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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Japanese pople update Feb 12, 2012

February 12,2012

Tokyo gov. opposes 'N-vote'

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has spoken against establishing an ordinance to hold a referendum among residents of the capital on whether the operation of nuclear power plants should be allowed.

"It's impossible to create such an ordinance, and I have no intention of doing so," Ishihara said during a regular press conference Friday.

Ishihara's comments came as it appeared likely a citizens advocacy group that aims to bring about the referendum in Tokyo would succeed in its campaign to collect the number of signatures legally required to directly petition the metropolitan government to establish an ordinance.

The citizens group is called "Let's Decide Together/Citizen-initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power."

Ishihara criticized activity against nuclear power, saying: "The most troublesome thing among humans is sentiment. Because Japanese have the trauma of atomic bombs, people speak [against nuclear power plants] out of fear.

"The progress of human beings has been achieved through their own development of technology, overcoming setbacks and failures."

If the group submits a direct petition for a referendum ordinance to the governor, Ishihara will have to submit a bill for the ordinance to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly with his opinion attached.

The assembly will then deliberate whether to create such an ordinance.


From atomic bombings to nuclear disaster: director turns camera toward Fukushima

Director Hidetaka Inazuka, known for his documentary on the late double atomic bomb survivor Tsutomu Yamaguchi, has turned his attention toward Fukushima Prefecture, covering the prefecture in a new film on people exposed to radiation from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The 61-year-old filmmaker's new work is titled "Fukushima 2011: Hibaku ni Sarasareta Hitobito no Kiroku" (Fukushima 2011: Records of people exposed to radiation). It follows survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are now living in Fukushima, as well as the people facing radioactive contamination of their hometowns. The film is due to be screened across Japan from mid-March. It will also be shown at the Los Angeles Japanese Film Festival in April.

One subject of the new documentary is a man in his 80s who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at an army barracks in the city.

"Even when there were explosions at the nuclear power plant I didn't feel scared. I've been hit by a bombing before, and it's 30 kilometers (from my place to the nuclear plant)," he says.

After the war, the man took up dairy farming, but the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami forced him to abandon his business.

"I had 46 cows, but I sold them off for 800,000 yen. I can get by for a year or two, but there's no telling what's in store after that. I think about my children and grandchildren every day," he tells the camera.

In April last year, Inazuka visited the United States for a screening of his documentary "Twice Bombed: A Legacy of Yamaguchi Tsutomu." The film traces Yamaguchi's activities speaking about surviving the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yamaguchi died in 2010 at the age of 93. The documentary was well received in the United States, but after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese people in the U.S. complained that the effects of radiation were not being properly communicated in Japan.

Hearing such complaints, Inazuka recalled the words of Yamaguchi: "The world in which people live must be nuclear-free. We can't prevent (nuclear) accidents with current technology. If we don't become nuclear-free, the downfall of mankind will draw closer."

In May last year, Inazuka visited Fukushima Prefecture, and he focused his camera on the people in the municipality of Iitate before the whole village was evacuated, as well as on people in the city of Soma and other areas where many were killed by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. The film covers people's efforts to restore and revitalize their hometowns, where bonds between families and communities have been severed as a result of the disaster.

Included in the film is 69-year-old Hiromi Sato, a restaurant operator in the city of Minamisoma.

"My neighbors starting leaving, and everyone sent me emails saying 'get out of there' so I started to get scared," she says. "But I didn't want to live in a shelter." She reopened her restaurant after the "Golden Week" string of public holidays in May 2011.

"There are various circumstances among the people who stay, those who leave, and those who return," Inazuka says. "I want to cover the people who are confronting the issues of life wholeheartedly."

Nobel laureate, citizens call for abolition of nuclear power


TOKYO (Kyodo) -- An antinuclear civic group led by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and other celebrities held rallies in Tokyo and Niigata Prefecture on Saturday calling for the abolition of nuclear reactors in the aftermath of radiation leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Addressing the protesters gathered at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, who numbered around 12,000, according to the organizers, Oe insisted on the abolishment of nuclear reactors.

