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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

Last Fukushima town to reopen welcomes back its first residents

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

Yoichi Yatsuda plays with his dogs in Futaba, Japan.

February 16, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

OVERNIGHT STAY REKINDLES MEMORIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARCHITECT OF FUTABA’S ONCE PROUD SLOGAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVACUATION ORDER MAY BE LIFTED IN JUNE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trickle of residents return to Fukushima’s last deserted town

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

Jan. 21, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima town prepares for return of residents

Jan. 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t criticize government or TEPCO, guides in Fukushima told

A guide gives a demonstration talk at a preview event held on Sept. 5 at the Fukushima memorial museum.

A Fukushima memorial museum staff member presents a talk on Sept. 20 when the facility opened.

The Fukushima memorial museum in Futaba is devoted to passing on the lessons from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

September 23, 2020

Tour guides are bristling at instructions not to criticize the central government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. when speaking to visitors at a recently opened memorial museum to the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The instructions have left some Fukushima residents who signed up to be guides feeling perplexed and sparked anger in others.

The museum in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, opened on Sept. 20 with the objective of passing on to visitors the lessons learned from the nuclear disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

It was constructed by the Fukushima prefectural government in the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the nuclear plant. Evacuation orders issued for residents following the disaster were recently partially lifted.

About 150 items chosen from the 240,000 or so materials collected from around the nation are on display at the facility operated by the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework Promotion Organization. The central government effectively paid for the 5.3 billion yen ($50 million) that went into completing it.

The museum has 29 registered guides who either survived the 2011 disaster or underwent a training program for the work. They rotate on a daily basis and talk to visitors about their experiences, which include how they lived while living as evacuees and losing their homes in the tsunami.

Each session lasts for a maximum one hour and the guide is paid 3,500 yen for each session.

Training sessions were held in July and August for the guides in which a manual was distributed that included wording to avoid “criticizing or defaming specific organizations, individuals or other facilities.”

One question raised was what to say if a visitor asked what the guide felt about TEPCO’s responsibility, according to several guides who took part in the training sessions.

The guides were told to not directly respond to such questions, but to leave the matter up to facility staff who would be sitting in on the sessions.

Each guide was also asked to write down a script of what they intended to say. The draft was checked and revised by facility staff.

The guides were also told that if they did criticize a specific organization, their talks would be stopped immediately and they would be dismissed as a registered guide.

The manual also included instructions to contact and consult with facility staff if the script was to be changed or if the guide was contacted by media representatives for an interview.

With regard to the manual and instructions, one guide said, “While defamation is out of the question, I think it is wrong that as a victim I am unable to criticize the central government or TEPCO, which is responsible for the damage.”

A second guide had the script revised after pointing out the responsibility of the central government and TEPCO.

Another speculated that the Fukushima prefectural government was not trying to ruffle feathers since the central government had paid for the facility.

“I suffered psychological anguish from TEPCO and I’m also angry with the central government,” one tour guide said.

“To me, that is the truth. The facility has asked us to speak the truth so it is not in a position to say ‘Don’t say such things.’ I will quit as a guide if expressing my feelings is considered being critical.”

A prefectural government official admitted that the central government and TEPCO would be covered by the “specific organizations” clause in the manual.

“We believe it is not appropriate to criticize a third party such as the central government, TEPCO or the Fukushima prefectural government in a public facility,” said another prefectural government official now on the facility staff.

Committees set up by the Diet and central government to investigate the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster issued reports that called it a “man-made disaster” and said TEPCO never considered the possibility that the Fukushima plant would lose all electric power sources in the event of an earthquake or tsunami because it stuck to a baseless myth that the plant was safe.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13752941?fbclid=IwAR34yixcczj5IYUQ3CNrfustGO0EbHo2SY3Hi2TUMGY1Gc2nrOKAdE-IGXw

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster museum to open in Futaba town

A theater at the museum of Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster that will open to the public on Sept. 20 in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture

Whiteboards and other items that reveal the tense post-accident situation are on display at the new museum of the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture.

An exhibit about decontamination work after the 2011 accident at the new museum of the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture

September 7, 2020

FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–A new 5.3 billion yen ($50 million) museum here is entrusted with the mission of keeping lessons from one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters alive.

