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Even as Evacuation Orders are Lifted, Recovery Remains Distant Prospect for Many Fukushima Residents

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Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the government has lifted evacuation orders on four municipalities around the plant, allowing residents to return home for the first time since the meltdowns. The author, who has been involved in reconstruction planning since the evacuation orders were first given, calls for a multiple-track plan to meet the complicated needs of those who return and evacuees who continue to live elsewhere as evacuees.

The Beginning of the End, or the Prelude to New Heartache?

The Japanese government on March 31 and April 1 of this year lifted evacuation orders for areas around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station it issued in the wake of the nuclear accident at the plant more than six years ago. The decision finally allowed some 32,000 residents of the four radiation-affected municipalities of Iidate, Kawamata, Namie, and Tomioka to return to their homes. Following the move, the only places still subject to evacuation orders are Futaba and Ōkuma (where the Daiichi plant is located) and parts of five neighboring towns and villages.

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The Japanese media almost universally hailed the decision as a “major milestone” toward residents of affected areas rebuilding their lives. But this supposed milestone can be taken in two quite different ways. In much of the media there was an optimistic sense of a return to normalcy, resulting in the view that the evacuation orders lifting was a long-awaited new beginning in the recovery effort, and that residents would finally be able to start rebuilding their lives and communities. Another, more cynical view, however, is that it merely marked the start of new string of woes. Considering the challenges that face residents, in my opinion this second interpretation is closer to the truth.

The optimistic view is pushed by the national and prefectural authorities in charge of advancing recovery efforts in Fukushima, and is based on the following scenario.

1. Designate evacuation zones across areas affected by radiation, and provide support to evacuees in the form of temporary housing and compensation.

2. Decontaminate the affected areas.

3. Prepare to lift the evacuation orders as radiation levels fall.

4. Rebuild local infrastructure and reestablish local services, rebuilding health, welfare, and retail facilities where necessary.

5. Lift evacuation orders.

6. Evacuees return home.

For the thousands of evacuees forced to live away from their homes over the past six years, however, there is quite a different sense to the orders being lifted. Some people will decide to return home while others will remain where they are. No matter their decision, though, we must face the fact that new challenges await both groups.

Many of those most eager to return home are the elderly, but health and welfare provisions are still far from satisfactory in many areas. There are also lingering doubts for other members of the community, such as the future of the area’s farming, forestry, and fisheries. Local economies have been devastated, raising the question of employment and whether people will even be able to buy daily necessities, let alone support themselves long term.

The situation at the power plant also remains precarious and much work remains to be done. The problem of radioactive water has yet to be solved and a medium-term storage facility must be found for huge amounts of contaminated material. However, there is not even a timetable for when these will be accomplished. Faced with such uncertainty, many people will simply choose to remain where they are rather than risk returning home. However, this decision brings a different set of problems, as many of the support systems put in place to help evacuees will be cut off now that they are no longer prevented from going back.

In surveys carried out between 2014 and 2017 by the Reconstruction Ministry, the Fukushima Prefectural government, and the evacuated municipalities, more than half of residents of Futaba, Namie, Ōkuma, and Tomioka said they did not plan to return to their homes after the evacuation orders were lifted. In other areas where more than a year has already passed since evacuation orders were rescinded, the number of residents who have returned remains at 20% or less everywhere except Tamura. These sobering figures illustrate the steep road awaiting evacuees wishing to go home.

Assessing Conditions in the Affected Areas

The fact that authorities lifted evacuation orders despite so many issues still unresolved demonstrates a disregard for the challenges confronting residents. Now more than ever, we must consider and assess the uncertainties residents face and ascertain future challenges.

In the areas recently deemed fit again for human habitation, flexible containers filled with contaminated materials still lie in heaps at various temporary storage points, where they have been since clean-up operations began. While the plan is to eventually move these to medium-term storage facilities, I wonder if authorities when deciding to lift the evacuation order really understood the anxiety and stress placed on residents who must live their lives surrounded by mountains of contaminated debris.

d00319_ph02-680x451Containers of contaminated soil in temporary storage await safety checks in Minamisōma, Fukushima, on June 11, 2016.