"We will be handing nuclear waste generated from the nuclear reactors to our grandchildren. This is unethical conduct," Oe said.

The rallies were held as part of the group's campaign to collect 10 million signatures against nuclear power to submit it to the prime minister and the chiefs of both chambers of the Diet. The executive committee for the "10 Million People's Action to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plant" campaign said earlier it has gathered about 4 million signatures so far in sympathy with its goal to abolish all 54 commercial reactors in Japan.

Taro Yamamoto, an actor who is known as an anti-nuclear advocate, also took part in the rally.

"If a massive earthquake occurs now, our country will be finished. We cannot have the nuclear reactors resume their operations," he told the protesters.

On March 11, the first anniversary since the disastrous earthquake and tsunami prompted the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the group plans to hold a rally in Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture.


February 11, 2012

Citizens group runs full-page anti-nuclear ad in Mainichi


The ad carried in the Feb. 11 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun.

The ad carried in the Feb. 11 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun.

A citizens group formed by intellectuals Shinichi Nakazawa, Tatsuru Uchida, and writer Seiko Ito ran a full-page anti-nuclear power ad in the Feb. 11 edition of the Mainichi Shimbun.

The ad reads in large print, "We aim for a Japan with no nuclear power plants." Nakazawa says the ad "is valuable in that it makes the opinions of people below the surface (of public discourse) visible through newspapers."

The ad was endorsed by some 150 people, mainly musicians and others in the arts, as well as around 20 organizations.

"To be ethical towards the future, we have to change direction," says Ito.


February 10, 2012

TEPCO has paid 229.2 billion yen in damages for nuclear crisis


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, has paid approximately 229.2 billion yen in damages to victims so far, a company executive said.

As of Feb. 7, the company had received about 86,500 claims for compensation for financial losses the applicants say were caused by the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. The company has paid compensation to about 45,900 of the applicants -- about 30,000 individuals and 15,900 companies and other organizations -- through settlements, managing director Naomi Hirose told the government's nuclear crisis damage dispute examination panel on Feb. 9.

If compensation paid earlier by the utility as a provisional measure is included, the figure rises to some 370.5 billion yen.

Municipalities dissatisfied with gov't's rice-planting restriction: survey


FUKUSHIMA -- Of the 12 local municipalities where rice harvested in 2011 was found to have cesium levels that would prohibit them from planting rice this spring, 11 are critical of the government's stand, a Mainichi survey has found.

The national government's new radiation standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram is set to take effect in April. The current provisional limit is 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Over 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of rice has been found in 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture. Eleven of these municipalities are dissatisfied with the planting restriction in districts where cesium levels fell between 100 and 500 becquerels per kilogram, and four are appealing for permission to plant rice in districts where cesium levels surpass the current provisional maximum of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is set to incorporate the demands of various municipalities in drawing up planting regulations this month, but it appears reaching an agreement that will satisfy all parties will be difficult.

The agriculture ministry has already announced plans to restrict the 2012 planting of rice in districts where over 500 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of rice has been detected. As for areas where rice was found to have cesium levels between 100 and 500 becquerels per kilogram, the ministry is in talks with local municipalities to restrict planting in areas with large concentrations of farms exceeding 100 becquerels, and to permit planting in less concentrated areas.

Of the 12 municipalities affected and surveyed, the city of Nihonmatsu did not submit responses. The remaining 11 cities, towns and villages said they want planting to continue in areas where between 100 and 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of rice was found, citing farmers' diminishing motivation to work and deteriorating farm conditions as reasons to do so. "The population is quickly aging, and it wouldn't be practical for (the national government) to come back to us several years later and tell us we can start planting again," an Otama village official said.