The museum of the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, is now complete and waiting to welcome visitors on Sept. 20.

It will feature firsthand accounts from survivors of the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant accident, which devastated areas of Japan’s Tohoku region in March 2011, and an array of artifacts reflecting the events.

The museum’s collection includes roughly 150 items selected from the 240,000 items that the prefectural government collected after the triple disaster.

Exhibition floors are divided into six zones by themes such as “responses to the nuclear accident” and “challenges for reconstruction.”

A video detailing the natural disaster and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., will be shown on a giant screen.

Toshiyuki Nishida, an actor from the prefecture, narrates the video, in which he encourages viewers to reflect on lessons from the disaster.

Items left abandoned at a local elementary school after residents evacuated are on display, including a bookbag, a glove and a folding umbrella.

Another item, a can of food left behind at a deserted house, conveys just how dire the post-disaster situation was: a wild boar seeking sustenance tore it open.

A large photo of a now infamous signboard that used to be on display in the center of Futaba town to promote the safety myth of nuclear power is also among the exhibited items.

Twenty-nine people who survived the disaster in and out of the prefecture are scheduled to share their experiences with visitors at the museum.

The central government, in principle, was responsible for financing the museum’s construction, including funds spent on collecting items and curating materials.

Akira Imai, a former public policy professor at Fukushima University, lamented something missing from the museum.

“It seems there are not many exhibits focusing on the lack of preparedness before the nuclear accident,” he said.

In order to carry out its mission, “the museum should enhance its investigative and research division and reflect the cautionary tale of the accident in its exhibits,” Imai said.

(This article was written by Shoko Rikimaru and Shinichi Sekine.)

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13705514

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

Japan lifts evacuation order for town hit by Fukushima disaster

Futaba to reopen for start of Olympic torch relay after being deserted for nine years

3448The entrance of Futaba town, which has been empty since the leak at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

 

March 4, 2020

Japan has lifted an evacuation order for parts of a town in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, weeks before the area is to host the start of the Olympic torch relay.

Futaba, 2.4 miles (4km) west of the plant, has been almost deserted since the nuclear meltdown nine years ago, while other areas in the region have mounted a partial recovery after the government declared them safe for residents.

The start of the relay’s Japan leg at the end of the month is supposed to showcase Fukushima’s recovery from the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, but some residents say their home towns may never return to normal.

Futaba’s 7,000 residents were forced to evacuate after the March 2011 disaster, which was triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people along Japan’s north-east coast.

The reopening of a 1.5 sq mile area of Futaba means reconstruction workers can stay in accommodation near the railway station, but residents will not be able to return for another two years, when its water supply and other infrastructure will have been restored, according to local officials.

They will be able to enter and leave for short visits without going through security, and will no longer need to wear protective clothing, but will not be allowed to stay overnight.

While the coronavirus outbreak has prompted speculation that the Olympics could be cancelled or postponed, Japan’s government is keen to promote Tokyo 2020 as proof that the region, including Fukushima, has recovered from the triple disaster.

I’m overwhelmed with emotion as we finally bring part of our town operations back to our home town,” said Futaba’s mayor, Shiro Izawa. “I pledge to push forward with our recovery and reconstruction.”

The domestic leg of the torch relay is due to begin on 26 March at J-Village, a football training complex that functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the damaged nuclear plant 12 miles away.

Although organisers have said the route is subject to change, the torch is scheduled to pass through Futaba later the same day, before being taken through other parts of Fukushima prefecture over the following two days.

 

3128A guard opens the gate to the town in Futaba.

In addition to building excitement across the country ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games and promoting the Olympic values, the Olympic torch relay aims to demonstrate solidarity with the regions still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami,” the organisers said last month.

More than 160,000 people were forced to flee their homes during the Fukushima meltdown. Many have decided not to return, despite government reassurances on safety, and many of those who have returned are older residents.

Futaba is no exception, with just 10% of residents saying they intend to return. Some, particularly those with young children, are concerned about radiation levels, while others have built new lives elsewhere.

Yuji Onuma, a Futaba resident, said recent work to repair streets and decontaminate the town centre was designed to give the world a false impression before the Olympic torch relay.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” Onuma told Reuters. Pointing at workers repaving a road expected to be on the relay route, he added: “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered. I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s railway station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, higher than the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts an hour.

