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Evacuees angry at restart

July 2, 2012

Fukushima evacuees angered by restart of Oi nuclear plant



After being forced to evacuate her home following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, homemaker Hideka Mochizuki now finds herself an evacuee in Osaka and relying on nuclear power again.

“We came here to flee from the radiation of (the radioactive materials scattered by) the nuclear power plant (in Fukushima Prefecture). Then, we will be forced to use electricity from the (Oi) nuclear power plant, which restarted the operations of one of its reactors (on July 1),” she lamented.

The controversial restart of the No. 3 reactor at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture is angering Fukushima evacuees such as Mochizuki. It marks the first of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors to be brought back online after all had been taken down for regular maintenance or safety checks.

Mochizuki, 41, is currently living in a municipal housing facility in Osaka’s Hirano Ward as an evacuee, as her house in Tomioka is located within the no-entry zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Many residents in Fukushima Prefecture were forced to leave their hometowns against their will due to the accident at the plant in March 2011.

“It (the restart) is unbelievable,” said Mitsushi Kanno, 61, who formerly lived in Okuma, where the Fukushima No. 1 plant is located. “It is an insult to the people in Fukushima Prefecture to restart the nuclear reactor without promoting measures for more use of natural energies.”

After the nuclear accident, Kanno evacuated to Niigata with his wife, Sumiko, 59, and his neighbors. In December 2011, however, he moved to Fukushima city, which is closer to his hometown of Okuma.

When Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in 2011 that Japan cannot be rehabilitated without the recovery of Fukushima Prefecture, Kanno accepted his words as strong support for his home region.

However, Kanno said, “We are still in agony and are not approaching recovery.”

“If the restart (at the Oi plant) is vital for Japan, we will be left behind,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hirohisa Suzuki, the fourth-generation owner of a miso (fermented soybean paste) producer in Fukushima Prefecture that has existed since the Meiji Era (1868-1912) still doesn't know when he can return to his hometown or resume operations of his firm.

His company is located in Namie, close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. But Suzuki, 52, is now living in Toride in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture as an evacuee.

“It is easy to say that Japan should become a nuclear-free country. But thinking from the perspectives of electricity supply or economy, I can understand that nuclear power generation is necessary,” Suzuki said.

However, he said, “The restart (at the Oi plant) is too soon.”

“(In the Oi nuclear power plant,) an anti-quake building that can protect workers from high-level radiation has not been constructed yet," Suzuki said. "Measures against tsunami are not sufficient either. It is extremely dangerous to restart the operations of the reactors in such a situation. As one of the evacuees (from Fukushima Prefecture), I cannot support the restart.”

Mochizuki said she believes that people in Fukushima Prefecture have become victims of the Tokyo metropolitan area, which consumed much of the electricity from the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

If a similar accident occurs at the Oi plant, she will then be in the opposite position where residents of Fukui Prefecture become the victims of the major power consumption area of Osaka and surrounding municipalities, where she now resides, she said.

According to Mochizuki, Japanese society exists on the premise that nuclear power plants will supply a large part of its power needs. She feels that such a society is a different world from her reality today, in which she was forced to evacuate her home and still does not know when she can return there.

“As time has passed since the accident (at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant), the awareness about the dangers of nuclear power plants could be waning (among the government or supporters of the restart at the Oi plant),” Mochizuki said.

Artist Kazunori Aoyama, 64, and his wife, Fusako, 63, who also used to live in Tomioka, evacuated to Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, after the nuclear accident. They have since committed to living there permanently.

“We sought the place where we would live out our lives with heartbreaking grief. …We want to have at least some fragments of happiness (here),” they said in a letter they sent to friends living in Fukushima Prefecture as evacuees.

In April this year, Fusako traveled to Fukui Prefecture at the invitation of an acquaintance and saw the sea at Wakasa Bay.

“What a beautiful beach this is!” she thought, and recalled her hometown of Tomioka, which is also facing the sea.

“Due to the nuclear accident (at the Fukushima No. 1 plant), we have lost an important thing,” she said.

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