsunami. While some people have returned home, areas close to the plant are still off limits.

The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation of about 50,000 yen ($470) per person until radiation levels subside to pre-disaster levels, seeking a total of 28bn yen ($265m).

The plaintiffs’ head lawyer, Izutaro Managi, hailed the ruling as a major victory, saying: “We ask the government to extend relief measures as soon as possible, not only for the plaintiffs but for all victims based on the damage they suffered.”

The latest ruling follows 13 lower court decisions, which were divided over government responsibility in the disaster. The latest ruling doubles the amount of damages against Tepco ordered by a lower court in 2017

In 2011, 3,550 plaintiffs were forced to flee their homes after a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated the country’s north-east and crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, known as the triple disaster.

Decommissioning work is underway at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, north-eastern Japan.

Radiation that spewed from the plant’s melted reactors contaminated the surrounding areas, forcing about 160,000 residents to evacuate at one point. More than 50,000 are still displaced because of lingering safety concerns. The plant is being decommissioned, a process expected to take decades.

The court said that the government could have taken measures to protect the site, based on expert assessments available in 2002 that indicated the possibility of a tsunami of more than 15 metres, reported public broadcaster NHK, which aired footage of the plaintiffs celebrating outside the court after the ruling.

The government has yet to say whether it will appeal in the supreme court against the decision. “We will consider the ruling and take appropriate action,” chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said after the ruling.

Officials at Tepco were unavailable when Reuters tried to reach them outside regular business hours.

In court, the government argued it was impossible to predict the tsunami or prevent the subsequent disaster. Tepco said it had fulfilled its compensation responsibility under government guidelines.

Plaintiffs said the ruling brought some justice, but that their lives could never return to normal and their struggle was far from over.

“For more than nine years, I have planted seeds on the contaminated soil and grown vegetables, always worrying about the effects of radiation,” plaintiff Kazuya Tarukawa, a farmer from Sukagawa in Fukushima, said at a meeting after the ruling. “Our contaminated land will never be the same.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-preventable-court-rules-with-more-damages-claims-likely?fbclid=IwAR36150Www7rdCRHKktTAwu57KZ3tOYGqCCm5pczYANUxAnF3aLgvQq7ngs

Court increases state liability, compensation for nuclear disaster

Plaintiffs hold up signs in front of the Sendai High Court on Sept. 30 stating victory in their lawsuit against the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

October 1, 2020

SENDAI—A high court here on Sept. 30 more than doubled the amount of compensation awarded to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and issued a scathing critique against the central government for its inaction.

The Sendai High Court found the central government equally at fault as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. for failing to take anti-tsunami measures and ordered the defendants to pay a total of about 1.01 billion yen ($9.6 million) to around 3,550 evacuees and residents living in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere.

It was the first high court ruling in various lawsuits seeking compensation from TEPCO and the central government for the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by a quake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.

In October 2017, the Fukushima District Court ordered the defendants to pay about 500 million yen to about 2,900 evacuees. That decision was appealed to the Sendai High Court, which increased both the compensation amount and the number of recipients.

“We won a total victory over the central government and TEPCO,” Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said. “The effect on the various lawsuits to be decided in the future will be huge.”

A major point of contention in the case was a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the science ministry’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002. The report pointed out that Fukushima Prefecture could be hit by a major tsunami.

The high court found the assessment to be a “scientific finding that had a considerable level of objective and rational basis,” making it an important perspective that differed greatly from various views presented by individual scholars or private-sector organizations.

The court ruled that if the economy minister at the time had immediately ordered TEPCO to calculate the height of a possible tsunami, a forecast could have been made of the likelihood of a tsunami striking the nuclear plant.

But the ruling said, “The regulatory authority did not fulfill the role that was expected of it” and that “not exercising regulatory powers was a violation of the law regarding state compensation.”

The Fukushima District Court found that the central government only had a secondary responsibility to oversee the utility.

The high court, however, ruled that the government had the same level of responsibility. It said both the central government and TEPCO avoided making tsunami calculations because they feared the effects that would arise if the urgent measures were taken.

The high court ruling also expanded the range of plaintiffs who could receive compensation to people living in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture as well as Miyagi and Tochigi prefectures where evacuation orders were not issued.

Experts said the high court ruling is a game-changer because of the positive assessment given to the long-term evaluation about possible tsunami.

Other district courts have ruled that the central government was not responsible because even if it had ordered measures to be taken, there would not have been enough time to complete such steps to prevent damage from the tsunami.

“Plaintiffs in the other lawsuits have provided testimony at a similar level so this could turn the tide in the recent trend of plaintiffs losing their cases,” said Masafumi Yokemoto, a professor of environmental policy at Osaka City University who is knowledgeable about nuclear plant issues.

Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus of engineering at the University of Tokyo who headed the government panel that investigated the Fukushima nuclear accident, said, “This was an unprecedented ruling that pointed out in a rational manner the stance of both the central government and TEPCO of not looking at data that they did not want to see.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at his Sept. 30 news conference that the central government would carefully go over the court ruling before making a decision on whether to appeal.

TEPCO also issued a statement with similar wording.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13777556?fbclid=IwAR36TBfK7X8gdO1FuWLG0rLq0XhEN3hofWwWufZ1bjHuPk3CJcUvXu1WCOM

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 2 Comments

Japanese Government Is Ordered to Pay Damages Over Fukushima Disaster

The Sendai High Court said the state and the plant’s operator must pay $9.5 million to survivors of the 2011 nuclear accident. They have until mid-October to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

A damaged reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

September 30, 2020

TOKYO — A high court in Japan on Wednesday became the first at that level to hold the government responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying in a ruling that the state and the plant’s operator must pay about $9.5 million in damages to survivors.