Another part of the town had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

The torch is due to pass through the village of Iitate the following day, but campaigners this week described the relay as inappropriate and warned they had found radiation “hotspots” in the village.

In a survey of 69 locations along and around the proposed relay route, the grassroots group the Radioactivity Monitoring Centre for Citizens said it had found 44 sites with radioactive levels above 0.23 microsieverts per hour, including one “severe hotspot” of 0.85 microsieverts per hour along the torch relay route.

The discovery of hotspots near J-Village by Greenpeace Japan at the end of last year prompted the environment ministry and the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to perform extra decontamination work.

While some independent monitors have said the discovery of isolated hotspots does not present an accurate picture of the overall situation in Fukushima, Nobuyoshi Ito, an Iitate farmer, said the civic group’s findings cast doubts on government claims that decontamination work had been a success.

Radiation exposure for runners passing along the route may not be very high, but the overall situation in places like Iitate is severe,” Ito said. “Levels are several times to as many as 20 times higher in the village than they were before the disaster, and people who moved back have to put up with that 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Of Iitate’s pre-disaster population of 6,100, only 1,200 people have returned, Ito said. “The small number of people coming means that the nuclear disaster is not over yet. The truth is that full recovery from a nuclear disaster like this is just not possible.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/04/japan-lifts-evacuation-order-futaba-town-fukushima-disaster?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR0L6-CAj0LYlEtKWrdeQF_bim4qUZIp_iEvbtV4uxlW4MnwIeSy6T8_CAk

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, Olympic torch relay faces cool welcome from nuclear evacuees

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March 2, 2020

FUTABA, Japan (Reuters) – Dressed in protective plastic coveralls and white booties, Yuji Onuma stood in front of the row of derelict buildings that included his house, and sighed as he surveyed his old neighborhood.

On the once-bustling main street, reddish weeds poked out of cracked pavements in front of abandoned shops with caved-in walls and crumbling roofs. Nearby, thousands of black plastic bags filled with irradiated soil were stacked in a former rice field.

It’s like visiting a graveyard,” he said.

Onuma, 43, was back in his hometown of Futaba to check on his house, less than 4 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, leaking radiation across the region.

The authorities say it will be two more years before evacuees can live here again, an eternity for people who have been in temporary housing for nine years. But given the lingering radiation here, Onuma says he has decided not to move back with his wife and two young sons.

Most of his neighbors have moved on, abandoning their houses and renting smaller apartments in nearby cities or settling elsewhere in Japan.

Given the problems Futaba still faces, many evacuees are chafing over the government’s efforts to showcase the town as a shining example of Fukushima’s reconstruction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While there has been speculation that the global spread of the coronavirus that emerged in China last month might force the cancellation of the Olympics, Japanese officials have said they are confident the Games will go ahead.

The Olympic torch relay will take place in Fukushima in late March – although possibly in shortened form as a result of the coronavirus, Olympic organizers say – and will pass through Futaba. In preparation, construction crews have been hard at work repairing streets and decontaminating the center of town.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” said Onuma. He pointed to workers repaving the road outside the train station, where the torch runners are likely to pass. “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered.”

He said he hoped that the torch relay would also pass through the overgrown and ghostly parts of the town, to convey everything that the 7,100 residents uprooted of Futaba lost as a result of the accident.

I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

UNDER CONTROL”

In 2013, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pitching Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Games to International Olympic Committee members, he declared that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control”.

The Games have been billed as the “Reconstruction Olympics” – an opportunity to laud Japan’s massive effort to rebuild the country’s northeastern region, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the meltdowns at the nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

After the disaster, the government created a new ministry to handle reconstruction efforts and pledged 32 trillion yen ($286.8 billion) in funding to rebuild affected areas.

 

kkmùùYuji Onuma, an evacuee from Futaba Town near tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, walks next to a collapsed shop on the street in Futaba Town, inside the exclusion zone around the plant, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan February 20, 2020.

 

Signs of the reconstruction efforts are everywhere near the plant: new roads have been built, apartment blocks for evacuee families have sprouted up, and an imposing tsunami wall now runs along the coastline. An army of workers commutes to the wrecked plant every day to decommission the reactors.

