High Radioactivity Including “Many Hot Spots” Keep Residents Away From Homes Despite Japanese Officials Claims Of Safety

Fukushima: it is my valley sievert

By Arnaud VAULERIN Envoyé spécial à Naraha et Iwaki
Liberation: March 7, 2014
(Translated using Google Translate)

Carp and maple leaves irradiated. Images straight highlight contamination concentrated in the muscles for the fish and the rod for the plant, whose leaves have grown after the disaster. (Photos Masamichi Kagaya)

A few days before the third anniversary of the nuclear disaster that was emptied of its inhabitants , Naraha has almost completed a huge site decontamination. Not sure as far as its former inhabitants are ready to return.

This is the heart of the village, the town house. But it remains an empty place and lifeless. The mayor of Naraha is a dusty crossroads of frozen drafts. A vessel aground in silence and snow. In the lobby of the hotel’s desert city nestled 15 kilometers southwest of the Fukushima Daichi , everything seems frozen since the evacuation of 7,560 residents 12 March 2011 .

A stove glows providing a hot air net two employees idle TEPCO ( the plant operator ) and two municipal officials. The former are responsible for monitoring the level of radioactivity of the few people who come to retrieve belongings . Latest assisting the State in a huge project decontamination coming to an end in this rural village and forest . Prepare all without believing the return of the population that could be allowed in the coming days.

But intentions to completion, the gap may be very large, very slow project. Long Naraha village was prohibited in the evacuation zone of 20 km around the ravaged Fukushima reactors. With animals in the wild , abandoned its radioactive winds homes and moved to Iwaki , 35 kilometers south population. Today , people can not return that day , cleaning , tidying their homes and undertake administrative tasks. ” You never see a lot of people says Shigeto Matsumoto , head of decontamination for mayor . People do not want to go . They did not want to. It’s been three years since they left. They can not believe the Department of the Environment when he argues that the radioactivity will drop to 0.3 microsieverts per hour. It’s not easy to convince them to restart the city, but you can not let go , right? ”

Although he works at City Hall, Shigeto Matsumoto is not the best return on proselyte Naraha . In the hall where his voice resounds , he ‘s slipping away “if” a hypothetical return which , according to the list , turns to mission impossible : ” If our life is recovered before ; if the people , our friends, school friends of our children back ; if we can grow without concern , it can leave. ” That’s a lot of ifs. Shigeto Matsumoto himself does not believe . The father said “Understanding the families and young people who are reluctant to return .” Before admitting that he will not return to his native village with his wife and children aged 13 and 9 years if the city approves . Many people , starting with young parents , fleeing the “invisible enemy” .

Quarantine, Toshiko Oba (1) refuses to return to Naraha with her children , ages 15, 11 and 10 years. Yet this old maid lives frugally in a narrow two -piece wooden frame on the outskirts of Iwaki , where 80 % of people found refuge (as in this neighborhood above) . A Naraha , it could find its spacious building, which has been decontaminated in December. “The mayor can say what she wants , there will always be a concern about the level of radioactivity , says this woman. Talk with neighbors and even family is painful. We will return when the children are grown . ”

The mayor of Naraha does not minimize the hidden challenges. It measured , depending on the location , rates between 1.75 and 5.25 millisieverts per year ( Paris , it is around 0.7 mSv) , without concealing the presence of many “hot spots” , these places which combine high levels of radiation. Thus, in the hamlet of Kamishigeoka in the north of the village , the farmer Tomio Shibata made ​​statements ” to 13 millisieverts in several places .” This is certainly not the maximum allowed for nuclear workers dose set at 20 mSv , but this is far from the annual exposure of 1 mSv recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection , a goal that Japan s’ is attached to a long term in the region of Fukushima.

Roofs , streets, rice fields , waterfront

It happens also that the authorities do Naraha curious discoveries. Last summer , during a decontamination site near the river Idegawa , workers have uncovered four ” small objects ” of sorts sips of radioactivity bars ( 8.7 sievert per year !) . Neither the Department of the Environment or Tepco , which is conducting the investigation , have the time to give an explanation on their presence in nature. Controlled by the state, as in ten other cities most heavily polluted Fukushima Prefecture , decontamination has flared up after this discovery . On rooftops, streets, gardens , rice fields and the sea , the workers and laborers cohorts dig , scrape , aspire, carve , cut, store . Police patrols pretend to monitor these titanic operations.

Naraha became the headquarters of an army of men who, for two years, have imprisoned more than 760 000 m3 of radioactive waste in big plastic balls piled on several floors in the twenty-two storage sites Naraha ( like this one , located near the shore of the Pacific ocean). The least contaminated part (that is to say no more than 100,000 becquerels per kg ) should remain in a first time on the territory of the municipality . Until the state finds a lasting solution to this radioactive puzzle.

