Survey: Half of Fukushima evacuee households split up; distress rife in families — The Asahi Shimbun

” FUKUSHIMA–Nearly half of households that evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been split up while close to 70 percent have family members suffering from physical and mental distress, a survey showed.

The number of households forced to live apart exceeds the number that remain together, according the survey, the first by the Fukushima prefectural government that attempted to survey all households that evacuated.

The results were announced on April 28.

Between late January and early February, Fukushima Prefecture mailed the surveys to 62,812 households living within and outside the prefecture.

Of the 20,680 respondents, 16,965 households, or 82 percent, originally lived in the evacuation zone near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, while 3,683 households, or 18 percent, lived outside the zone but voluntarily evacuated after the nuclear accident unfolded in March 2011.

It was unclear if the remaining 32 households were originally within the evacuation zone.

Some 44.7 percent of the households still lived with all family members at their new homes. The figure included single-person households.

But 48.9 percent of households said their family members now live at two or more locations, including 15.6 percent whose family members are scattered at three or more locations, according to the survey.

The results showed that many households in municipalities near the nuclear plant originally contained many family members, but they were forced to give up living together as their lives in evacuation continued.

Families are often divided over the degree of fear about radiation contamination. Locations of workplaces and schools also split families, while many members end up living in separate temporary housing.

The prolonged life in evacuation, now in its fourth year, is taking a toll. The survey revealed that 67.5 percent of all households had family members showing symptoms of physical or psychological distress.

More than 50 percent said the cause of their ailments was that they “can no longer enjoy things as they did before” or they “have trouble sleeping.”

“Being constantly frustrated” and “tending to feel gloomy and depressed” followed, at over 40 percent.

More than one-third of respondents, or 34.8 percent, said their “chronic illness has worsened” since they entered their lives as evacuees. ”

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Fukushima residents feel torn as Japan prepares for their return to radiated zone near plant — Associated Press via Fox News; Yahoo!7 News videos [updated 5/1/14]

” TOMIOKA, Japan – Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck.

Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.

Above all, radiation is everywhere.

It’s difficult to imagine ever living again in Tomioka, a ghost town about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the former Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear plant. And yet more than three years after meltdowns at the plant forced this community of 16,000 people to flee, Onuki can’t quite make the psychological break to start anew.

His family lived here for four generations. Every time he goes back, he is overcome by emotion. Especially during that brief time in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.

“They flower as though nothing has happened,” he said. “They are weeping because all the people have left.”

The Japanese government is pushing ahead with efforts to decontaminate and reopen as much of a 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone around the plant as it can. Authorities declared a tiny corner of the zone safe for living as of April 1, and hope to lift evacuation orders in more areas in the coming months and years.

Former residents have mixed feelings. In their hearts, many want their old lives back. But distrust about the decontamination program runs deep. Will it really be safe? Others among the more than 100,000 displaced have established new lives elsewhere, in the years since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sent three of Fukushima’s reactors into meltdown.

If the evacuation order is lifted for their area, they will lose a monthly stipend of 100,000 yen ($1,000) they receive from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the Fukushima plant.

A survey last year found that 16 percent of Tomioka residents wanted to return, 40 percent had decided never to return, and 43 percent were undecided. Two-thirds said they were working before the disaster, but only one-third had jobs at the time of the survey, underlining the challenges to starting over.

Former resident Shigetoshi Suzuki, a friend of Onuki, is outraged the government would even ask such a question: Do you want to go back?

Of course, we all want to return, he said. People like him were effectively forced into retirement, the 65-year-old land surveyor said. If he hadn’t evacuated to a Tokyo suburb with his wife, he would have continued working for his longtime clients.

“It is a ridiculous question,” Suzuki said. “We could have led normal lives. What we have lost can’t be measured in money.”

In protest, he has refused to sign the forms that would allow his property to undergo decontamination.

The government has divided the no-go zone into three areas by radiation level.

The worst areas are marked in pink on official maps and classified as “difficult to return.” They are still enclosed by a barricade.

Yellow designates a “restricted” area, limiting visits to a few hours. No overnight stays are allowed.

The green zones are “in preparations to lift evacuation orders.” They must be decontaminated, which includes scrubbing building surfaces and scraping off the top layer of soil and is being carried out throughout the zones.

Tomioka has all three zones within its boundaries.

The green zones are those where authorities have confirmed radiation exposure can be brought below 20 millisieverts a year.

The long-term goal is to bring annual exposure down to 1 millisievert, or the equivalent of 10 chest X-rays, which was considered the safe level before the disaster, but the government is lifting evacuation orders at higher levels. It says it will monitor the health and exposure of people who move back to such areas.

In the yellow restricted zone, where Sukuki’s and Onuki’s homes lie, a visitor exceeds 1 millisievert in a matter of a few hours.

During a recent visit, Onuki and his wife Michiko walked beneath the pink petals floating from a tunnel of cherry trees, previously a local tourist attraction.

The streets were abandoned, except for a car passing through now and then. The neighborhood was eerily quiet except for the chirping of the nightingales.

“The prime minister says the accident is under control, but we feel the thing could explode the next minute,” said Michiko Onuki, who ran a ceramic and craft shop out of their Tomioka home. “We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead.”

Both wore oversized white astronaut-like gear, which doesn’t keep out radioactive rays out but helps prevent radioactive material from being brought back, outside the no-go zone. Filtered masks covered half their faces. They discarded the gear when they left, so they wouldn’t bring any radiation back to their Tokyo apartment, which they share with an adult son and daughter.

Junji Oshida, 43, whose family ran an upscale restaurant in Tomioka that specialized in eel, was at first devastated that he lost the traditional sauce for the eel that had been passed down over generations.

He has since opened a new restaurant just outside the zone that caters to nuclear cleanup workers. He recreated the sauce and serves pork, which is cheaper than eel. He lives apart from his wife and sons, who are in a Tokyo suburb.

“There is no sense in looking back,” Oshida said, still wearing the eel restaurant’s emblem on his shirt.

Older residents can’t give up so easily, even those who will never be able to return — like Tomioka city assemblyman Seijun Ando, whose home lies in the most irradiated, pink zone.

Ando, 59, said that dividing Tomioka by radiation levels has pitted one group of residents against another, feeding resentment among some. One idea he has is to bring residents from various towns in the no-go zone together to start a new community in another, less radiated part of Fukushima — a place he described as “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

“I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots,” said Ando, tears welling up in his eyes. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering. I’m just worried for Tomioka.” ”

article source with photo essay

Updated 5/1/14: View this story via Yahoo!7 News with three excellent short videos that compare radiation levels in Fukushima, Tokyo and Denver; explain the latest water leak at Fukushima No. 1; and describe a community shift toward solar power in Japan.

Kawauchi residents OK’d for overnight stays in hot zone — The Japan Times

” Evacuation order may be lifted for second tainted Fukushima area

FUKUSHIMA – Residents of the 20-km hot zone around the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have been allowed to stay overnight at their homes after progress with decontamination.

Previously, the residents from the village of Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, were allowed to spend only the day inside the evacuation zone.

The change means the residents will be free to spend entire days at home for the next three months, after which the government will decide whether to lift the evacuation order for good.

However, because of lingering radiation fears, just 40 residents from 18 households applied to return to their homes. The 134 households in Kawauchi comprise 276 residents.

The central government is talking with the residents and the Kawauchi municipal authorities about completely lifting the evacuation order, given the decontamination work.

If lifted, Kawauchi would be the second places to see its order lifted in the 20-km-radius evacuation zone set up around the nuclear plant, following Miyakoji district in the city of Tamura.

A total of 10 municipalities, including Kawauchi, are still subject to evacuation orders around the plant, which was devastated by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011, and released radiation on much of Fukushima.

Katsutoshi Kusano, 69, and his wife Shigeko, 68, said they have returned home to the village from a temporary housing facility in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, as they “remain attached to” their house and garden. ”

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Aileen Mioko Smith on the Japanese reactor restarts — Corbett Report Interview

” The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Agency is currently considering applications from eight different utilities companies to restart 17 of the nation’s 54 nuclear reactors, which have been taken offline in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. Today we talk to Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action Japan about the anti-nuclear movement in Japan and their efforts to stop the reactor restarts from happening. ”

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Forced to flee radiation, fearful Japanese villagers are reluctant to return — The New York Times

” MIYAKOJI, Japan — Ever since they were forced to evacuate during the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant three years ago, Kim Eunja and her husband have refused to return to their hilltop home amid the majestic mountains of this rural village for fear of radiation.

But now they say they may have no choice. After a nearly $250 million radiation cleanup here, the central government this month declared Miyakoji the first community within a 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant to be reopened to residents. The decision will bring an end to the monthly stipends from the plant’s operator that have allowed Ms. Kim to relocate to an apartment in a city an hour away.

“The government and the media say the radiation has been cleaned up, but it’s all lies,” said Ms. Kim, 55, who is from South Korea, and who with her Japanese husband runs a small Korean restaurant outside Miyakoji. “I want to run away, but I cannot. We have no more money.”

She is not the only one. While the central government and national news media have trumpeted the reopening of Miyakoji as a happy milestone in Japan’s recovery from the devastating March 2011 accident, many residents tell a darker story. They insist their homes remain too dangerous or too damaged to inhabit and that they have not received enough financial compensation to allow them to start anew somewhere else.

They criticize the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, for failing to reimburse them for the value of their homes, usually their family’s largest financial asset. Depending on where they lived, they say they have received amounts from half the preaccident value to just $3,000, a tiny fraction of the original value of their homes.

Many villagers complain that these amounts are not enough to move farther away from the plant, which is still leaking radiation, or to repair their traditional wooden farmhouses, which have started to rot and collapse since they were damaged by the earthquake and then abandoned.

As a result, many evacuees have been forced to live in a state of limbo since the accident, unable to leave barracks-like temporary housing, or end their dependency on Tepco for monthly stipends to live in apartments outside the village. Tepco pays the stipends under orders from the government.

Now they feel growing pressure to return whether they want to or not. The government has declared that the stipends, which range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, will end next March, when temporary housing will also begin to be closed. Villagers who move back before then will receive a $9,000 bonus from Tepco, adding to the pressure to return.

“Tepco is being so stupidly unfair with the compensation,” said Yukei Tomitsuka, the mayor of Tamura, the city that administers Miyakoji. “We are the victims. Should we have to go hat in hand to Tepco to ask for more money?”

Experts call Miyakoji a forerunner of the problems that will be faced by the 150,000 people displaced by the accident over all, as additional communities are reopened as a result of a $36 billion government-financed cleanup. They say the evacuees will feel increasing pressure to go back from a government that wants to restore the preaccident status quo as much as possible to limit criticism of the powerful nuclear industry.

“This is inhumane and irresponsible,” said Teruhisa Maruyama, a lawyer who leads the Support Group for Victims of the Nuclear Accident, a Tokyo-based legal organization that helps residents seek increased compensation.

“The national government knows that full compensation could add up to big money, enough to raise public doubts about the wisdom of using nuclear power in Japan.”

Tepco refused to comment, beyond saying that it had so far paid out $36 billion for all types of compensation. “Our company is sincerely listening to the details of each claim,” said Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, a Tepco spokesman. A spokesman for the Education Ministry, which is setting compensation standards, said that the ministry was trying to respond to evacuees’ needs, but that it was hard to meet all the requests. A government committee set up to resolve compensation-related disputes says it has received more than 10,000 requests from disgruntled evacuees.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tamura last month, Mayor Tomitsuka handed him a letter asking that residents be given more compensation for their homes. The prime minister has yet to reply.

Almost 500 residents of Miyakoji have recently joined one of two separate group lawsuits demanding that Tepco pay more compensation, a rare show of rising frustrations in a close-knit Japanese rural community, which usually abhors conflict-causing litigation.

While many evacuees, particularly families with children, say they do not want to go back because of radiation, the government says that Miyakoji is safe. Radiation levels were relatively low there to begin with, since most of the plant’s radiation plume missed the area. The massive cleanup, which involved some 1,300 workers scraping up contaminated dirt and resurfacing areas around homes with clean gravel, lowered radiation levels even further.

On a recent trip here, radiation measured up to 0.23 microsieverts per hour, about three times preaccident levels but below those of some communities outside the evacuation zone. Whether or not that level is safe is a contentious question: Experts admit that they know little about the health effects of long-term exposure to low-dose radiation.

Authorities had hoped that Miyakoji could serve as a model for repopulating the evacuated communities. So far, only about a third of residents have returned, and most of them are older villagers who feel they have less to worry about from the long-term cancer risks of radiation.

All of the village’s 3,000 residents were evacuated the day after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the plant. The majority of villagers, who lived farther than 12 miles from the plant, were paid $3,000 to cover damage to their homes and were allowed to return six months later. Most have yet to move back even now, mainly for fear of radiation, though some complain that stores and other services have not reopened.

The 357 villagers with homes inside the 12-mile zone were not allowed to return until April 1, more than three years after the accident. They received the highest compensation, about half the preaccident value of their homes.

One was Yoshikuni Munakata, 63, who on a recent afternoon was repairing a collapsed shed at his farm about nine miles southwest of the destroyed plant.

Mr. Munakata said the $50,000 that he had received in compensation was not nearly enough to fix the old farmhouse built by his grandfather, where the wooden floors warped so badly that the sliding doors no longer close. But while he could not move back, he also cannot leave. He said he tried to do so right after the accident, going to the northern island of Hokkaido to start a new life as a van driver. However, he said he gave up after 18 months for lack of money, and came back to collect his monthly living stipends.

He said he is unsure of what will happen to him once those stipends end in March.

“My home is a total loss,” said Mr. Munakata. He said he was not afraid of radiation because he used to work at the Fukushima Daiichi plant before retiring. “The compensation payments force us to come back, but they are not enough to let us live here again.”

Among those who have not come back are Ms. Kim and her husband, Satoshi Mizuochi. They sank their life savings of about $300,000 into their home, where they had planned to spend their remaining years.

With few buyers likely to step forward, they say their home is now essentially worthless. But with only a tiny income from their restaurant, they say they will probably have to go back once their rent stipends end in March. “They want to say that everything is back to normal so they can keep their nuclear plants,” said Mr. Mizuochi, 57, who helps his wife at the restaurant. “Failing to compensate us for our losses is a way of pressuring us to go back.” ”

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What are the consequences of three corium ‘melt-outs’ at Fukushima No. 1, and why is the world ignoring this? — AGreenRoad Project seeks the answers

The nuclear cores of Fukushima Daiichi’s Units 1 through 3 have not only melted down, but significant evidence and expert consensus show that corium (or lava-like fuel containing material from a reactor core) from each reactor melted OUT of its containment into the ground. Where exactly is it, and what risks does this situation pose for the decommissioning process and further contamination of the Pacific Ocean? So far, Tokyo Electric does not know where the reactors’ corium is nor has it expressed any concern or initiative to find out! Fact: concrete cannot contain melted nuclear fuel, and therefore, it is quite likely if not obvious that the corium has melted its way through the concrete and earth beneath the reactors.

AGreenRoad Project provides many article references that evidence the melted out corium at Units 1 through 3 and discusses the possible consequences and lack of concern and initiative from Tepco, the Japanese government and the international community. This article also examines the constitution of corium and the reactions possible in difference scenarios, in addition to the corium reactions that occurred at the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island meltdowns.

Read “At Fukushima Daiichi, three or more coriums melted out of containment, compared to one at Chernobyl”