30 April 2014, 21:48

Fukushima residents unwilling to return to ‘no-go’ radiated zone

Fukushima residents unwilling to return to ‘no-go’ radiated zone

Japanese civilians can hardly imagine they will ever live again in Tomioka, a ghost town about 6 miles from the notorious Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The government claims a 12-mile no-go zone around the plant will soon be completely decontaminated and reopen. However, distrust of the governmental decontamination program remains strong.

A survey, conducted in 2013, indicated that only 16 percent of former Tomioka residents were considering the possibility of returning to their hometown, while 40 percent had decided never to return and 43 percent were undecided.

"The prime minister says the accident is under control, but we feel the thing could explode the next minute," said Michiko Onuki, a former Tomioka resident who ran a ceramic and craft shop there, cited by the Associated Press. "We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead."

"I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots," said Ando, a 59-year-old, with tears in his eyes. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not suffering. I'm just worried for Tomioka."

Former town-dwellers visit Tomoika wearing an astronaut-like gear, which prevents radiation damage, with filtered masks covering half their faces.

The no-go zone is divided into three areas according to radiation levels: the most dangerous areas are marked in pink on official maps, yellow indicates a “restricted” area, allowing no overnight stays, and the green zones mean “in preparation to lift evacuation orders.” Tomioka town lies in all three zones.

According to the decontamination program the annual radiation exposure should be brought down to 1 millisievert (the equivalent of 10 chest X-rays). However, the government is lifting evacuation orders at higher levels, which many consider to be dangerous.

It should be also noted that if the evacuation order is lifted for Tomioka, the residents will lose their 100,000 yen ($1,000) of special monthly compensation from TEPCO.

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