With the exception of farms in the cities of Fukushima, Date and Nihonmatsu, where over 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of rice was detected, only a few farms in the remaining nine municipalities were found to have rice with over 100 becquerels of cesium per kilogram. In the village of Nishigo, only three of 483 farmers there harvested rice with over 100 becquerels per kilogram, with the maximum being 155 becquerels. Local officials believe that if farms are thoroughly decontaminated prior to planting, and once testing of all bags of rice begins as planned in fiscal 2012, the risks of any contaminated rice reaching the market can be avoided.

The cities of Fukushima and Date, along with the towns of Kawamata and Kunimi, said that planting should not be restricted for farms with rice exceeding 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram. Fukushima city officials seek permission to grow rice for research purposes, while Date city officials emphasize that rice farmers live for rice cultivation, even if prices are lowered. Meanwhile, Kunimi officials stated that if rice planting is going to be restricted this year, "the national government should shoulder the burden of decontamination so that there is hope for 2013 and beyond."

In November 2011, rice harvested in the Onami district of the city of Fukushima was found to have more than the provisional permissible amount of radioactive cesium. Emergency tests were subsequently conducted on rice from 23,247 farms in 29 municipalities. Over 100 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of rice was found from some of the farms in 12 cities, towns, and villages.

February 09, 2012

Govt asks Fukushima to restrict rice planting



FUKUSHIMA--The government has asked local municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture to refrain from planting rice this year in districts where radioactive cesium exceeding the government's new limit was found in last year's harvests, according to government sources.

The restriction applies to districts in which rice harvests cultivated in 2011 were found to contain 100 becquerels per kilogram or more of radioactive cesium.

Some of last year's harvests of unpolished rice in the prefecture were found to contain radioactive cesium exceeding the government's previous interim limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Results of research by the prefectural government showed that rice harvests containing radioactive cesium over the new limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram were found in 583 farming households in 65 districts in 12 municipalities.

The prefectural government said about 59,000 farming households in 371 districts in 48 municipalities in the prefecture planted rice in 2011.

The research was conducted on 23,247 households in 151 districts in 29 municipalities in the prefecture.

If the central government's plan is implemented, the restriction will likely be imposed on most of the districts, with a few exceptions.

The central government in December decided restrictions would be necessary if levels of radioactive cesium in harvests exceeded the interim limit.

For cases in which the amount of radiation exceeds the new limit, the central government said it would consult the prefectural and municipal governments.

Officials from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry visited the Date city government office on Friday to brief Date officials on the restrictions on rice cultivation.

The ministry officials said the government wants to restrict rice planting in six districts where 500 becquerels per kilogram or more of radioactive cesium were detected, and six additional districts where between 100 becquerels and 500 becquerels were detected. The town comprises 21 districts.

But the officials also told the city government that the restriction may not be imposed in districts with levels of radioactive substances above the new limit if the number of questionable spots were limited and if there was clear evidence of a reduction in the quantity of radioactive cesium.

Based on such criteria, about 850 hectares, or more than 60 percent, of all rice paddies in the city will be restricted from growing rice this year.

However, in two affected districts, the detected levels exceeded the new limit in only one or two rice paddies, and the amount of excess cesium was limited.

An official of the ministry said the restriction would not apply to the two districts if it could be shown that "proper cultivation would prevent contamination [of the rice]."

The central government's policy was reported to the city's assembly on Tuesday.

Date Mayor Shoji Nishida opposed the restrictions, saying the city could not accept the central government's request. "The measure will rob farmers of their morale and increase the amount of unused farmland," the mayor said.

He indicated an intention to work with nearby municipal governments, including the Fukushima city government, to urge the central government to allow rice planting in all areas in the prefecture.

Ministry officials also visited the Kunimi town government in the prefecture on Friday.

Kunimi officials said the ministry officials presented the plan to restrict rice cultivation in the town's districts where 100 becquerels or more of radioactive cesium were detected in last year's rice harvests.