In March, just days before the Olympic relay is scheduled to be held across Fukushima, Japan will partially ease a restriction order for Futaba, the last town that remains off-limits for residents to return.

This means that residents like Onuma will be able to freely come and go from the town without passing through security or changing into protective clothing. Evacuees will still not be able to stay in their homes overnight.

After a few years bouncing between relatives’ homes and temporary apartments, Onuma decided to build a new house in Ibaraki, a nearby prefecture. His two sons are already enrolled in kindergarten and primary school there.

You feel a sense of despair,” said Onuma. “Our whole life was here and we were just about to start our new life with our children.”

When Onuma was 12, he won a local competition to come up with a catchphrase promoting atomic energy. His words, “Nuclear Energy for a Brighter Future” was painted on an arch that welcomed visitors to Futaba.

After the nuclear meltdowns, the sign was removed against Onuma’s objections.

It feels like they’re whitewashing the history of this town,” said Onuma, who now installs solar panels for a living.

The organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

 

BACK BURNER”

Other residents and community leaders in nearby towns say the Olympics may have actually hindered the region’s recovery.

Yasushi Niitsuma, a 60-year-old restaurant owner in Namie, said the Olympics stalled local reconstruction projects because of surging demand and costs to secure workers and materials ahead of the games in Tokyo.

We need to wait two years, three years to have a house built because of the lack of craftsmen,” said Niitsuma. “We are being put on the back burner.”

Fukushima’s agriculture and fisheries industries have also been devastated.

I was astonished by the “under control” comment made in a pitch to win the Olympic Games,” said Takayuki Yanai, who directs a fisheries co-op in Iwaki, 50 kilometers south of the nuclear plant, referring to Abe’s statement.

People in Fukushima have the impression that reconstruction was used as a bait to win the Olympic Games.”

A government panel recently recommended discharging contaminated water held at the Fukushima plant to the sea, which Yanai expects to further hurt what remains of the area’s fisheries industry.

At a recent news conference, Reconstruction Minister Kazunori Tanaka responded to a question from Reuters about criticism from Fukushima evacuees.

We will work together with relevant prefectures, municipalities and various organizations so that people in the region can take a positive view,” he said, referring to the Olympics.

Local officials also say they are making progress for the return of residents to Futaba.

Unlike Chernobyl, we are aiming to go back and live there,” Futaba Mayor Shirou Izawa said in an interview, calling the partial lifting of the evacuation order a sign of “major progress”.

There were a lot of misunderstandings about the radiation levels in the town, including the safety of produce and fish from Fukushima, Izawa said.

It would be great if such misunderstanding is dispelled even a little bit,” he said.

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s train station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, still approximately eight times the measurement taken on the same day in central Tokyo.

Another area in Futaba had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

Despite the official assurances, it’s hard to miss the signs of devastation and decay around town.

The block where Takahisa Ogawa’s house once stood is now just a row of overgrown lots, littered with concrete debris. A small statue of a stone frog is all that remains of his garden, which is also scattered with wild boar droppings.

He finally demolished his house last year after he failed to convince his wife and two sons to return to live in Futaba.

Ogawa doubts any of his childhood friends and neighbors would ever return to the town.

I’ve passed the stage where I’m angry and I’m resigned,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-futaba-insight/in-fukushima-olympic-torch-relay-faces-cool-welcome-from-nuclear-evacuees-idUSKBN20P03M?fbclid=IwAR0G7Exv5bLjdYCHCdmV5PA7L15qoZ3KpCScZIa8F8_TU9AAzNBvSW9aKvE

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive 2020 Olympics Torch Run – WTFutaba? Beverly Findlay-Kaneko

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February 5, 2020

Radioactive 2020 Olympics Torch Relay will run through Futaba, town next to Fukushima Daiichi, near former location of PR sign, “Nuclear Power: Energy for a Bright Future.” (pictured above) Runners and tourists will NOT be wearing decontamination garb, unless they’re smart – and if they’re really smart, they won’t be there..

