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Evacues on plant restart

July 17, 2014

Fukushima evacuee criticizes nuclear plant reactivation


KAWAMATA, Fukushima -- As the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture advances toward reactivation, a Fukushima nuclear evacuee here is concerned that lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster are now being forgotten, a concern shared by many in the prefecture.

On July 16, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved the safety measures of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, paving the way for reactivation of its reactors.

"Have we forgotten that the Fukushima plant was also called safe?" asks Hidekatsu Ouchi, 65. His home in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Kawamata is located in an area where overnight stays are still not allowed due to elevated radiation levels. Holding a picture of his father Saichi, who died in May this year at age 84, Hidekatsu recalled his father's past and their time as evacuees from the nuclear disaster.

Saichi was exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima atomic bomb when he entered the city as a military medic in 1945 to treat the wounded. After the war he returned to his hometown of Kawamata, where he ran a farm. In 2008 he suffered a stroke that left him mostly bedridden and unable to speak. When the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster occurred, he was again exposed to the threat of radiation.

Hidekatsu evacuated to a government-rented residence in a relatively low-radiation part of the town, while Saichi was put into a nursing home. In spring 2013, Hidekatsu took his father for a visit to their home for the first time since the disaster. He says he had wanted to allow his father to visit the graves of their ancestors while he was still alive.


In May this year, however, Saichi's condition worsened and he was hospitalized in the city of Fukushima. A few days after Hidekatsu promised him he would take care of their home, Saichi passed away from heart failure.

Before the nuclear disaster, that home had been surrounded by the greenery of nature, but now it is surrounded by piles of black bags of radioactively-contaminated soil.

For three days after Saichi's death, Hidekatsu took his body back to their house and spent time with him there.

"It's a shame that I had to make this scenery be my father's last," said Hidekatsu. He added, "No matter how much they emphasize the safety of a nuclear plant, we should have learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake that nature will exceed that."

Meanwhile, in the city of Satsumasendai, host of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, on the one hand local business leaders are looking forward to an economic boost from reactivation of the plant, but on the other hand, prefectural residents opposed to reactivation have repeatedly been holding protests against it.

After the NRA's approval of the plant's safety measures on July 16, Hiroyoshi Yamamoto, head of the Satsumasendai chamber of commerce, who also serves as chairman of a pro-nuclear power association in the city, held a press conference where he praised the decision, calling it "a great advance toward reactor reactivation."

The city took an economic blow when the nuclear plant was stopped, and Yamamoto says, "I expect reactivation to contribute to vitalize the local economy and provide a secure source of employment."

Meanwhile, around 30 people gathered in front of the NRA secretariat's local office building near Satsumasendai city hall, demanding the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant's passing of the safety inspection be revoked.

Ryoko Torihara, 65, chairwoman of an association opposing the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, said, "They used too low of a magnitude for their earthquake standard (in safety calculations)," and also questioned whether potentially destructive volcanic activity could really be predicted before affecting the plant. "The NRA is not a regulation authority, it is a (nuclear plant) promotional authority," she said.

Farmer Ryuko Sakamoto, 79, came from the nearby city of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, to join the protest. "I can't believe the NRA is leaving the formulation of evacuation plans up to municipal governments," he said.

At Tenmonkan, a downtown area of the city of Kagoshima, around 20 people protested reactivation of the plant and passed out fliers pleading their case.

Yoshitaka Mukohara, 57, leader of another anti-nuclear plant group, said, "A number of problems (with the Sendai nuclear plant) are being left unattended. Are people fine with restarting the plant while evacuation plans have yet to be created?"

July 17, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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