The ministry officials told the town government that in principle the restrictions would apply to those districts, and showed which ones would be subject to the curbs.

February 08, 2012

70% of nuclear reactor hosts cautious on restart


An NHK survey has found that more than 70 percent of Japanese municipalities that host nuclear power plants are cautious about restarting the reactors.

51 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are currently out of operation. Restarting them would require the approval of local municipalities.

NHK surveyed 29 municipalities, excluding those in Fukushima Prefecture.

5 of them, or 17 percent, said they would give the go-ahead for the reactors to resume operation. But 21 municipalities, or 72 percent, said they wouldn't allow it, or that they cannot yet decide.

Municipalities that expressed caution said they cannot be sure whether the reactors are really safe, and cited the difficulty of persuading residents while the government has yet to decide on its nuclear policy.

Asked what is needed beside stress tests to restart the reactors, 48 percent said a satisfactory investigation into the accident at Fukushima Daiichi plant, and understanding by local residents. 38 percent cited new government safety regulations.

The municipalities stressed their concern over reactor safety, and demanded more government accountability.

Child population drops in disaster-hit prefectures


The number of children has significantly decreased in 3 Japanese prefectures hit by the March 11th disaster.

The Education Ministry says the child population as of May 1st in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima fell by more than 27,000 from a year earlier to about 834,000.

Fukushima saw the biggest fall of 5.8 percent, or more than 17,000, followed by a decrease of 2.3 percent in Iwate and minus 1.7 percent in Miyagi.

The ministry says the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is to blame for an 11-percent decline in the number of kindergarteners and a nearly 8-percent drop in the elementary school population in the prefecture.

It says smaller children are more vulnerable to radiation and are likely to have been evacuated to other prefectures.

The child population in the 3 prefectures had been falling even before the disaster due to the low birthrate.

February 06, 2012

1.5-fold rise eyed for nuke plant operators' payments to damages fund


TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government has decided on a plan to require that Japan's 12 nuclear power plant operators contribute a total of 150 billion yen annually from fiscal 2012 to a state-backed facility to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. meet huge compensation payments over the crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, one and a half times the initially planned amount, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday.

The government will ask for larger contributions than previously sought because of growing calls for smooth compensation payments to victims of the crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the sources said.

The contribution program is intended to divide the burden from the Fukushima crisis among all nuclear reactor operators and covers nine of Japan's 10 electric power companies, excluding Okinawa Electric Power Co., which does not operate a nuclear power plant. The fund also covers Japan Atomic Power Co., Electric Power Development Co. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

The government will finalize details of the program, including the planned increase in contributions, by the end of fiscal 2011 to March 31.

Contributions by the 12 companies became mandatory with the establishment of the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund on Sept. 12. For fiscal 2011, the 12 companies are required to contribute a total of just over 70 billion yen to the state-backed fund for the period since its establishment.

Tokyo Electric would contribute 50 billion yen to the fund annually, the highest among the 12 companies, starting in fiscal 2012, and Kansai Electric Power Co. would contribute the second-largest sum of 25.8 billion yen as it operates more nuclear plants than other utilities.

Other expected contributions include 13.8 billion yen from Kyushu Electric Power Co., 13.0 billion yen from Chubu Electric Power Co. and 8.7 billion yen from Tohoku Electric Power Co.

There is opposition among government officials to increasing contributions to the fund amid concern that utilities could be prompted to raise electricity charges, the sources said. But the government intends to go ahead with the increase, expecting that electricity charges will be held in check as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is reviewing utilities' calculation of costs for setting power bills.

February 05, 2012

573 deaths 'related to nuclear crisis'

A total of 573 deaths have been certified as "disaster-related" by 13 municipalities affected by the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

This number could rise because certification for 29 people remains pending while further checks are conducted.

