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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 April 9 - 15  > Interviews with four heads of Fukushima’s devastated towns
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2014 April 9 - 15 TOP3 [NUCLEAR CRISIS]

Interviews with four heads of Fukushima’s devastated towns

April 11, 2014

Akahata on April 11 ran interviews with four mayors of towns in Fukushima Prefecture. The towns were totally devastated by the 2011 meltdown accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and all the residents have been evacuated since then. Excerpts of the interviews are as follows:

Futaba Town Mayor Izawa Shiro

Three years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred. However, Futaba Town people are still living in shelters in 386 municipalities in 39 prefectures throughout Japan and have yet to succeed in rebuilding their livelihoods.

I think that the essential first step for the reconstruction of the town is to set an approximate date for them to return to the town. Since we were evacuated by the order of the state, we are calling on the state to present the estimated date to enable our return.

Despite the necessity of completing radiation decontamination work and the rebuilding of infrastructure in order to enable our return to Futaba Town, the town government has no authority to make a decision on this matter. But we cannot just sit and wait. We submitted the first stage of the town’s plan for reconstruction and drew up a detailed program based on the plan last month.

Under state direct control, decontamination was carried out in three districts and cemeteries in the town. In preparation for making the radiation clean-up get into full swing, we requested the national government to set a precise numeric target on completion.

Regarding the recovery of the Futaba region as a whole, the government should come up with a comprehensive plan and take the lead in reconstruction.

There are too many concerns associated with the ongoing situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant when we think about how to protect the residents’ health and safety. I think the situation shows no progress.

It is true that the town had coexisted with the NPP, but it was because we were made to believe that nuclear power generation is safe. As some critics had pointed regarding the danger of the reactors, the 2011 nuclear meltdown accident was, without doubt, a man-made disaster.

What the central government should do is not to restart reactors, but to investigate the cause of the Fukushima accident with a deep remorse over its role.

Okuma Town Mayor Watanabe Toshitsuna

At the end of 2012, we decided to stay away from the town for at least five years. The town government is working to prepare the environment for the town people’s return by 2017.

The radioactive decontamination work for the Okawara district (39 ha), where the radiation level in the air is relatively low within the town, was finished. We hope the district will become the toehold for the reconstruction of the whole town. While rebuilding the infrastructure, we plan to establish support and research facilities for the radiation clean-up work. A meal service center for nuclear plant workers will open next spring.

We will provide disaster victims with 137 units of public housing by the end of next March, and construct around 5,000 housing units by March 2017. We are working hard to make it possible for the town people to move out of the temporary housing units as soon as possible.

In Okuma Town, a high-level of radiation is detected as four reactors of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant are located there. In order for the residents to return to the town, the reactors should be decommissioned safely.

The need now is for the town to depart from the NPP-dependent economy and create new jobs. It is also necessary to rebuild local businesses, schools, and medical and nursing care facilities needed for residents after their return.

Although three years have passed since the nuclear accident, reconstruction work makes little progress. As Fukushima residents are in such a tough situation, it is totally unacceptable to restart offline nuclear reactors. I believe that Japan, as a whole, should reduce dependence on and stop using nuclear power in the future.

Tomioka Town Mayor Miyamoto Koichi

Despite our demand for acceleration in the state’s decontamination work, it seems slow in that work. It was just in January this year that the central government’s radiation cleanup project got into full swing, and decontamination of houses in the town will finally start in April.

The town government asked the residents if they want to return, 12% of the respondents said, “Yes”, 47% replied, “No” and the remainder, “Not sure”. Those who replied “Yes” are residents whose houses have not been damaged by rain leakage or small wild animals.

Of all Tomioka’s evacuees, around 2,300 are living in temporary housing units outside the town. The rest are in private-owned accommodations provided by other local governments receiving the evacuees. Many residents decided to remain out of town.

The national government gave up its policy to return all the evacuees to the town, and decided to have them choose whether to go back or to stay where they are. I have to object to this policy. There should be a third option that allows them to return to the town after a long-term evacuation when conditions are deemed safe.

We need new legislation dealing specifically with nuclear disaster relief measures, which include a measure to provide victims with public housing for as long as required.

The Fukushima nuclear accident was man-made. It is unacceptable to resume the operation of the Fukushima Daini NPP, given that a number of town people still have to live in temporary shelters.

Utilities throughout the country are trying to restart their offline reactors. The investigation into the cause of the Fukushima accident has yet to be finished and disaster-related deaths have become a big problem. However, none of nuclear power promoters have taken the blame for the accident. These issues should be properly addressed before restarting any reactors.

Naraha Town Mayor Matsumoto Yukiei

All of the Naraha Town people have spent three years as evacuees due to the Fukushima nuclear accident. We now have to set a date for their return.

We are arranging a target return date this spring based on the second version of the Naraha reconstruction plan. So, we are discussing the issue from various viewpoints. Major focal points we are examining are how the progress on infrastructure rebuilding is, how effective the radiation decontamination work by the state is, and how the situation of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP is.

Regarding the last one, we have concerns about radiation contaminated water which is still accumulating, fuel rods in the No.4 reactor which are hard to remove, and decommission of crippled reactors which will take a long time to complete.

The meltdown accident has yet to be brought under control. I believe that it will take long in removing the molten fuel after the core meltdown from the damaged reactors. We will keep a watchful eye on the NPP, and the state and TEPCO should reveal all information regarding the situation and the ongoing decommission efforts.

Our survey shows that town residents have strong hope of returning to the town. The longer they stay away from the town, the harder it will be for them to return. However, we cannot go back without proper preparations.

I doubt the return project will go smoothly because town people cast a critical eye on the progress of cleaning the town. I want the central and prefectural governments to provide support measures to all evacuees, regardless of whether they want to go back to the town, in order to help them reconstruct their livelihoods.

It is the national government which strongly promoted nuclear power generation. This led to the 2011 disaster and delivered the heavy blow to the Naraha Town people. It should draw up a comprehensive plan for recovering Fukushima which includes a measure for promotion of local industries. Needless to say, we will also work hard to this effect.

As the chair of the Fukushima NPP-hosting town mayors’ group, in September last year I took a leading role in compiling a joint statement calling for the decommission of all 10 reactors in two NPPs in the prefecture. Hardships experienced by the disaster victims still continue. Given this condition, I think it is natural to shut down all the 10 reactors.
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