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New "decommissioning town" an incentive for evacuees to return?


June 9, 2014



Reactor 'decommissioning town' planned to rebuild Fukushima



By NORIYOSHI OHTSUKI/ Senior Staff Writer

The government’s reconstruction plans for Fukushima Prefecture include creating a town for 5,000 people tasked with decommissioning the crippled nuclear plant, but some local leaders doubt anyone else will want to live there.

According to the proposal of the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the new town will help to create jobs and prompt evacuees to return to their homes near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The decommissioning process for the four reactors at the plant is expected to take between 30 and 40 years to complete


However, some local officials said that emphasizing the decommissioning work could underline the severity of the nuclear accident and further delay the return of residents who fled their homes after the 2011 nuclear accident started.

“While the plan sounds like something like a dream, will evacuees want to return to a community where only workers (involved in decommissioning) are living?” a local government leader asked.

“There is the possibility that the return of residents will only be pushed further into the future.”

Kazuyoshi Akaba, a senior vice industry minister who is also chief of the government’s task force handling the Fukushima nuclear disaster, presented the outline of a plan for developing an international research and industrial city in Fukushima to local government leaders on June 9.

One proposal in the plan is to rebuild the coastal area of Fukushima by focusing on decommissioning work.

According to the plan, an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 engineers and workers will be needed to handle technological development and actual decommissioning work. Several hundred researchers would also be required for the task.

Currently, most workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant commute to the site from outside a 20-kilometer radius.

The plan would concentrate decontamination efforts, first in Okuma town’s Ogawara district, about 10 km from the nuclear plant.

A residential district would then be constructed for about 3,000 workers and researchers by 2018. The project would include a hospital and restaurants to make the district a core part of the overall reconstruction effort.

“We can create a unique base that would attract global attention by taking advantage of technological developments for decommissioning purposes,” Akaba said.

Under the plan, a life-size model of a reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant will be built in the town of Naraha and made available to universities and companies involved in decommissioning research.

The government plans to lift the evacuation order for Naraha as early as spring 2015.

The Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken plant, would be moved from Naraha to Tomioka, closer to the plant, in fiscal 2015.

Under the decommissioning-reconstruction plan, other facilities would be built in the coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture, including an advanced thermal power plant and a base for the development of new energy sources. Such measures will lead to an estimated 15,000 new jobs.

“It will be possible to create a coastal-area community of about 5,000 people needed for the decommissioning work,” a senior industry ministry official said. “That community would be used as an incentive to have those who evacuated return to the area.”

Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe expressed hope for the plan since there are currently no prospects for evacuees returning to the town.

“There will be a need to rebuild communities from scratch,” Watanabe said.

The central government’s evacuation order currently covers 10 municipalities with a total population of about 81,000. According to a government survey, about 40 percent of evacuees said they had no intention of returning to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture.


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