Sunday 30 June 2013

Return. Return?

Miyakoji could be the first area to have the ban lifted. It was on the periphery of the exclusion zone, north of Kawuchi, and since April last year it's been one of the areas being 'Prepared for lifting of the Evacuation Order'. Decontamination work has just been completed. It was supposed to have been finished in March but was delayed due to the snow and because they had to deal with more waste than expected. Over 3,000 workers cleaned houses, farmland, roads and woods over an area of 570 hectares at a cost of 6 billion yen (60 million dollars), double the original budget. Air borne levels of contamination have been 'reduced by half'. Looking at the figures, most places seem to have been reduced to 0.3 to 0.5 μSv/hour, much the same as places here in Koriyama where decontamination work hasn't been done. When the ban is lifted, within the next few months, people will be able to go back (at the moment they can't stay overnight) and get on with their lives. Interviews on TV seem to show a mixed reaction: some people are eager to get back, others say they still won't be able to make a living out of farming there. 

So good news, or at least a move in the right direction for the people of Miyakoji. But what of people who have homes nearer to the plant in the 'Difficult to Return' area? When we went to Tomioka a couple of weeks ago we got talking to a family from Futaba county when we stopped off at a motorway service station. They were capped that a foreigner cared about them and they loved my Fukushima T-shirt! But it became obvious that they just wanted to talk - to anyone who would listen - in an outpouring of sadness and frustration. They were living with their daughter in Narita: she works at the airport. They didn't know when they would be able to go back. All they've been told is that it will be at least five years.They go back occasionally to see to the house. They have to check in at the border, change into those white boiler suits and are only allowed in for a couple of hours. They told me there are rats in the house and their fields are overgrown. It's depressing. Their future is uncertain. 

In the meantime, a shipload of MOX fuel has been delivered from France, the first since the disaster, but Prime Minister Abe refuses to talk about scrapping the (bankrupt) reprocessing project or reducing Japan's dependence on nuclear power. There's an election of the Upper House in a few weeks time. On a TV phone-in programme yesterday morning, 39% said nuclear policy was their main election issue (39% too for pensions and social security, only 7% each for volatility in the stockmarket and relations with China). But the government fudges on the nuclear issue. I'm sure serious discussions are going on behind the scenes but they give the impression that Fukushima never happened and are far from forthright about plans for the future.
That's a brief round-up for now. More later.

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