asahi shinbun, decontamination, fukushima, namie, nuclear radiation, planning

One-third of Namie evacuees expect to never return home, asahi, 1/14/12

By YOICHIRO KODERA / Staff Writer

In March, the residents of Namie, a town in Fukushima Prefecture, were forced to evacuate after the accident at the nearby nuclear power plant.

Now, a survey has found that one-third of the evacuees are resigned to never returning to their hometown.

A questionnaire sent to all 18,448 residents of senior high school age or above elicited the following responses, among others:

“There is no hope of radiation levels decreasing.”

“The nuclear accident will not be brought under control.”

“It will be difficult to rebuild social infrastructure.”

Responses were received from 11,001, about 60 percent of the total. Sixty-four percent of the respondents said they hoped to eventually return to Namie. Of that figure, 70 percent said the conditions that would have to be met before they returned were “a decrease in radiation levels, rebuilding of infrastructure for daily living and having a certain percentage of other residents also returning.”

Thirty-three percent said they expect to never be able to return to Namie.

Those who said they wanted to someday return were asked how long they would be willing to wait. The periods of “between one to two years” and “between two and three years” after the disaster each received responses from about 28 percent of the sample.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has defined regions where residents would not likely be able to return as those where it would take more than five years for annual radiation levels to fall below 20 millisieverts. Areas where it would take several years to reach that level would also have restrictions placed on living there.

The questionnaires also contained sections where respondents could expand on their answers. Those sections showed the conflicting emotions at work among the evacuees.

One woman in her 30s, who evacuated to Nagano Prefecture and responded she would not return to Namie, nevertheless wrote, “While I want to return, I feel the reality makes that possibility difficult. I cannot allow my recently born child to touch the soil of Namie. But, once I am through with child-rearing, I want to return and live in Namie because that is the only hometown I have.”

Even those who said they wanted to one day return expressed various emotions.

One woman in her 20s wrote, “I want to one day live again in the Namie that I love. That is my only reason for having hope right now.”

One elderly woman wrote, “I want to die in my home in Namie where the spirits of my ancestors are. I am no longer afraid of radiation.”

Some questionnaires had traces of the respondent writing and erasing responses for “I want to return” or “I do not want to return” more than two times.

About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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