The town of Hirono is situated 22 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. Following the disaster, the town’s medical services fell to the sole efforts of the head of the local hospital, Dr. Takano Hideo. However, the future of the hospital was thrown in doubt when Takano died in a fire late last year. Nakayama Yūjiro, a physician in Tokyo, assisted for a time, spending two months earlier this year as the hospital’s resident doctor.

Nakayama wrote a diary based on his experience, which was published in April 2017 by Nikkei Business online as Ishi ga mita Fukushima no riaru (The Reality of Fukushima: A Doctor’s View). In his account, Nakayama describes the ongoing tragedy of the disaster and discusses the numerous people who have died from conditions brought on by the stress of residing in temporary living conditions. He points to three main reasons for these deaths: Separation from family and loss of community; interruption of ongoing medical treatment; and change of environment. Nakayama’s experience illustrates how in indirect ways, the death toll from the disaster continues to rise.

Giving Up on the Dream of Going Home

The situation is worse still for people whose homes are subject to ongoing evacuation orders. Sasaki Yasuko, who was evacuated from her home in Namie, spent the time since the disaster in temporary housing in the town of Koori. In a 90-page record of her life as an evacuee called Osoroshii hōshanō no sora no shita (Under a Fearsome Radioactive Sky), she writes: “I don’t want to die in temporary housing. That’s all I ask. Everyone is talking about wrapping things up and bringing an end to the disaster—but I don’t want my life to end like this. . . . Since the disaster, there seem to be slogans everywhere I go that are meant to keep our spirits up. But what more can I do than what I’m already doing? I wish someone would tell me what I’m expected to do.”

I met Sasaki for the last time in the spring of 2013. She was still living in temporary housing and was working to complete a model of her home in Namie, desperately trying to recreate from memories a place she thought she would never see again. Around a month after that, I learned that she had been hospitalized and had passed away at the age of 84. I also heard that before entering the hospital, she had taken her model and smashed it to pieces.

d00319_ph03-680x453Sasaki Yasuko toward the end of her life, at work on a model of her abandoned home in Namie.

I had many other opportunities to talk to people whose homes are in areas “closed to habitation indefinitely.” Several of them told me that when they had tried to tidy up one of their short visits home, they found their houses in a state of chaos as a result of intrusions by boars and other wild animals. The residents asked the authorities to do something about it, saying, “Can’t you catch the boars, or at least hire someone to stop them from getting into our houses?” But no business could be persuaded to take the project on as everyone was too afraid of the high radiation levels.

Faced with difficulties and indignities like this, people’s eagerness to return home slowly withered. They say that the radiation tore everything up by the roots—history, culture, community—and they wonder if any amount of compensation can make up for such a loss. Robbed of their local heritage, many residents of affected areas continue to lament the cultural implications of the disaster.

The Need to Support Both Returnees and Evacuees

The authorities imagine a simplistic scenario where lifting the evacuation orders results in everyone returning home and living happily ever after. But life is not so simple, and this storyline does not include solutions for problems like those outlined above. As well as working to restore and rebuild the physical infrastructure in the evacuated towns and villages, the authorities need to work with residents to develop programs that will help them get their lives back on track. These programs need to have realistic outlooks of the future and must consider the hopes of the residents themselves.

From the initial days after the disaster, the message from the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Daiichi plant, has been: “Leave this to us.” This has permeated their attitude in establishing support efforts for evacuees in temporary housing, setting radiation safety standards, cleanup work, compensation negotiations, livelihood support, and reconstruction plans. Everything has been handled in an ad hoc fashion, leading to misunderstanding and anxiety and opening gaps between the authorities and those they are supposedly trying to help. For residents, all these actions are closely connected. There is still no process for building consensus and bridging the gulf that has formed between the authorities and the residents who should be playing a leading role in rebuilding their communities. It is in this context that the evacuation orders were lifted.

The authorities should make it a priority to draw up a less simplistic scenario that better reflects the reality on the ground. There must be a multiple-track plan balancing programs to rebuild communities and support returnees’ lives back home with measures that provide help to evacuees who choose to remain where they are. One idea worth considering would be a program that allowed evacuees to divide their lives between two areas for a bridging period, giving them time to rebuild their hometowns while remaining in temporary housing. One way this could be accomplished is to provide residences where evacuees could live on a part-time basis as they work to rebuild their communities and repair their damaged and neglected homes.