This Week’s Featured Interview:

  • Radioactive 2020 Olympics UPDATE: Beverly Findlay-Kaneko again joins us with on-the-ground information about the Olympics torch relay, including blog post interviews with former residents of Futaba, the town that hosted the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, translated from the Japanese exclusively for Nuclear Hotseat.

http://nuclearhotseat.com/2020/02/05/radioactive-2020-olympics-torch-run-wtfutaba-beverly-findlay-kaneko/?fbclid=IwAR0sanV0xfZS1dcclbbSEoacP69H4iNTozz93ghjADgFzq7_xxRS_cItKAk

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Olympics: Tokyo torch relay to add another Fukushima reactor town

Dentsu Corporation, the hired PR company to calm the fears of the Japanese public, is using every gimmick in the book to deny the existing radiation risks to promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

ggjkllJapanese actress Satomi Ishihara, center, attends a promotional event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic torch relays at an elementary school in Tokyo, on Jan. 16, 2020.

January 18, 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games torch relay is likely to pass through the town of Futaba, which hosts the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, as the government plans to lift the mandatory evacuation order for the town on March 4, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The town of Okuma, a co-host of the nuclear plant, was already included in the first day of the torch relay. Fukushima Prefecture aims to highlight on the global stage its reconstruction from the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Organizers announced in July 2018 that Fukushima would be the starting point for the torch relay in the country. Last March, Yoshiro Mori, the organizing committee’s president, revealed that the relay would begin some 20 kilometers from the Fukushima plant at the J-Village national soccer training center, which was used as an operational base for handling the nuclear crisis.

The Olympic torch will arrive in Japan on March 20 and the flame will be taken to Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

It will then travel by train through Miyagi and Iwate prefectures before making its way to Fukushima. The three prefectures were hit hardest by the powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The Japan leg of the relay will begin on March 26, 2020, two weeks after the flame lighting ceremony in Greece, and will carry the torch across all 47 prefectures in the country over a period of 121 days.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to be held between July 24 and Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200118/p2g/00m/0sp/034000c

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Severed section of JR Joban Line in Fukushima to reopen in March

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A train arrives at JR Futaba Station in Fukushima Prefecture during a test run on Dec. 18.
December 19, 2019
FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–A disrupted section of the JR Joban Line near the beleaguered Fukushima nuclear plant is expected to reopen March 14, bringing the entire line back in service for the first time in nine years.
A test run to check signal lights, rails and crossings started in Fukushima Prefecture Dec. 18.
As part of the test, a five-car train arrived around 10:20 a.m. at the newly built Futaba Station, about 4 kilometers northwest of the plant.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, with residents in wide areas ordered to evacuate.
The tests will continue through Dec. 20, with the train making two round trips a day between Tomioka and Namie, the 20.8-kilometer section of the line that has remained out of service.
If service in the section is resumed, the Joban Line will connect Nippori in Tokyo to Iwanuma in Miyagi Prefecture, covering about 344 km.
Futaba Station features a glass-walled corridor connecting the east and west sides. However, many nearby buildings were dismantled following the disaster, leaving plots of empty land.
No residents can be seen around here as evacuation orders due to the nuclear disaster have been in place throughout the town.
As the section set to reopen is within 10 km of the nuclear plant, the train will run through the “difficult-to-return zone” that has excessive levels of radiation.
Japan Railways has been engaged in decontamination efforts in the area since March 2016 to lower radiation levels by removing trees along the tracks and replacing gravel.
Coinciding with the resumption of the entire line, evacuation orders for areas around Yonomori, Ono and Futaba stations within the section are expected to be lifted.
Orders for roads connecting the stations and areas where access is not restricted would also be lifted, allowing passengers to access the stations.

