Two years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant became the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, thousands of evacuees are still unsure as to whether or not they will be able to go home anytime soon. All they want to know from the Japanese government is if it will be able to deliver on its clean-up goals or if they have to look to other places now to be able to rebuild their lives.
A third of the 160,000 people who were displaced during the 2011 disasters are still living in “flimsy” temporary housing and with no clear direction as to how and where they should start their permanent lives. Social workers are reporting there has been a marked increase in domestic conflicts, alcoholism and illnesses as a result of lack of exercise. The number of people who have died from diseases due to prolonged evacuation has reached 1,5399 as of August this year, almost matching that of the Fukushima Prefecture death toll from the tsunami which is at 1,599.
Hideo Hasegawa, who runs a non-profit that is trying to help the evacuees, said that politicians will have to stop making people believe certain things just so they could put off making difficult decisions, such as telling people they can never go back home because the decontamination efforts are delayed and may never be able to make their hometowns inhabitable again. Even lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are urging the government to tell the evacuees that they will not be able to fulfill the long-term radiation reduction goal. “There will come a time when someone has to say, ‘You won’t be able to live here any more, but we will make up for it’,” said LDP secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba in a speech earlier this month.
The decontamination work has been delayed for so long and the Ministry of Environment has had to push back their deadlines several times. They have outsourced the clean-up of the 11 most heavily contaminated towns which includes stripping trees, spraying roads and removing the topsoil in the hopes that they will be able to bring down the annual radiation doses to habitable levels. But officials have said before that 90% of the reduction comes from the natural decay over time and not through any immediate efforts. A lot of evacuees have already accepted that they can never go back. “No matter how much they decontaminate I’m not going back because I have children and it is my responsibility to protect them,” said a mother of two teenaged boys.
[ via Reuters ]