The 13 municipalities are three cities--Minami-Soma, Tamura and Iwaki--eight towns and villages in Futaba County--Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Katsurao and Kawauchi--and Kawamata and Iitate, all in Fukushima Prefecture.

These municipalities are in the no-entry, emergency evacuation preparation or expanded evacuation zones around the nuclear plant, which suffered meltdowns soon after the March 11 disaster.

A disaster-related death certificate is issued when a death is not directly caused by a tragedy, but by fatigue or the aggravation of a chronic disease due to the disaster. If a municipality certifies the cause of death is directly associated to a disaster, a condolence grant is paid to the victim's family. If the person was a breadwinner, 5 million yen is paid.

Applications for certification have been filed for 748 people, and 634 of them have been cleared to undergo screening.

Of the 634, 573 deaths were certified as disaster-related, 28 applications were rejected, four cases had to reapply because of flawed paperwork, and 29 remain pending.

In Minami-Soma, a screening panel of doctors, lawyers and other experts examined 251 applications and approved 234 of them. The panel judged two deaths were not eligible for certification and 15 were put on hold.

"During our examination of the applications, we gave emphasis to the conditions at evacuation sites and how they spent their days before they died," a city government official said. "However, the screening process was difficult in cases when people had stayed in evacuation facilities for an extended time and when there was little evidence of where they had been taking shelter."

February 04, 2012

Survey: 2.3% of farmers produce rice above cesium safety standard


About 2.3 percent of farmers in Fukushima Prefecture yielded rice with radioactive cesium levels exceeding the government’s new safety standard, according to prefectural government officials.

The new standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram will take effect in April, replacing the provisional standard of 500 becquerels per kg.

The results of the Fukushima prefectural government’s emergency survey, released on Feb. 3, will be used by the central government to decide on areas where farming will be banned this year.

But farmers in areas around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are growing impatient with the central government’s indecision on the matter. They are also worried that no one will buy their produce over fears of radiation contamination.

According to the survey, which covered about 23,000 rice-growing households in 29 cities, towns and villages, contamination levels exceeded the new standard in rice grown by 545 farmers in 12 municipalities, many of them in northern Fukushima Prefecture.

The survey also showed rice cultivated by 38 farmers in three cities had readings above 500 becquerels per kg.

Radiation levels in rice grown by 84.3 percent of farmers were below measurable limits, according to the survey.

The prefecture conducted the survey after radioactive cesium levels higher than the provisional standard were found in rice grown in the Onami district of Fukushima, the prefectural capital, in November.

The central government said it will prohibit the planting of seeds in areas that are heavily contaminated. But it has not decided which areas should face such restrictions under the new standard.

Agriculture minister Michihiko Kano said in a news conference on Feb. 3 that the government should not impose limits on planting.

“We should respect the feelings of farmers,” he said.

A farm ministry official also said the decision for this year would be extremely tough because the lines marking sections under restriction must be drawn within areas where contamination levels are publicized.

The government banned planting last year in areas from where residents had evacuated. But officials at municipalities have already announced plans to go ahead with planting this year, even in areas where contamination levels have exceeded the new limit.

The prefectural chapter of Japan Agricultural Co-operatives is seeking permission to plant in sections of areas where this year’s rice crop will likely clear the new safety standard. The chapter said rice paddies will be decontaminated and other measures taken before the planting starts.

The JA group is expected to forbid planting in areas where radiation levels are expected to remain above the safety limit.

In addition, the Fukushima city government is calling on the central government to permit the planting of rice crops that will be used for purposes other than for food.

“If farmers are not allowed to grow rice (this year), it will reduce their willingness to produce,” an official in the city’s agriculture section said. “Rice fields will also become run-down.”

The city governments of Date and Motomiya have already said they will allow farmers to grow rice, in principle, while requiring decontamination of their rice paddies.

However, decontamination work could cause a new problem for the farmers, according to local officials.

“If rice fields are dug up too deeply, they may not be fit for growing the crop with too many rocks turning up,” an official said.