December 24, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo ‘Recovery Olympics’ offer scant solace to displaced victims of Fukushima nuclear disaster

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An abandoned elementary school classroom remains cluttered Dec. 3 with school bags and other belongings left by students as they rushed out after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima nuclear power plant in Futaba.
December 18, 2019
FUTABA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Nine years after an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster devastated wide areas of the prefecture, the torch relay for the 2020 Summer Games will kick off in Fukushima.
Some baseball and softball games will also be held in the prefecture, allowing Tokyo organizers and the government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” The symbolism recalls the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showcased Japan’s re-emergence just 19 years after World War II.
But tens of thousands still haven’t recovered in Fukushima, displaced by nuclear radiation and unable to return to deserted places like Futaba.
Time stopped in the town of 7,100 when disaster stuck on March 11, 2011.
Laundry still hangs from the second floor of one house. Vermin gnaw away at once intimate family spaces, exposed through shattered windows and mangled doors. The desolation is deepened by Japanese tidiness, with shoes waiting in doorways for absent owners.
“This recovery Olympics is in name only,” Toshihide Yoshida said. He was forced to abandon Futaba and ended up living near Tokyo. “The amount of money spent on the Olympics should have been used for real reconstruction.”
Japan is spending about ¥2.8 trillion ($25 billion) to organize the Olympics. Most is public money, though exactly what are Olympic expenses — and what are not — is always disputed.
The government has spent ¥34.6 trillion for reconstruction projects for the disaster-hit northern prefectures, and the Fukushima plant decommissioning is expected to cost ¥8 trillion.
The Olympic torch relay will start in March at J-Village, a soccer venue used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. The relay goes to 11 towns hit by the disaster, but bypasses Futaba, a part of Fukushima that Olympic visitors will never see.
“I would like the Olympic torch to pass Futaba to show the rest of the world the reality of our hometown,” Yoshida said. “Futaba is far from recovery.”
The radiation that spewed from the plant at one point displaced more than 160,000 people. Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes.
The town has been largely decontaminated and visitors can go almost anywhere without putting on hazmat suits, though they must carry personal dosimeters to measure radiation absorbed by the body and surgical masks are recommended. The main train station is set to reopen in March, but residents won’t be allowed to return until 2022.
A main-street shopping arcade in Futaba is lined by collapsing store fronts and sits about 4 km (2.5 miles) from the nuclear plant, and 250 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo. One shop missing its front doors advertises Shiseido beauty products with price tags still hanging on merchandise. Gift packages litter the ground.
Futaba Minami Elementary School, where no one died in the evacuation, has nonetheless been untouched for almost nine years and has the feel of a mausoleum. School bags, textbooks and notebooks sit as they were when nearly 200 children rushed out.
Kids were never allowed to return, and “Friday, March 11,” is still written on classroom blackboards along with due dates for the next homework assignment.
On the first floor of the vacant town hall, a human-size daruma good-luck figure stands in dim evening light at a reception area. A piece of paper that fell on the floor says the doors must be closed to protect from radiation.
It warns: “Please don’t go outside.”
The words are underlined in red.
“Let us know if you start feeling unwell,” Muneshige Osumi, a former town spokesman, told visitors, apologizing for the musty smell and the presence of rats.
About 20,000 people in Tohoku died in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Waves that reached 16-meters-high killed 21 people around Futaba, shredding a seaside pine forest popular for picnics and swimming.
A clock is frozen at 3:37 p.m. atop a white beach house that survived.
Nobody perished from the immediate impact of radiation in Fukushima, but more than 40 elderly patients died after they were forced to travel long hours on buses to out-of-town evacuation centers. Their representatives filed criminal complaints and eventually sent former Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. executives to court. They were acquitted.
When Tokyo was awarded the Olympics in 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured International Olympic Committee members that the nuclear disaster was “under control.” However, critics say the government’s approach to recovery has divided and silenced many people in the disaster-hit zones.
Under a development plan, Futaba hopes to have 2,000 people — including former residents and newcomers such as construction workers and researchers — eventually living in a 550-hectare site.
Yoshida is unsure if he’ll return. But he wants to keep ties to Futaba, where his son inherited a filling station on the main highway connecting Tokyo and Tohoku.
Osumi, the town spokesman, said many former residents have found new homes and jobs and the majority say they won’t return. He has his own mixed feelings about going back to his mountainside home in Futaba. The number of residents registered at the town has decreased by more than 1,000 since the disaster struck, indicating they are unlikely to return.
“It was so sad to see the town destroyed and my hometown lost,” he said, holding back tears. He reflected on family life, the autumn leaves, and the comforting hot baths.
“My heart ached when I had to leave this town behind,” he added.
Standing outside Futaba Station, Mayor Shiro Izawa described plans to rebuild a new town. It will be friendly to the elderly, and a place that might become a major hub for research in decommissioning and renewable energy. The hope is that those who come to help in Fukushima’s reconstruction may stay and be part of a new Futaba.
“The word Fukushima has become globally known, but regrettably the situation in Futaba or (neighboring) Okuma is hardly known,” Izawa said, noting Futaba’s recovery won’t be ready by the Olympics.
“But we can still show that a town that was so badly hit has come this far,” he added.
To showcase the recovery, government officials say J-Village and the Azuma baseball stadium were decontaminated and cleaned. However, problems keep popping up at J-Village with radiation “hot spots” being reported, raising questions about safety heading into the Olympics.
The radioactive waste from decontamination surrounding the plant, and from across Fukushima, is kept in thousands of storage bags stacked up in temporary areas in Futaba and Okuma.
They are to be sorted — some burned and compacted — and buried at a medium-term storage facility for the next 30 years. For now they fill vast fields that used to be rice paddies or vegetable farms. One large mound sits next to a graveyard, almost brushing the stone monuments.
This year, 4 million tons of those industrial container bags were to be brought into Futaba, and another million tons to Okuma, where part of the Fukushima plant stands.
Yoshida said the medium-term waste storage sites and the uncertainty over whether they will stay in Futaba — or be moved — is discouraging residents and newcomers.
“Who wants to come to live in a place like that? Would senior officials in Kasumigaseki go and live there?” he asked, referring to the high-end area in Tokyo that houses many government ministries.
“I don’t think they would,” Yoshida added. “But we have ancestral graves, and we love Futaba, and we don’t want Futaba to be lost. The good old Futaba that we remember will be lost forever, but we’ll cope.”