(Originally published in Japanese on May 9, 2017. Banner photo: A photographer snaps photos of somei-yoshino cherries in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 12, 2017. Most of the 2.2-kilometer stretch of cherry trees is barricaded off inside an evacuation area. Since this spring, the first 300 meters of the road have been opened to the public during the daytime. The district is now designated an “area closed to habitation provisionally.” © Jiji.)

http://www.nippon.com/en/currents/d00319/

 

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Diet OK’s bill for Fukushima reconstruction

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Diet enacted Friday a bill aimed at accelerating the state-led reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture from the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which hit particularly hard the Tohoku region.

The bill to revise the special law on rebuilding the prefecture was approved by a majority vote chiefly by lawmakers of the ruling coalition and the leading opposition Democratic Party at the day’s plenary meeting of the House of Councillors.

Under the revised law, state funds will be used to decontaminate desingated districts in no-go zones, where entry is banned in principle due to the high-level fallout from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The central government will intensively conduct the decontamination work and infrastructure projects in the designated districts so it can lift its evacuation order there in five years.

Previously, the government took the stance of making TEPCO pay the decontamination costs. But it decided to shoulder decontamination costs as far as the specified districts are involved.

The revised law also stipulates state support for local governments’ efforts to prevent bullying of school children fleeing from Fukushima to other prefectures, in the wake of such harassment happening in various parts of the country.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003694412

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

Reconstruction minister lashes out over remaining Fukushima evacuees

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister said Tuesday displaced people yet to return to areas of Fukushima Prefecture deemed safe to live in are “responsible for themselves,” before snapping at the reporter whose question prompted the remark.

Masahiro Imamura made the comment at a press conference explaining the government’s efforts for the reconstruction of areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Housing subsidies ran out last month for those who had left areas other than government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Citing a court decision last month that the central government and the plant’s operator were liable in the nuclear disaster in the first ruling of its kind since the crisis, a reporter asked what the state is doing to help the “voluntary evacuees.”

Imamura responded that the central government has delegated such matters to prefectural authorities, which are more knowledgeable about local conditions.

“It’s their own responsibility, their own choice,” he said when pressed further, pointing out that other evacuees have managed to go back to the areas.

The reporter said some of those still displaced have found themselves unable to return, and asked whether the state should take more responsibility for looking after those people.

“We are taking responsibility. Why are you saying something so rude?” Imamura shouted, slamming his podium.

Pointing a finger at the reporter, he then yelled, “Take that back! Get out of here!”

“You’re the one who’s causing problems for the evacuees,” someone called out as Imamura walked away from the podium, to which the minister responded “Shut up!” before leaving the room.

“The minister has informed me that he became emotional and was unable to remain calm for part of today’s press conference,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a subsequent press conference.

Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said the matter is one for Imamura himself to “handle appropriately.”

The disaster reconstruction minister apologized later Tuesday, telling reporters he had “become emotional.”

Imamura, 70, was installed in his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

https://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/04/467033.html

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Lifting Fukushima evacuation orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mall opens in Fukushima town near disaster-stricken nuclear plant

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Rice cakes are tossed to a crowd ahead of the full-scale opening of Sakura Mall Tomioka, a publically-established and privately-run mall, in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 30, 2017.

TOMIOKA, Fukushima — A shopping mall opened in this town near the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on March 30, amidst hopes it will jumpstart the return of the populace as evacuation orders will be lifted for most of the town on April 1.

In addition to returning residents, the mall is expected to be used by employees working on decommissioning of the nuclear plant.

Before the nuclear disaster, Tomioka was considered to have the largest concentration of commercial facilities in Futaba County, which also hosts the nuclear plant. Together with the lifting of the evacuation orders, the town is touting its recovery as the “capital of the county.”

The mall, called “Sakura Mall Tomioka,” has around 4,500 square meters of floor space. In November last year, a home improvement store and three restaurants opened early, and on March 30 this year a supermarket and drugstore opened, bringing the facility into full operation. At a ceremony for the opening, Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said, “I am sure this mall will aid recovery (of areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster).”

