The central government has unveiled a plan to begin temporary home stays on Aug. 21 at the homes of evacuated residents in Tomioka town, south of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Fukushima Prefecture. The plan, disclosed at a meeting of all town assembly members on July 22, will be limited to a zone preparing to lift an evacuation order and a residency-restricted zone. The government is seeking to remove both zones as early as next April.
The proposed temporary home stay scheme will replace the special lodging system that began on July 23 in line with the start of a summer vacation at schools. The government also told the meeting, held at a temporary town branch office in Koriyama city, it will specify by the turn of the year when the evacuation zones will be lifted, except for a “difficult-to-return” zone.
In the two zones, decontamination work has been almost completed in residential areas. Two convenience stores have opened, and a municipal clinic is scheduled to begin medical services in October. The town’s expert committee discussing the permanent return of residents announced on July 21 that “minimum municipal functions necessary for daily living are expected to be restored by the end of fiscal 2016.” Given the situation, the government has concluded that it is possible to implement preparatory home stays.
At the meeting, government officials said plans are on the table to set up temporary accommodation for evacuees returning under the preparatory lodging scheme and introduce mobile shops. Some assembly members called for the full resumption of the Futaba Police Station’s main office in Tomioka, currently reopened partially, to help dispel anxiety over public safety among townspeople, while others requested the display of a town radiation dosage map, including “hot spots” where radiation levels are high.
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The Fukushima prefectural government has decided to extend the current rent-free housing program for evacuees from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster for another year until the end of March 2018. The decision was taken on July 15 at a meeting of the prefecture’s task force for the promotion of post-disaster reconstruction held at the prefectural government office in Fukushima city.
Under the program, evacuees are provided free of charge with temporary public housing built for them or with leased private-sector accommodation. Subject to the scheme are evacuated residents in 10 municipalities which have evacuation zones set up after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant or where evacuation orders have been lifted. But the town of Naraha, one of the municipalities, has chosen not to extend the program and will instead consider whether to continue offering free housing on an individual basis depending on progress in the acquisition of permanent homes.
The decision to prolong the program for the fifth time was based on the prefectural government’s judgment that it needs to be extended for another year because of differences in the timing of the evacuation order being lifted and progress in the construction of permanent public housing for evacuees as well as progress in the building and repair of homes.
The 10 municipalities covered by the program are the whole areas of five towns — Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie — and two villages — Katsurao and Iitate — as well as limited areas of Minamisoma city, Kawamata town and Kawauchi village. In Minamisoma, the program applies only to evacuees from “difficult-to-return” and “residency-restricted” zones plus a zone preparing for the lifting of the evacuation order. In Kawamata, it applies to those from residency-restricted and preparation zones while in Kawauchi, it covers evacuees from the Kainosaka and Hagi areas of the Shimokawauchi district.
The prefectural government is to consider whether to extend the program again beyond March 2018 for nine of the municipalities, except for Naraha, while watching how soon the evacuation order will be removed.
About 70% of residents returning to their homes in three of the municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture evacuated after the 2011 nuclear accident will be exposed to radiation of 1 millisievert or less a year, a level set as a long-term goal for decontamination, according to an official survey undertaken by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The survey covered selected residents in the towns of Kawamata and Tomioka and in the village of Katsurao, assuming that they resumed daily lives at their homes. The results were announced at a press conference at the Fukushima prefectural government office in Fukushima city on July 6 by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which cooperated in the undertaking.
The survey was conducted in the fall of 2015 covering selected evacuees from the three municipalities which had requested it. Surveyed were 29 evacuees from Kawamata, 25 from Tomioka and 11 from Katsurao. They were asked about daily activities before the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The NRA measured radiation dosages in places frequented by the residents such as farmland and community roads based on the hearings from them, and estimated each resident’s annual dosage on the basis of the hours of stay there and other factors.
The survey estimated the average annual dosage at or less than the 1-millisievert level for 21 people in Kawamata or 70% of the residents covered, 15 or 60% for those in Tomioka and nine or 80% in Katsurao. The maximum dosage was 2.62 millisieverts in Kawamata, 1.78 millisieverts in Tomioka and 1.84 millisieverts in Katsurao. Additional exposure to radiation in evacuated areas has become relatively small in the wake of progress in cleanup work and other factors, according to the JAEA.
The government lifted at midnight on June 13 its evacuation order for two districts in Kawauchi, a Fukushima Prefecture village near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, leaving the village as a whole no longer subject to evacuation five years and three-plus months after the 2011 nuclear accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant.
Covered by the move were the Ogi and Kainosaka districts, both designated as zones preparing for the lifting of the evacuation order. Previous to becoming such preparatory areas, the two districts were residency-restricted zones. It was the first time that the evacuation order was removed in districts where the status of evacuation had been eased from residency-restricted zones. Advocating “a breakaway from a disaster area,” Kawauchi is seeking to step up efforts to promote the permanent return of residents to their homes, dispel harmful rumors and take other measures for the village’s rebirth.
The village population was 2,749 comprising 1,257 households as of June 1, of which the two districts had 51 people and 19 households.
In September 2011, six months after the nuclear disaster, Kawauchi had an emergency evacuation preparation zone eliminated under the government’s old zoning system. In January the following year, the village declared that it would promote residents’ return home, the first such move among Fukushima municipalities where evacuation areas were in place.
The village has come up with the slogan “Kaeru Kawauchi” (a play on homonyms, with “kaeru” meaning both “return” and “frogs”) punning on the wishes to see the permanent return of residents and on the forest green tree frog species, a symbol of the village. Kawauchi has thus been actively pushing ahead with measures for post-disaster rehabilitation after ending evacuation.
The town of Tomioka, wholly evacuated due to the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, is poised to open a municipal clinic in the fall of 2016 ahead of the start of evacuees’ returning home. An outline of the planned clinic to be set up in the Kobama district envisions the initial practice of internal medicine with a staff of nine people, including a physician, starting in October that year. The plan was revealed by the town office at a meeting of all municipal assembly members on Dec. 7.
The clinic will be administered by Satoshi Imamura, a physician who operated Imamura Hospital in the town until the disaster. Imamura, who currently lives in Kanagawa Prefecture as an evacuee, will double as a physician at the new clinic. The planned medical facility will also be staffed by three nurses, a radiology therapist, a pharmacist, an office clerk, a medical accountant and a janitor.
The town is seeking to launch the return of evacuees as early as April 2017. During fiscal 2016 beginning next April, the clinic is expected to open for three days a week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday – when many evacuees visit their homes on a temporary basis. The town plans to operate the clinic for five weekdays in and after April 2017. It will consider expanding the clinic to include surgery and other departments of diagnosis and treatment in the future.
(Translated by Kyodo News)