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Clean-up doubts: Many Fukushima evacuees may never return home

Published time: November 13, 2013 14:37
Edited time: November 13, 2013 15:49
A sign reading "Nuclear Power - The Energy for a Better Future", at the entrance of the empty Futaba town, inside the exclusion zone in Fukushima prefecture September 22, 2013. (Reuters / Damir Sagolj)

A sign reading "Nuclear Power - The Energy for a Better Future", at the entrance of the empty Futaba town, inside the exclusion zone in Fukushima prefecture September 22, 2013. (Reuters / Damir Sagolj)

Many of the people who were forced to evacuate after the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant may never return, Japanese lawmakers admitted, overturning initial optimistic government pledges.

A call to admit the grim reality and step back from the ambitious Fukushima decontamination goals came from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition parties. Japan has so far spent $30 billion on the clean-up program, which has proven to be more difficult to carry out than initially expected.

The new plan would be for the government to fund relocation to new homes for those who used to live in the most contaminated areas.

"There will come a time when someone has to say, 'You won't be able to live here anymore, but we will make up for it'," Shigeru Ishiba, the secretary General of Abe’s Liberal Democrat party said in a speech earlier this month.

On Tuesday, evacuees reacted with anger at the government's admission.

"Politicians should have specified a long time ago the areas where evacuees will not be able to return, and presented plans to help them rebuild their lives elsewhere," Toshitaka Kakinuma, a 71-year-old evacuee, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Some 160,000 people escaped the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami transformed the plant into the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. About a third of them are still living in temporary housing. They were promised that this would not last for longer than 3 years.

A deserted street inside the contaminated exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station near Okuma on November 12, 2011. (AFP Photo / David Guttenfelder)

In August the death toll among the evacuees surpassed the threshold of 1,599 lives, which is how many people in the prefecture were killed by the disaster itself. The displaced residents are suffering from health problems, alcoholism and high rates of suicide.

The Ministry of Environment wanted to decontaminate 11 townships in the affected area, bringing the average annual radiation dose to 20 millisieverts, a level deemed safe by the International Centre for Radiological Protection. It further pledged to pursue a long-term goal reducing it to 1 millisievert per year.

The clean-up, however, has been marred by delays and reports that workers sometimes simply dumped contaminated waste rather than collect it for safe storage, causing the environment ministry push back the deadline. There are also calls on the government to abandon the more ambitious dose target, arguing that it is unrealistic.

Some evacuees said they wouldn’t return even after the first phase of the cleanup, saying the dose of 20 millisieverts per year still poses health risks.

"No matter how much they decontaminate I'm not going back because I have children and it is my responsibility to protect them," Yumi Ide, a mother of two teenage boys, told Reuters.

The fear of radiation has soared in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, with rallies against the use of nuclear power scoring record attendance. The government shut down all 50 remaining Japanese reactors for safety checks, and there is strong pressure to keep them offline.

The Japanese government is reportedly seeking to borrow an extra $30 billion for the Fukushima cleanup and compensations, which would raise the total cost of the disaster response to $80 billion. The figure does not include the cost of decommissioning reactors to be carried out by the plant operator, Tepco. The company recently complained about the huge expense of the process, which may last at least 30 years.

An empty street is seen in the abandoned town of Okuma, inside the 20-km (12-mile) radius around the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture February 12, 2012. (Reuters / Kim Kyung Hoon)


Comments (5)

 

siyousyanamae 14.11.2013 18:20

59 Total Thyroid Tumors In Fukushima Children
Novembe r 13th, 2013 SimplyInfo
New data has been released from the government study of thyroid abnormalities and cancer in Fukushima children. Of those screened 59 have been found to have tumors. The health survey examined 289,960 children total.
This becomes 1 cancer per 5000 people. This is far higher than the pre-disaster levels. This raises big questions about the claims that these are increased just due to more screening. The more these numbers grow the harder it is to dismiss the findings are some version of normal.

 

Jan Vanosnabrugge 14.11.2013 13:22

Japan is entering meltdown. No, not nuclear but economical.
Calc ulate that into your "cheap" price per kWh, all you nuclear nerds !

 

Suzuki Hiroshi 13.11.2013 23:35

Japan lawmaker gets death threat for breaching imperial etiquette
13 November 2013 Voice of Russia
The menacing letter, discovered by security officers at a Tokyo building filled with lawmakers' offices, warned that "a group of assassins will be dispatched shortly".
I nside the envelope was a clasp knife with a nine-centimetre blade.
The threat was directed at Yamamoto, who was elected to parliament as an independent on a strongly anti-nuclear platform.
Yamamo to has said the hand-written note had been his attempt to let the emperor know directly about the plight of people affected by the atomic disaster at Fukushima.

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