The government hopes to partly lift its evacuation order starting Nov. 1 at a district within the 20-km no-go zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to sources.
The government will present a plan to lift the order for the Miyakoji district, located in the city of Tamura in Fukushima Prefecture, at a meeting with residents Monday, the sources said.
The period in which Miyakoji residents are allowed to visit the area for long stays to prepare for their permanent return is set to expire at the end of October.
The long-stay program was launched in August following the completion in Miyakoji of work to remove radioactive substances emitted by the March 2011 triple meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear plant.
Miyakoji would be the first district to see the evacuation order lifted among those falling within the no-go zone designated by the government soon after the nuclear crisis was triggered by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. If the order is removed, Miyakoji residents would be able to return to their homes without restrictions.
But local concerns about an early lifting of the evacuation order remain strong. If many residents express caution at Monday’s meeting, the government may extend the long-stay program and delay lifting the order until December or later, the sources said.
Miyakoji is currently an area in which preparations are being made for a possible lifting of the evacuation order and the permanent return of residents. The district was reclassified in April 2012, as the annual radiation dose per person was found to be 20 millisieverts or less.
Officials from the Cabinet Office and the Environment Ministry, as well as Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomitsuka, will take part in Monday’s meeting, the sources said.
The central and municipal governments will propose lifting the evacuation order and will then solicit residents’ opinions. The government and the municipality will also explain support measures, including a plan to distribute dosimeters to those returning home.
The city will further present a progress report on setting up a makeshift shopping area in Miyakoji and explain plans to call on a major convenience store chain to establish an outlet in the district, the sources said.
The central and local governments will consider further support measures if they are requested by local residents.
A survey on the progress of housing projects for the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami revealed that developments are still too slow. More than 10,000 evacuees still have no place to go as government officials are having difficulty in securing lands. There are also not enough public workers to start and complete the project.
Out of the planned 28,017 housing units, more than 30 percent or about 9,000 homes will be delayed. These units, where evacuees will take shelter after leaving their temporary housing by fiscal 2015, are to be distributed to the prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi. This will leave more than 10,000 evacuees without a place to go.
As of the end of August, only 448 units or 1.5 percent of the housing projects have been built in 11 municipalities. However, the Board of Audit said that about 25,000 housing units, or 14.8 percent, are expected to be completed by the end of this fiscal year. By the end of fiscal 2014, only 9,074 units or 32.3 percent are likely to be built in two prefectures and 17 municipalities while the expected number of units to be built by the end of fiscal 2016 is 3,745 or 13.3 percent.
When asked for the reasons of delays, “difficulty in securing land” was found to be the main cause in two prefectures and 16 municipalities. “Shortage of public employees,” also mentioned by 9 municipalities, is another cause of the delay. Complicated and time-consuming procedures, like land acquisition to reclamation and construction, have also been given as causes of delay. According to a city official in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, “We have support workers coming from outside the prefecture, but they are not familiar with the area. We can’t even acquire the necessary land.”
The government said Thursday that it will build nearly 20,000 public housing units by March 2016 for people affected by the March 2011 megaquake-tsunami disaster in the Tohoku region and consequent nuclear crisis.
The goal was stipulated in a plan for rebuilding homes and towns that the government compiled prior to the second anniversary Monday of the March 11 disaster, in which some 19,000 lives were lost.
The government also reiterated its pledge to accelerate efforts to decommission the four crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex and said it plans to finish revising the current work schedule for the whole process around June. The decommissioning is expected to take decades.
“What is mainly expected after two years is to rebuild homes and make the prospects clear to enable people to return to Fukushima Prefecture,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a meeting to discuss reconstruction projects.
The plan calls for the government to build around 5,100 public housing units in Iwate Prefecture, about 11,200 units in Miyagi Prefecture and around 2,900 units in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of fiscal 2015.
At the Fukushima nuclear plant, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. plan to start removing fuel assemblies stored in the spent-fuel pool of reactor 4 starting in November.
Under the current work schedule, the whole decommissioning process is expected to take around 40 years, but Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi has ordered ministry staff to consider moving up the schedule.
By Takehiko Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer
reposted from here:
It was 3:30 a.m. Hajime Sato, a 55-year-old fisherman, woke up and rose to his feet. He opened a window and looked out at the sea. “Terrific, the sea is calm today. I can go fishing,” he said.
Sato lives in “Shirahama restoration housing” in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The house was part of a reconstruction project by Kogakuin University in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, and financed by mainly business donations, to build 10 new homes in the Shirahama area for people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The houses are on an inland hill 50 meters above sea level, all of them rental units. They are made out of cedar and red pine from the prefecture, and were built by local carpenters and others with the aim of contributing to the revival of the local economy.
There are five people representing four generations in the Sato family–Sato, his wife, his father, his daughter and her 9-year-old daughter. After losing their port-side house in the tsunami, they stayed at an acquaintance’s house. They then moved to temporary housing before relocating to their current place two months ago.
When they lived in temporary housing in an inland area, Sato had to drive 15 minutes to the port for fishing, but sometimes he could not set sail due to stormy weather.
The new house is seven kilometers from the local primary school, and sloping ground around the house makes walking difficult for the elderly. Sato could complain about many things, but he is grateful for his family’s new life.
“I had no idea what a relief it could be to live on a hill without worrying about tsunami,” he said, watching his granddaughter Yumi playing with a puppy they started to keep last month.
Another fisherman, Yoshinobu Sasaki, 49, lives in a house at the same settlement. He can see it on the mountainside even from one kilometer offshore, where he prepares to cultivate oysters.
“I can see the ocean from my window. That’s a good thing for fishermen,” Sasaki said with a smile.
Construction of other restoration housing, by municipal governments, has been delayed. Only two of the 11 communities in Kitakamimachi district, which includes Shirahama, have decided on collective relocation sites at higher ground. But the communities will not be able to move to the new sites for at least a year.
In April, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry extended the two-year limit on staying in temporary housing by one year in principle, but there is still no guarantee that new housing will be ready in time.
The ministry says about 110,000 people living in temporary housing away from their hometowns. Only a small minority have managed to return to a normal, quiet daily life. How long will it take for all quake victims to feel relieved at their homes?