The Tomioka Municipal Government set up the mall by renovating buildings along National Route 6. The areas of the town with evacuation orders being lifted will cover 9,544 residents (based on March 1 population figures), but in the near term only a few percent of the population are expected to actually return to the town. Evacuation orders will remain in place for parts of the town with high radiation levels, called “difficult-to-return” zones.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170330/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

 

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

40% of local leaders doubt 3.11 disaster area recovery by 2020 due to Fukushima crisis

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Many trucks are seen engaged in land redevelopment work in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on March 9, 2017.

About 40 percent of 42 local leaders along the coasts of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures doubt their areas will recover from the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Games due to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, a Mainichi Shimbun survey shows.

A large majority of the pessimistic local chiefs represent cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture where many residents were forced to evacuate following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The survey results show that these municipalities have yet to recover from the meltdowns.

The central government has categorized a five-year period from fiscal 2011 as an intensive recovery period, and another five-year period from fiscal 2016 as a recovery and building period. It plans to spend as much as 32 trillion yen over a 10-year period ending in fiscal 2020 to complete recovery operations and abolish the Reconstruction Agency. It aims to support Fukushima and other disaster-stricken prefectures, but has no clear budget provision.

The Mainichi Shimbun received written responses from all 12 city, town and village mayors it queried in Iwate Prefecture, and from all 15 mayors queried in each of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

While only two municipal chiefs in Iwate and one in Miyagi did not anticipate an end to recovery efforts by fiscal 2020, 13 local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture — including those in evacuation zones — shared this view. Only the Shinchi town mayor replied that recovery will be possible by fiscal 2020, while the mayor of Soma said he did not know.

Many local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture say they do not expect recovery operations to be completed by fiscal 2020 due to negative effects from the nuclear disaster. The town of Namie says it does not anticipate an end to recovery operations in three years, pointing out that the recovery speeds in areas hit by tsunami versus the nuclear disaster are obviously different.

The town of Futaba, 96 percent of which is designated as a difficult-to-return zone, says post-disaster restoration has not even started. Kawauchi village, which has already seen its evacuation order lifted, laments that its population is set to drop drastically due to a very low birthrate and a rapidly aging citizenry.

Rikuzentakata and Otsuchi in Iwate, and Yamamoto in Miyagi, responded that they are unlikely to witness a full recovery by fiscal 2020. Rikuzentakata explained that its new city hall isn’t scheduled to be completed until fiscal 2021. The town of Otsuchi cited a delay in a land redevelopment project and other reasons. The town of Yamamoto said that community formation at mass relocation sites and psychological recovery take a long time.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170310/p2a/00m/0na/007000c

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

Survey: Many dissatisfied with 3/11 recovery

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NHK conducted a survey of survivors and nuclear evacuees of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and a majority of respondents were dissatisfied with recovery efforts so far.

The survey was conducted from November to February, ahead of the 6th anniversary of the disaster on Saturday.

NHK got responses from 1,437 people from the hardest-hit northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

Asked about recovery efforts in the areas where they lived before the disaster, 26 percent of the respondents replied they don’t feel any sense of progress, and 36 percent said they’ve seen slower-than-anticipated recovery.

On the other hand, 34 percent said they’ve seen progress at a reasonable pace, and 2 percent said they’ve seen faster-than-expected recovery.

But even among those who gave positive answers, most of them apparently felt there has been little improvement to regional economies and standards of living. Only 4 percent of them said they think the regional economy is better than before the disaster, and 8 percent said they feel their community is more vibrant.

Associate Professor Reo Kimura of the University of Hyogo says the challenge ahead is to provide support for daily life, and come up with ideas on how to make those regions more attractive.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170307_02/

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

SIX YEARS AFTER: Poll: At least 20 years to regain lifestyle, half of Fukushima says

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Decontamination work is conducted on March 2 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, which will no longer be designated an evacuation zone on March 31.

 

Half of Fukushima Prefecture residents believe it will take at least another 20 years for them to return to the lives they enjoyed before the 3/11 disaster, according to a new poll.

The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. contacted prefectural residents on Feb. 25-26 to ask about life after the triple nuclear meltdown crisis following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. It was the seventh in the annual series of polls on the issue.

