TAMURA, Fukushima — Residents attending a Feb. 23 briefing on a government decision to lift an evacuation order here showed a mixture of relief and worry.
The decision, made the same day, will on April 1 lift an evacuation order covering the Miyakoji district of the Fukushima Prefecture city of Tamura, imposed after the March 2011 triple-meltdown at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. The briefing, held by officials from the national and municipal governments, was attended by around 100 people.
Kazuyoshi Akaba, head of the local office of the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, said, “The evacuation order interferes with the freedom to choose one’s place of residence guaranteed by the Constitution. For those who want to resume planting rice and repair their homes, the government does not have the right to delay the reconstruction of their lives.”
Akaba said that the government will give across-the-board support to those who choose to return to their homes, adding that whether evacuees decide to return or not is up to them.
Kazuo Endo, a 65-year-old resident whose home is in a part of Miyakoji district with comparatively low radiation levels, acted as representative of the residents at the briefing.
“Without the evacuation order being lifted, home renovation businesses won’t come back,” he said in support of a quick lifting of the evacuation order. He was followed by several calls from others for resumption of farming and measures to combat damage from unfounded rumors about local products being contaminated with radioactive substances.
While only three farming households resumed commercial farming in the district last year, more than 10 are expected to do so this year. Residents involved in farming, commerce and industry showed particular enthusiasm at the briefing about returning to the district.
Meanwhile, Hideyuki Tsuboi, 38, called for decontamination work to be done on a four- to five-meter-high slope by his house. Although decontamination work in residential areas ended in June last year, slopes were exempted over fears the work would cause radioactive materials to escape to other areas, and over concerns for worker safety.
Tsuboi, who has three young daughters, said, “At the last briefing (in October last year), you said that an environment safe for children has been established, but I think you have overlooked some parts of it.”
During a temporary return to his home in the Miyakoji district, his children picked up and played with stones in an area he later heard from his family was not yet decontaminated. While his oldest daughter, who is a third-grader in elementary school, may be able to understand if he tells her not to touch the stones, his 3-year-old daughter wouldn’t understand and could put them in her mouth, Tsuboi said.
“Before turning the discussion towards lifting the evacuation order, I want you to re-examine the situation from the view of a parent,” he added.
When the time limit for staying in his temporary residence runs out in spring next year, Tsuboi plans to move to the city of Fukushima, where his wife’s parents live. Although he knows that decontamination work has lowered radiation levels in the Miyakoji district, he wants to be sure his children are safe.
The briefing ended after about three hours. The expressions of those leaving varied, in testament to the complexity of the situation.