The heavily contaminated village of Kawauchi, meanwhile, said it will not allow any planting.

Rice farmers are divided.

A 58-year-old farmer in Date said contamination levels found in his rice were up to slightly more than 100 becquerels per kg under the survey.

He has already ordered seeds and fertilizers for his rice crops this year.

“Unless I can plant this year, my rice paddies will be overrun with weeds,” he said. “The fields would not be restored to the original condition for five or 10 years.”

He said he is frustrated by the lack of any long-term perspective by authorities over his livelihood.

“Is (the restriction) for just this year or for many more years?” he said. “It would mean a lifetime if the restriction is put in place until there is no more cesium contamination.”

Saburo Watanabe, a farmer in Aizubange, where all rice crops were found to be safe, said planting should be banned in areas where contamination levels exceed the new safety standard. He said the image of rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture must be protected.

“Consumers tend to think all rice crops from Fukushima Prefecture are the same,” said Watanabe, 58, who cultivates rice in a 12-heactare field.

He said most of his rice from last year remained unsold.

A 56-year-old farmer in Nihonmatsu said, “I want to grow rice, but we will be in trouble with unsold rice if we push for it and face another bad result.”

The rice in his district in Nihonmatsu was found with contamination levels above the new limit.

(This article was written by Ryo Inoue and Keiichiro Inoue.)

February 02, 2012

Evacuated village to reopen from April

FUKUSHIMA--The mayor of a village near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant declared Tuesday that local authorities would return in April, and urged residents who have evacuated due to the nuclear crisis to come back.

Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo said public facilities, such as schools and clinics, will also resume services in the village.

This is the first time one of the nine municipalities that fell in the government-designated evacuation zones has declared it will return. Most of Kawauchi's 3,000 residents evacuated elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture--or outside the prefecture--after the nuclear crisis erupted in March.

"I hope residents will return in two or three years," Endo said.

Starting this month, the Kawauchi government will survey residents about their thoughts on returning, and hold meetings with them. The village government will provide dosimeters to returning residents.

Endo plans to move the village government back to its original location on March 24 and 25, and to resume administrative operations in April.

The Kawauchi government office has temporarily been relocated to Koriyama in the prefecture. Many Kawauchi residents have been staying in temporary housing units in Koriyama, and some of the village's services will still be offered in the city even after April.

Kawauchi has been divided into two zones since the nuclear crisis began--the 20-kilometer no-entry zone around the crippled nuclear plant, and the former emergency evacuation preparation zone.

Initially, the mayor planned to declare the return after decontamination work had lowered radiation levels in the village to less than one millisievert a year. However, decontamination work has been delayed partly by heavy snowfall, and it is likely that only public facilities and houses of families with children will be decontaminated by the end of March.

The village government said radiation levels in many residential areas have fallen below one microsievert per hour.

In Tuesday's declaration, Endo accepted that some residents had concerns about returning to the village.

"Those who can return will return," he said. "Those who are still anxious can return after watching the situation for a while."

Although the designation of the emergency evacuation preparation zone was lifted in September, only slightly more than 200 residents have returned to the village.

Declaration 'just the beginning' / Mayor's plea for villagers to return to Kawauchi draws mixed reactions

FUKUSHIMA--"The declaration to return home is just the beginning," said Yuko Endo, mayor of Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, in a speech at a press conference encouraging residents who had evacuated amid the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant crisis to return to the village.

The Kawauchi government will reopen the village office and schools in April to prepare for the residents' return. But a complete return of evacuees is problematic, as decontamination work is ongoing.

Parts of Kawauchi fall within the nuclear plant's 20-kilometer no-entry zone, and some residents are concerned about the village's decision. "We can't return home yet," one said.

Tsunehiro Takano, the village's fifth administrative district leader, attended the same press conference as Endo Tuesday at the Fukushima prefectural government's office. Takano, 62, is also chairman of all the administrative district leaders in the village.