In the survey, 50 percent of respondents said “more than 20 years” when asked their outlook on the timescale to restore their previous lifestyle. Twenty-one percent said “about 20 years,” followed by 16 percent who thought “about 10 years,” and 7 percent who responded “about five years.”

In the 2013 poll, those who thought it would take more than two decades for them to regain their pre-disaster life totaled 60 percent. The numbers cannot simply be cross-referenced since 18 and 19 years olds have been included in the latest survey for the first time, but while the results suggest some improvement, they also paint a picture of many residents of the prefecture still unable to have an optimistic outlook on their future.

Thirty percent of respondents of the latest survey said there are times they feel discriminated against for being Fukushima Prefecture residents.

The central government plans to cover part of the costs on the Fukushima nuclear crisis that is estimated to rise to 21.5 trillion yen ($188 billion) by including the expenses in electricity rates on regular households.

It is a plan that has been criticized to be nothing more than a scheme to bail out Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and 76 percent of respondents said they could not accept such a measure.

With the evacuation order for the town of Tomioka scheduled to be lifted on April 1, most residents of the prefecture who were displaced from their homes due to the nuclear disaster will be able to go back, excluding those who lived in areas still designated as “difficult-to-return zones.”

But opinions over the issue varied among respondents, suggesting skepticism over decontamination work and concerns over radiation still linger among many residents.

When asked about the timing of lifting the evacuation order, the most popular answer, from 40 percent, was that it was an appropriate decision. However, 19 percent said it was “too soon,” while 22 percent said the order “should not be lifted in the first place.” Nine percent said it was “too late.”

Respondents were also divided over their evaluation of decontamination work in the prefecture conducted by the central and local governments.

Those who applauded the effort, which comprised the 3 percent who “highly” praised it and the 48 percent who “somewhat” did, was at just over half. But an almost equal amount of respondents, 46 percent, expressed criticism, with 39 percent saying they “did not really” think enough was being done and 7 percent saying they were not at all satisfied.

When asked whether they had any concerns of the effects of radiation on themselves or their family, most residents, at 63 percent, said yes. This comprised the 19 percent who said they were very concerned and the 44 percent who responded they were worried to some extent.

Those who were more critical of the decontamination efforts, as well as respondents who expressed concern over the effects of radiation, tended to reply that the evacuation order “should not be lifted in the first place.”

Regarding “difficult-to-return zones,” the central government plans to concentrate their decontamination work on specific areas to allow residents to live there.

Respondents were divided over this decision as well, with 43 percent for and 42 percent against.

However, when asked about how the central government and TEPCO were handling the buildup of contaminated groundwater at the crippled nuclear plant, the majority of respondents expressed criticism. A total of 71 percent said they were dissatisfied, compared with the 14 percent who thought enough was being done.

The poll targeted eligible voters aged 18 or older living in the prefecture. Valid responses were received from 934 individuals out of the 1,739 randomly generated landline numbers contacted, or 54 percent.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703030048.html

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

Rebuilding Fukushima through Soccer

To expose children to possible radioactive nanoparticles without any protection just for the sake of propaganda to show that everything is safe and back to normal in Fukushima is irresponsible and criminal! All in the name of the recovery and reconstruction campaign organized by the Japanese  government to welcome all the tourists to come to “clean” beautiful Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! Olympics to which Fukushima produce will be used to prepare the meals fed to the visiting athletes! All in the name of promotion and economic reconstruction! Alternate facts, total denial of reality being substituted to real facts and dangers. A total insanity!

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A former soccer training facility close to Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant has been used as a staging point for recovery work since the 2011 nuclear disaster, but that’s about to change.

Temporary dormitories for workers stand where there used to be a soccer field at the facility, called J-Village. The area is filled with memories for Shigenari Akashi, who worked as a coach for a junior youth team there for more than 10 years.

“National tournament finals used to be held here. Children from all over the country would practice hard, aspiring to play here,” Akashi says.

J-Village was Japan’s first national soccer training center. It opened in 1997 and over the years saw more than a million visitors. The complex was even used to train the national teams of Japan and Argentina.

But the nuclear disaster changed everything. The facility is just 20 kilometers from the plant, so Tokyo Electric Power Company rented it to set up an operational base for containing the accident.