The overpowering earthquake and tsunami that ripped through northern Japan in March 2011 caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Under Wednesday’s ruling by the Sendai High Court, the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, must compensate 3,550 plaintiffs, the Kyodo news agency reported. The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of about $475 per person until radiation at their homes returns to pre-crisis levels.

In 2017, a lower court had ordered the government and Tepco to pay about half that amount to about 2,900 plaintiffs. But the ruling by Sendai’s high court, one of eight such courts in Japan, is significant because it could set a legal precedent for dozens of similar lawsuits that have been filed across the country.

The government has long argued that it could not have prevented the tsunami or the nuclear accident, while Tepco says it has already paid any compensation that was ordered by the government. Last year, a Japanese court acquitted three former Tepco executives who had been accused of criminal negligence over their roles in the accident.

Hiroshi Kikuchi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called Wednesday’s decision “groundbreaking.”

“The court carefully collected facts for this judgment,” Mr. Kikuchi said at a news conference. “We feel now it will largely impact on other actions nationwide.”

Workers removing the top soil from a garden in Naraha, inside Fukushima’s evacuation zone, in 2013.

Izutaro Managi, another lawyer on the team, said in a brief interview that if the government and Tokyo Electric Power appeal the decision, he expects it to go to the country’s Supreme Court. The deadline for filing that appeal is Oct. 14.

Tepco said in a statement on Wednesday that it would examine the judgment before responding to it.

“We again apologize from our heart for giving troubles and concerns to people in Fukushima as well as in the society largely caused by our nuclear power plant’s accident,” the statement said.

Toyoshi Fuketa, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an agency that was created after the Fukushima accident, said on Wednesday that he would not comment until the details of the judgment were released.

“The Nuclear Regulation Authority was set up based on reflection over, and anger against, the nuclear accident in Fukushima,” Mr. Fuketa added. “I would like to advance strict rules on nuclear power so that a nuclear accident will never happen again.”

Takashi Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told reporters that the ruling was a reminder that the consequences of the Fukushima disaster were still real, even if many people in Japan were starting to forget about it.

“Some people say that I’m damaging Fukushima’s reputation,” Mr. Nakajima said. “But now I think we are encouraged by the court to say what we think.”

Another plaintiff, Kazuya Tarukawa, said in a tearful statement that he had been tilling contaminated soil in the area for nearly a decade, and waiting for the government and the plant’s operator to take responsibility.

He said the money was beside the point, and that the ruling raised a larger question about the long-term risks of nuclear energy.

“What will come of Japan if there is another nuclear disaster like that?” he asked.

A roadblock in a contaminated area northwest of the nuclear plant in 2013.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Sendai court upholds ruling that state and Tepco must pay Fukushima evacuees

A group of plaintiffs demanding compensation for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster rally in Sendai on Wednesday prior to the high court’s ruling that held the state and Tepco responsible.

September 30, 2020

Sendai – The Sendai High Court on Wednesday ordered the state and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to pay ¥1 billion ($9.5 million) in damages to residents over the 2011 earthquake- and tsunami-triggered disaster.

It was the first time a high court has acknowledged the state’s responsibility for the incident in about 30 similar lawsuits filed nationwide.

The Sendai court told the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay about ¥1.01 billion to 3,550 out of some 3,650 plaintiffs, up from the sum of ¥500 million that a lower court ordered them to pay to around 2,900 plaintiffs in an October 2017 ruling.

In line with the 2017 ruling by the Fukushima District Court, the high court made its decision based on three points in dispute, including whether a major tsunami could have been foreseen.

The two other points were whether countermeasures could have been implemented to prevent a disaster, and whether the compensation levels outlined by the government were sufficient.

The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of around ¥50,000 per person until radiation at their residences returns to the pre-crisis level, bringing their total final demand to approximately ¥28 billion.

The state, meanwhile, argued it was impossible to predict the tsunami and prevent the subsequent disaster. Tepco claimed it had already paid compensation in accordance with government guidelines.

In the district court ruling, the government and Tepco were both blamed for failing to take steps to counter the huge tsunami.

It ruled that the two should have been able to foresee the risks of a maximum 15.7-meter-high wave, based on a quake assessment issued in 2002, and that the disaster could have been prevented if the state had instructed the operator to implement measures that year.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Tohoku on March 11, 2011, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the nuclear power plant.

Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a comment that said, “We will consider appropriate ways to respond while closely examining the ruling and consulting with relevant authorities.”

Tepco said in a statement, “We deeply apologize again for causing great trouble and worries to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the whole of society because of the nuclear power plant accident. We will closely examine the ruling by the Sendai High Court and consider ways to respond.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/30/national/crime-legal/sendai-court-tepco-fukushima-evacuees/

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Many Fukushima evacuees die away from home

September 9, 2020

NHK has learned that more than 2,600 people have died over the ensuing years after being evacuated from their hometowns following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.

NHK contacted local governments in Fukushima Prefecture and found that at least 2,670 people, about 10 percent of the original population, had died as of August. More than 26,500 people lived in seven municipalities near the plant. Where they lived have been designated no-entry zones for nearly nine and a half years because radiation levels remain high.

By municipality, 895 people from Okuma Town have died, 792 from Futaba Town, 576 from Namie Town, 362 from Tomioka Town, 32 from Iitate Village, 12 from Katsurao Village, and one from Minamisoma City.

The Japanese government is conducting decontamination work and rebuilding infrastructure in some areas with the aim to allow residents to return in two or three years.

But there is no concrete plan to make other parts, or 92 percent of the no-entry zone, habitable again, despite the strong hope of residents to return home.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200909_06/

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment