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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 25 - May 8  > Evacuees of Fukushima nuclear disaster neglected by the government
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2018 April 25 - May 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Evacuees of Fukushima nuclear disaster neglected by the government

April 26, 2018
Seven years have passed since the nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, one of the worst nuclear accidents in history that was a result of successive Japanese governments’ policy of promoting nuclear energy. The Abe government should be pressured to reverse its policy to cut public assistance for Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees. The urgent task now is to provide them with housing support and other concrete measures as well as psychological support.

The Fukushima Prefectural government estimates that around 50,000 evacuees are taking shelter inside and outside Fukushima due to the nuclear disaster. However, this figure does not take into account the 20,000 people categorized as “voluntary evacuees” who live in Fukushima. The term “voluntary evacuees” refers to persons who evacuated from municipalities that were not designated by the government as evacuation zones. This 20,000 also includes those who now own homes in the towns or cities that they moved to, although governments in their hometowns regard them as evacuees.

Fukushima evacuees suffer severe emotional damage

Waseda Institute of Medical Anthropology on Disaster Reconstruction together with the civil group “Shinsai Shien Network Saitama (Saitama prefectural network for supporting Fukushima disaster victims)” and others have conducted surveys on the situation of the evacuees multiple times since 2012.

Tsujiuchi Takuya, a doctor of medicine who heads the institute, said, “Still now, more than 40% of those who were surveyed seem to suffer from PTSD. What is more, ‘voluntary evacuees’ are living in conditions that are as stressful as ‘compulsory evacuees’ are experiencing. This is a major issue that must be addressed.”

Tsujiuchi analyzed what kinds of factors increase the PTSD risk and found that evacuees have a higher possibility of developing that disorder if they, for example, have anxieties about their living expenses, hold traumatic memories about the meltdown accident, or do not have friends who give them personal advice or comfort. He explained that PTSD can be caused either by a highly-traumatic one-off event such as a traffic accident or by repeated exposure to, for instance, child abuse. Tsujiuchi thinks that Fukushima evacuees’ PTSD is due to a combination of both causal factors.

He stressed, “It is not too much to say that the Fukushima evacuees are forgotten by society. The heart of the problem is that the national government unilaterally drew evacuation zone boundaries without listening to opinions from local residents and made an evidently arbitrary decision regarding which areas are safe to return to.”

According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), levels for emergency exposure situations should be in the range of 20-100mSv dose per year. Levels recommended for existing situations or in post-accident recovery stages are set in the 1-20mSv/y range.

The Japanese government has chosen the highest 20mSv/y as the criterion for allowing evacuees to return home after emergency situations. M.D., Ph.D. Tsujiuchi says, "This political decision is unreasonable and not logically coherent. The government, while labelling the people who fled for safety to protect themselves or their children from radiation as 'voluntary evacuees', is pressing them to solve their situations on their own and is actually cutting off support to them. The government should mend its ways."

Responsibilities lie with central gov't

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a system, under the UN Human Rights Council, to examine the human rights performance of all UN member countries. Four countries, through this instrument, have voiced concerns about Fukushima survivors' human rights.

Tsujiuchi takes notice of what Portugal recommended: Japan apply the UN guiding principles on the protection of "internally displaced persons (IDPs)". In its recommendation, Portugal calls on the Japanese authorities to assume a primary obligation and responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to all Fukushima evacuees as IDPs. All policy decisions should be made based on the needs and wishes of those fleeing, according to the recommendation. It also states that any IDPs should be forced neither to return to their hometowns nor to immigrate to other locations.

Tsujiuchi says, "Regarding the relief for affected parties following a nuclear disaster, likewise in the HIV-contaminated drug problem though the characteristics of damage are different, the government must apologize to and open a new road to help all victims including 'voluntary evacuees'. As long as it continues to insist on relying on nuclear energy, the government should at the least come up with a feasible evacuation plan and should declare to the people that state authorities will give relief to everyone in the event of an accident at a nuclear power station. If this is not possible, the government should immediately abandon the policy of resuming operations at nuclear power facilities and should bring nuclear power generation to zero."
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