“I was in shock and at a loss for words when I saw the Self-Defense Forces’ tanks here, and the gravel laid on the natural turf for the parking lot,” says Akashi.

At the end of last year, the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived as TEPCO began work to return the facility to its original form.

Fukushima Prefecture has even bigger plans — tt wants to build Japan’s first “all-weather soccer field” at the site. Part of the facility is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018.

The Japan Football Association has given the project its full support. The Japanese national team will use the new J-Village as its training base for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But there are bigger challenges than rebuilding. There are fears over radiation levels — in some areas they’re still higher than international standards recommend. So the J-Village operator has a plan.

“The construction work will focus on largely replacing the soil, a technique we expect will reduce radiation levels more than usual decontamination methods,” says Eiji Ueda, who is executive vice president at the facility. “We can emphasize how safe it is by hosting national teams from Japan or perhaps abroad for training.”

A town near J-Village was evacuated because of the disaster. Residents got the green light to move back a year and a half ago but few have returned as most of the evacuees still live in a neighboring city.

Akashi and his co-workers have been giving soccer classes for children, including some who lived near J-Village. But there are mixed feelings about playing there again.

“I want to use the new J-Village, but I live far away now, so it will be hard to go there very often,” says a boy at the facility.

“We still have the lingering memory of it being used as the staging ground for decommissioning work,” says one father.

For Akashi, he’s got a specific goal in mind.

“In reviving J-Village, we want to give back local people a gathering place and their sense of pride. We believe this will also help to revive Fukushima as a whole,” he says.

The clock on the J-Village scoreboard is stopped at 2:46 p.m., the moment the earthquake struck. The deep rift created over the last 6 years will need to be filled so that the clock can move forward once more.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/3/rebuildingfukushimathroughsoccer/

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s post-tsunami recovery plan: tomatoes, fish and hula-dancing

Six years after the Fukushima disaster, local government is working with private firms in one Japanese city to rebuild its economy

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Tomatoes growing in Japan’s Wonder Farm as part of Iwaki City’s reconstruction efforts after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

It’s a cold January day in Iwaki City, 211km north of Tokyo. But here, in a balmy glasshouse, light and sunny, pop music is being piped in, and tonnes of tomatoes are ripening and being picked.

They’re not in the ground; they’re being grown from waist-high pots of coconut matting. These are no ordinary tomatoes. They are growing on Wonder Farm, an “integrated agricultural theme park”, run by Tomato Land Iwaki, which is part-funded by the local city council and the Fukushima prefecture.

But another of the Wonder Farm partners is train firm Japan Rail East, which sells the tomatoes via its own restaurants. Because these small red fruits are part of plans by the local city government and local businesses to reinvigorate the local Iwaki economy after the devastating impact of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, a mere 50km up the coast.

After such a cataclysmic series of events, rebuilding an economy based on fishing, agriculture and tourism is not easy. It requires some innovative thinking. Luckily, that’s something with which this area is already familiar. Fifty years ago, another of its industries, coal mining, faced decline. Here in Iwaki City, the Joban coal mining company came up with a novel idea. It retrained coal miners’ daughters as hula dancers and created the Spa Resort Hawaiians, Japan’s first theme park, which from its opening in 1966 until the events of March 2011, attracted thousands of visitors a year to its array of pleasures, including golf, a huge swimming pool and hot springs centre, and, of course, hula dancing and fire knife displays.

We were driven by the need to survive,” explains Yukio Sakamoto, a director at the Joban coal mining company. “Yes, it was a radical change, but it was a success because everyone in the company focused on the plan. It wasn’t about knowledge or expertise, but mindset.” The idea faced considerable opposition: “People said coal miners should just dig coal. But we trained the daughters of coal miners as professional dancers.”

That kind of ingenuity has been called for even more since 2011 in this part of Japan. It’s been hard work for everyone involved to try and get visitors back to the region and to restart the market for local food and produce. The city government has worked with regional and national bodies to measure radioactivity levels in local produce, and the figures are publicly available. But rebuilding trust that food from Fukushima is safe has been slow. The local fish market may be open, but almost all its stock is from elsewhere in the country.

Still, at least it is open and Senzaka Yoshio, one of the officers at the La Mew Mew fish market, which was badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, says visitor levels are now back up to 80% of the pre-disaster days.

