Fukushima evacuees do not want to return home

An increasing number of residents who evacuated from their communities near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are resigned to never returning home, according to a survey.

More than six months after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake only 43 percent of the evacuees said they definitely want to return to where they used to live, compared with 62 percent in the first survey in June.

The latest survey was conducted jointly between Sept. 20 and 29 by The Asahi Shimbun and a research team led by Akira Imai, a professor at Fukushima University specializing in local government policy, mainly through interviews with 287 evacuees who took part in the June survey.

Forty-six percent of the respondents said they were now living apart from their family members. Concerned about effects of radiation, many evacuees moved their wives and children much farther away from the crippled nuclear plant.

A combined 65 percent of the respondents said either they definitely “want to return” or “if possible, want to return.” In the June survey, the combined total was 79 percent.

Seventeen percent of respondents said either they “do not want to return very much” or “do not want to return” at all, an increase from the combined 12 percent in the June survey.

A total of 169 respondents who said in June that they wanted to return to their communities also took part in the latest survey. Only 91 of them still wanted to return, while 42 others said they would like to return “if possible.” Ten said they did not want to return.

Kenichiro Nishiyama, 45, who worked for an automobile repair company in Namie, a town that lies in the no-entry zone of the plant, switched his response from “want to return” to “do not want to return.”

“The radiation level is just too high,” Nishiyama said. “Even if they decontaminated the area, it would not be possible to revert immediately to the way it was in the past. Regrettably, there is nothing to do.”

After moving to four different evacuation centers, Nishiyama and his family settled in a rental unit in Nishigo in Fukushima Prefecture. Nishiyama found a new job, and his children have grown accustomed to life in the village.

Families with children under 18 years old tended to have higher response rates to the question about whether the family lived separately.

A 57-year-old homemaker now lives with her 59-year-old husband and 79-year-old mother-in-law in a rental unit in Iwaki in the prefecture. Her 35-year-old oldest son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live in a rental unit in Tokyo.

Before the disaster, they all lived together in Tomioka, which is only 9 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

She said her son absolutely refuses to return to Fukushima with his children.

When asked how long they thought it would take before they could return to their former communities, 35 percent of the evacuees–the largest group–said “from one to less than five years.”

Underscoring how the Fukushima nuclear accident has turned the lives of many people upside down, 62 percent of respondents said they had no income prospects for their future lives.

In addition, 42 percent said they had no prospect of returning to the job they held before the accident.

The prolonged evacuation period has also turned Fukushima residents against nuclear energy.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they were opposed to the use of nuclear energy, an increase from 70 percent in the June survey. The percentage of those in favor of nuclear energy fell to 19 percent from 26 percent in June.

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Article Courtesy: Asahi Shimbun

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