End of 2013, Tokyo had decided that three towns in the province of Fukushima – Futaba , Okuma and Naraha – would accommodate the equivalent of 28 million m3 of waste. In other words , the government announced a definitive death for these rural communities to the declining population. But the mayor of Naraha , Yukiei Matsumoto won a tussle with the central authorities. ” He argued that the city was less contaminated than its two neighbors said Michihiro Igari , director of reconstruction department at City Hall. Afterwards, he made ​​it clear that we could never bring back the people building next to them a radioactive storage site , especially when the decontamination coming to an end . ” Naraha is not on the list common sacrificed.

Affable and busy , Michihiro Igari receives in a windowless office at the University of Iwaki , where officials Naraha found refuge. This is a city of fortune that active hive for the revival of the village. “Never give up,” proclaims a banner in the lobby. Michihiro Igari ” trying to think positively “: ” Compared to Futaba and Okuma , our situation is not entirely hopeless. ” This quiet man sketch conversion projects for Naraha . “We can aspire to be a model of reconstruction. And if you offered to residents of Futaba time to come and live in our community so that they are closer to their unlivable city as too contaminated? We could also host a research center to support the decommissioning of the plant that will last for decades. ”

These projects have not made ​​Michihiro Igari a smug optimism , a follower of autosuggestion . While stressing that 90% of the city is cleared , he immediately adds that this applies only farmland and residential areas, with a perimeter of 20 meters. In other words, at least 70 % of the territory of the municipality consists of hills and forests has not been decontaminated . ” This is not part of the plan of the government, noted Michihiro Igari . No timetable or action plan are anticipated. But there is much more serious : the water that we consume from rivers , dams has obviously not been decontaminated . ”

Faults and damage in series

Last week , a survey of Fukushima Prefecture has also revealed that hundreds of water supplies for agriculture had very high levels of radioactivity . Even if he speaks with a soft voice , this has the gift to annoy the farmer Tomio Shibata, whose land and rice fields adjacent forests in the hamlet of Kamishigeoka . “This is a very big problem . If it rains, if there is wind , it will grab everything in our soils that have been decontaminated yet . We absolutely can not say that the work is done. ” His friend Mitsao Sato agrees. Shoulders and hands remover butcher , the jovial farmer lost everything 12 March 2011 . That day , he opened the doors of its stable and squandered its eight cows and seven calves, before giving his land ” the invisible enemy . ” Three years later , he thinks only of returning. At 69 , he does not want to worry about his health. But his laughter mask just pessimism . As an expert in radiation of the Town Hall , Shigeto Matsumoto , former housekeeper Toshiko Oba and his friend Tomio Shibata, he laments the situation at the Fukushima Daichi subscribes to failures and damages in series. “Every water leak announced on television , people are concerned and it makes them back. This plant is not stable. ”

Reactor , health and food, Fukushima region has permanently lost the battle images for three years. “People in Tokyo do not already buy food produced near the plant. So do you think we installed next to reactors, we can make them eat our rice and our meat , yet checked regularly. Well no , of course! ” Whatever, Mitsao Sato (see cons ) return. He was born there. His friends are rice farmers, gardeners, farmers , foresters. He has always lived on agriculture as three-quarters of families Naraha – the remaining quarter worked at the plant and in a handful of SMEs. He knows he will get out. ” But there will be no respite , he predicts . Young people do not want to go , including my family, and I understand . I do not dare ask them to do. Finally, the biggest concern , it is perhaps not the contamination , but the return of the inhabitants ” He believes that in the best case , only half of the population, all ages , come back. ; Naraha not work like a real city. In this rural area and aging , nuclear crisis precipitated depopulation raging for some twenty years. Time did the rest .
“Even if the vermin seized tatami ”

This morning, Ichiro Sato (1) are found in the center of Iwaki support. It transpires in his blue sweatshirt and gray sweatpants . He just attended a course in dietetics and a lesson in the gym. Slender and alert to 74 years , he announced his return to Naraha soon as the mayor has given the green light . He says he will return to his home ” even if the water is not drinkable , even if vermin seized tatami mats , futons and clothes , although decontamination did not reduce the radioactivity in my house , even if nature will never be like before . ” As the conversation progresses, the smile fades . He had a well in his garden , it is contaminated. When he returned to his home in Iwaki , it makes it “sad” . In December, the council had authorized the inhabitants of Naraha to spend the festive season in their village to help return. Ichiro Sato did not make the trip . ” Psychologically and practically, I was not ready . I do not see myself in my sleep . ”

Flanchent good resolutions . The former farm worker cites the case of his friends , as the months passed , are very well made ​​life Iwaki , the big city with its physicians, its buses , department stores , its activities and recreation. “They finally find it very convenient to live here. ” Ichiro Sato did not confess , but when he speaks of his friends , everything indicates that it is first to him he thinks.

(1) The name was changed.

(This article was originally published in French at Liberation)
Article was translated using Google Translate.

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