Further along the quay from the fish market are more fish. Live ones, this time, in the spacious tanks of the Fukushima Aquarium. When the tsunami hit, this aquarium lost 90% of its creatures. It reopened just four months later, in July 2011, a feat possible, according to executive director Yoshitaka Abe, due to teamwork, local leadership and co-operation with other aquarium authorities, who sent specialists and volunteers to help with the reconstruction work.

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The Fukushima aquarium, which reopened just four months after the tsunami of March 2011.

For Sakamoto, at the Spa Resort Hawaiians, overcoming the 2011 disaster has been about local people. The resort has brought more than 9,500 jobs to the area. On the day of the earthquake, there were 617 guests in the hotel. All got safely home. But many employees lost family members and homes. “We continue our operation thinking about the people who suffered,” he says. “Our main idea was not to fire people because of the difficulty in the business, but to redeploy them.”

https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2017/feb/02/japan-fukushima-tsunami-tomatoes-fish-hula-dancing

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

Fukushima governor rebuts minister’s 3/11 recovery claim

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Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura addresses an official conference on the reconstruction and rebuilding of Fukushima Prefecture in Fukushima city on Jan. 28.

FUKUSHIMA–Using marathon analogies, opinions on the current state of Fukushima Prefecture almost six years after the 2011 nuclear accident were running far apart between a national minister and local officials at a conference here to discuss the recovery process.

If this is a marathon, Fukushima’s recovery is 30 kilometers into the race,” said Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura at the beginning of the conference on reconstruction of quake damage and rebuilding in the prefecture on Jan. 28. “Now, we have come to the crunch.”

A disgruntled Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori refuted Imamura’s optimistic analogy when he was interviewed by reporters after the conference’s close.

Some regions in the designated evacuation zones are not even at the starting line,” said Uchibori. “Even in the areas where the designation is already lifted, recovery has only just begun.”

The evacuation order in most of the surrounding area of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is scheduled to be lifted at the end of March, apart from some “difficult-to-return zones” where radiation readings remain high.

The affected municipal governments are concerned that the central government’s understanding of areas affected by the 2011 disaster has been fading as the sixth anniversary approaches in March.

Aside from the opening, the conference, chaired by Imamura, was closed to the media.

According to one attendee, Imamura told conference delegates that he put “Fukushima first.”

Aping the catchphrase style of U.S. President Donald Trump and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Imamura apparently meant he prioritizes the recovery of the disaster-hit area of Fukushima Prefecture, but his choice of words failed to impress local officials.

The head of one municipal government said: “It is not a very good catchphrase to use here as it reminds us of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.”

I would like him to be more sensitive about expressions he uses,” another complained.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701300051.html

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Namie’s high recovery hopes haunted by dwindling coffers, fears of losing vital state dole

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A robot testing facility, a robotics research center, a base for renewable energy and a memorial park — these are some of the plans the irradiated town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has in mind for rebuilding after the triple reactor meltdown at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011.

But to pursue those plans, the town needs funds — a gigantic amount.

Namie is hoping to cover its funding needs with central government grants. But the two sides are still negotiating whether the municipality must shoulder a certain amount.

Also, there is no guarantee that the grants will continue beyond fiscal 2020, when the central government-designated reconstruction and revitalization period ends. This has residents worried that, even if the facilities are built, the municipality won’t be able to shoulder the maintenance and personnel costs needed to keep the facilities running.

We are currently negotiating fiercely with the central government,” said Namie’s deputy mayor, Katsumi Miyaguchi, 61.

The town of Namie had the largest population in the Futaba district, but its coffers took a major hit after the calamity triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

Residential tax revenue, which comprises about 30 to 40 percent of all tax revenues, sank to ¥500 million from about a ¥1 billion before 3/11 after the town decided to waive taxes for those with annual income below ¥5 million.

Whether to continue the waiver program is another difficult political issue.

The town was also waiving property taxes but plans to resume them when evacuations are lifted in some areas next spring. But land values have plunged since the meltdowns and any property tax revenues are expected to be low.

The same goes for corporate tax revenue, which has been hit by 3/11 business suspensions.