"Only people who want to return to Kawauchi should do so and go first. It's important to prepare an environment acceptable to other residents. If nobody returns to the village, no one will end up [following the first returnees]," Takano emphasized.

"It is also our generation that should commit ourselves to decontamination work," he added.

But Norimoto Igari, Kawauchi's third administrative district leader, had a different view.

"Most of the residents, including me, don't want to return," the 68-year-old said.

His administrative district consists of many elderly people living alone.

"If stores don't reopen, elderly people without vehicles will face difficulties buying food," Igari warned.

Hiroichi Watanabe is the village's second administrative district leader and a rice farmer. The village government will order the village's farmers to refrain from planting rice this year.

"We farmers wonder what the point of hurriedly returning to Kawauchi is if we can't sell our rice," Watanabe said.

The answer is more straightforward for Nobuichi Kobayashi, leader of the eighth administrative district, which falls completely within the no-entry zone.

"We can't return," Kobayashi, 66, said.

The municipal government will build temporary housing units in Kawauchi for residents such as Kobayashi. However, according to Kobayashi, "Unless decontamination begins soon, the number of residents who refuse to return will increase."


Few kids want to return

Kawauchi has one nursery school, one primary school and one middle school. According to a survey by the village government, only 30 of 210 children want to return to school in Kawauchi from April.

Yoshinobu Ishii, the village schools' superintendent, said, "Even though the student numbers are few, we won't drop the level of our education."

The board of education intends to maintain a class for each grade instead of introducing composite classes comprising students from different grades.

It will also in April transfer the village-run cram school Kogakujuku from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to the village. Catering to students from the fifth grade of primary school to the third year of middle school, Kogakujuku was operating before the March 11 disaster.

According to the board of education, radiation levels in the Kawauchi Middle School yard dropped to 0.2 microsievert per hour in December, and 0.14 microsievert per hour at Kawauchi Primary School after decontamination had been carried out.

A 34-year-old woman living with her husband, 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in a temporary housing unit in Koriyama after evacuating from her home in the no-entry zone, said: "Even though we can return, we'll have to live in temporary housing. It's difficult for us to return until all the decontamination has been completed."

February 01, 2012

Kawauchi village in Fukushima calls on evacuees to return home


FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The mayor of Kawauchi, a village in Fukushima Prefecture whose residents were forced to relocate following the nearby nuclear power plant crisis, called on some 2,600 evacuated villagers Tuesday to return home permanently.

"Let's return starting with those who are ready," Yuko Endo said at a press conference in Fukushima city, marking the first declaration among the nine town and village governments in the prefecture which evacuated their offices that it will return to its original location.

"There are matters of concern but there is no reason why we shouldn't take the first step forward," Endo added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a separate press conference that the declaration is an "important first step toward residents' returning to their home village," and added that the central government will "actively support" the Kawauchi village government's effort.

Kawauchi had about 2,990 residents before Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011.

About 75 percent of the villagers currently reside in the prefectural city of Koriyama where the Kawauchi government has relocated its functions because the village was partially designated as a no-entry zone set up by the central government around the nuclear power plant while the rest was categorized as an emergency evacuation preparation area.

In addition, a total of 542 Kawauchi residents were residing in 26 prefectures other than Fukushima as of Friday, while some 200 have returned to their homes since the central government lifted its evacuation advisory for the emergency preparation area of the village last September.

In November, the village government began decontamination work for schools and other public facilities in the hope of declaring in December that it would return to the village.

But the declaration was delayed for about a month as decontamination work is taking longer than expected. The work is expected to be completed by the end of March, paving the way for resumption of the village government, schools and other operations at the start of fiscal 2012 on April 1.

Most sections of the village are safe as radiation levels are less than 1 microsievert per hour, according to the Kawauchi government.

But the chances of all residents returning to the village are low in view of lingering radiation concerns.


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