December 24, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Olympics no relief for devastated city

resized_250588-8colympics40color_24-28036_t800Weeds grow in an abandoned apartment complex Tuesday in Futaba, Japan. Government officials say it’s the “recovery Olympics” for the disaster-hit areas and residents. But the town of Futaba, home to the tsunami-wrecked nuclear plant, is still largely frozen in time for nearly nine years since the disaster, with thousands of its former residents still unable to return.

December 14, 2019

FUTABA, Japan — The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off in Fukushima, the northern prefecture devastated almost nine years ago by an earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

They’ll also play Olympic baseball and softball next year in one part of Fukushima, allowing Tokyo organizers and the Japanese government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” The symbolism recalls the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showcased Japan’s reemergence just 19 years after World War II.

But tens of thousands still haven’t recovered in Fukushima, displaced by nuclear radiation and unable to return to deserted places like Futaba.

Time stopped in the town of 7,100 when disaster struck on March 11, 2011.

Laundry still hangs from the second floor of one house. Vermin gnaw away at once intimate family spaces, exposed through shattered windows and mangled doors. The desolation is deepened by Japanese tidiness with shoes waiting in doorways for absent owners.

“This recovery Olympics is in name only,” Toshihide Yoshida told The Associated Press. He was forced to abandon Futaba and ended up living near Tokyo. “The amount of money spent on the Olympics should have been used for real reconstruction.”

Olympic organizers say they are spending $12.6 billion on the Olympics, about 60% public money. However, an audit report by the national governments said overall spending is about twice that much.

The Olympic torch relay will start in March in J-Village, a soccer stadium used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. The relay goes to 11 towns hit by the disaster, but bypasses Futaba, a part of Fukushima that Olympic visitors will never see.

“I would like the Olympic torch to pass Futaba to show the rest of the world the reality of our hometown,” Yoshida said. “Futaba is far from recovery.”

The radiation that spewed from the plant at one point displaced more than 160,000 people. Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes.

The town has been largely decontaminated and visitors can go almost anywhere without putting on hazmat suits, though they must carry personal dosimeters — which measure radiation absorbed by the body — and surgical masks are recommended. The main train station is set to reopen in March, but residents won’t be allowed to return until 2022.

A main-street shopping arcade in Futaba is lined by collapsing store fronts and sits about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the nuclear plant, and 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo. One shop missing its front doors advertises Shiseido beauty products with price tags still hanging on merchandise. Gift packages litter the ground.

“Let us know if you start feeling unwell,” Muneshige Osumi, a former town spokesman told visitors, apologizing for the musty smell and the presence of rats.

About 20,000 people in Japan’s northern coastal prefectures died in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Waves that reached 16 meters (50 feet) killed 21 people around Futaba, shredding a seaside pine forest popular for picnics and bracing swims.

A clock is frozen at 3:37 p.m. atop a white beach house that survived.

Nobody perished from the immediate impact of radiation in Fukushima, but more than 40 elderly patients died after they were forced to travel long hours on buses to out-of-town evacuation centers. Their representatives filed criminal complaints and eventually sent former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives to court. They were acquitted.

When Tokyo was awarded the Olympics in 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured International Olympic Committee members that the nuclear disaster was “under control.” However, critics say the government’s approach to recovery has divided and silenced many people in the disaster-hit zones.

Under a development plan, Futaba hopes to have 2,000 people — including former residents and newcomers such as construction workers and researchers — eventually living in a 550-hectare (1,360-acre) site.

Standing outside the Futaba station, Mayor Shirou Izawa described plans to rebuild a new town. It will be friendly to the elderly, and a place that might become a major hub for research in decommissioning and renewable energy. The hope is that those who come to help in Fukushima’s reconstruction may stay and be part of a new Futaba.

“The word Fukushima has become globally known, but regrettably the situation in Futaba or (neighboring) Okuma is hardly known,” Izawa said, noting Futaba’s recovery won’t be ready by the Olympics.

To showcase the recovery, government officials say J-Village — where the torch relays begins — and the Azuma baseball stadium were decontaminated and cleaned. However, problems keeping popping up at J-Village with radiation “hot spots” being reported, raising questions about safety heading into the Olympics.

The baseball stadium is located about 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Futaba, J-Village is closer, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away along the coastal area.

The radioactive waste from decontamination surrounding the plant, and from across Fukushima, is kept in thousands of storage bags stacked up in temporary areas in Futaba and Okuma.

“Who wants to come to live in a place like that? Would senior officials in Kasumigaseki government headquarters go and live there?” Yoshida asked, referring to the high-end area in Tokyo that houses many government ministries.

“I don’t think they would,” Yoshida said. “But we have ancestral graves, and we love Futaba, and we don’t want Futaba to be lost. The good old Futaba that we remember will be lost forever, but we’ll cope.”

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2019/dec/14/olympics-no-relief-for-devastated-city-/

December 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Evacuated Fukushima town begins efforts to have produce restrictions lifted

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People are seen planting produce during a cultivation test in the Morotake district of the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 2, 2019, in this photo provided by the Futaba Municipal Government.
September 9, 2019
FUTABA, Fukushima — Vegetable cultivation trials began in September in this town, which has been completely evacuated since Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station melted down following the earthquakes and tsunami in March 2011.
The prefectural government has been putting on the trials with cooperation from the town office as well as farmers who were based in the town in northeastern Japan.
At a full staff meeting of the town assembly on Sept. 5, it was explained that if the crops can be confirmed to be safe, then the aim will be to have shipping restrictions removed on a part of the town whose evacuation orders are expected to be lifted next spring. It is thought that doing so will help revive farming in the area.
According to the town office, seeds and saplings for five produce items, including broccoli, cabbage and spinach, were planted at three locations in the Morotake district on Sept. 2. The district is currently classed as an area preparing for the lifting of an evacuation order, from which orders may soon be lifted.
It is the first planting in the town to produce food since the onset of the nuclear disaster in March 2011. Harvesting is expected to take place from late October to mid-November, but because the aim is to confirm data, all of the crop will be disposed of and not distributed.
If the inspection can confirm that the radiation dosage is lower than the national standard of 100 becquerels per 1 kilogram, then the prefectural government will make a request to the national government to have the shipment restrictions on the area removed.
Shipment restrictions are aimed at leafy and non-leafy headed types of vegetables, as well as mustards such as broccoli, and turnips. Immediately after the start of the nuclear disaster, these items all across the prefecture were under restrictions, but as areas have each confirmed the safety of their crops, they have been lifted.
Excluding areas deemed “difficult-to-return” zones, only the parts of Futaba that are classed as preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders remain as areas yet to have the restrictions removed.
(Japanese original by Tatsushi Inui, Iwaki Local Bureau)

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