In short, Namie wouldn’t be able to pay the salaries of its town officials, let alone finance a reconstruction plan, if it weren’t for the central government grants.

As the centerpiece of its plan, Namie plans to build a facility adjacent to its town hall that would offer local information and house restaurants that serve up local specialties.

But that remains to be seen.

We are making plans despite the uncertainty that the central government’s grants will cover them,” said a town official in charge. “If the funds don’t cover the entire plan, it may need to be revised.”

In the mayor’s office, currently in the city of Nihonmatsu, there is a calender showing the number of days that have passed since the disasters hit — over 2,000. But Namie is still far from recovery.

The financial resources we’ve lost due to the disaster are excessive,” said Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba, 68. “We desperately need the central government to continue its support.”

Another town executive agreed.

If the government stops providing grants four years later when the reconstruction/revitalization period ends, it means the government has abandoned Namie,” the executive said.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/12/18/national/namies-high-recovery-hopes-haunted-dwindling-coffers-fears-losing-vital-state-dole/#.WFZwYVzia-d

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

Abe Sees Fukushima Progress!!!

Radiation risks are being swept under the rug. That restoration plan voluntarily chooses to ignore the risks for people to be living in a contaminated environment, not differentiating between the external and internal exposures and their sure harmful consequences to people health. Not to mention the  ongoing incineration of contaminated waste in the Fukushima Prefecture 19 municipal incinerators, continuously redistributing radioactive nanoparticles into the environment. All done in the name of economic reconstruction!

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Cabinet to approve Fukushima restoration plan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited Fukushima Prefecture to inspect the progress of restoration following the 2011 nuclear accident.
Abe visited a machinery parts manufacturer in Minamisoma City on Saturday.
The government and Fukushima Prefecture have been working to create a cluster of robotics’ companies in the city.
The president of the manufacturer told the prime minister that he hopes the robotics industry will help revitalize the local economy.
Abe responded that the state-of-the-art robot testing facilities that had been built in the city should attract companies from around the world, and that he wants the region to develop around them.
Abe later visited the town of Kawamata, where an evacuation order is expected to be lifted next March.
He ate fermented natto soybeans manufactured in the town using local products.
Abe told reporters after the inspection that his government intends to help people from areas where the evacuation order will be lifted with housing and rebuilding their lives.
He also said his cabinet will approve a plan before the end of the month to accelerate Fukushima’s restoration. He said it includes partial governmental funding for decontamination in non-entry zones.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161210_23/

 

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

Tax Breaks Mulled to Aid Reconstruction in Fukushima No-Go Zone

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The Abe government and ruling coalition are considering giving tax breaks to companies that do business in reconstruction footholds to be set up in the no-go zone heavily contaminated by the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, according to informed sources.

Officials believe such measures will help advance industrial recovery in the prefecture hurt by the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011, the sources said Tuesday.

Under consideration are corporate tax cuts to promote capital investment and employment of people affected by the crisis by firms damaged by the nuclear accident and companies that newly expand into the area.

The special reconstruction areas will be created starting in fiscal 2017. Priority will be given to decontamination work and infrastructure development in the footholds, so that evacuation orders for local residents can be lifted around the end of March 2022.

The tax measures will be included in the fiscal 2017 tax system reform package that the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition plans to draw up Dec. 8.

Similar tax breaks are provided in evacuation areas outside the no-go zone. Through the planned measures, the government hopes to encourage the opening of businesses necessary for residents to live in the area, such as convenience stores and gas stations, as well as promoting job creation.

The government and the ruling camp are considering the options of allowing companies to deduct from their corporate taxes 15 percent of the amounts of their capital investment made in the footholds and granting lump-sum depreciation of new equipment and facilities so they can reduce their taxable incomes by larger margins than under regular depreciation rules.

Another possible measure is giving a corporate tax cut equivalent to 20 percent of salaries for employees in the footholds that companies hire from among those affected by the nuclear accident.

Also under consideration extending by four years a corporate tax cut granted to the owners of housing for disaster victims in special economic zones on condition the buildings meet fire resistance and other requirements and that the owners give priority to disaster-affected people in choosing tenants.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/22/national/tax-breaks-mulled-aid-reconstruction-fukushima-no-go-zone/#.WDXSalzia-e

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment