Policy in Japan has made a rather abrupt turn to the admission that permanent evacuation for many in Fukushima may be necessary and the smarter use of funds.
NHK cited a major turn around by the national government on the evacuation and decontamination policy.
“Though it is assumed that some of the evacuated people want to go home even if it takes time,Japanese government is inclined to the idea that spending money on supporting evacuating people is more efficient. It costs significant sum of money to decontaminate and the reliable technology is not established. It would be more efficient to spend the money on evacuating people.”
“Tokyo Electric Power Co said it will fully compensate residents in areas contaminated by radiation from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant if they are unable to return home after five years”
Reuters also cites a government guideline that TEPCO should pay the full pre-accident value for homes that can not be returned to in five years.
Mainichi looked into the situation at Chernobyl now over 25 years later. While the blast at Chernobyl threw considerably more contamination into the nearby area, even the less contaminated areas still struggle. The city of Korostyshiv has put over a million dollars into efforts to reduce contamination in the area by 50%. It has been largely seen as a waste. People continue to leave and many suffer with health problems. Authorities tried a trial decontamination on a “migration” area of lower contamination soon after the disaster. They determined that dangerous materials still remained and revoked the ability to live there 2 years later. With the degradation of buildings and infrastructure the forced migration areas may also never have permission for people to return.
The manager of the 30km evacuation zone around Chernobyl gave a very dire prediction. “No one will be allowed to return, not after decades, not after centuries.”
While Japan’s land contamination has been less than Chernobyl’s the unsuccessful efforts in both the zone and lower contamination areas are not good news for those hoping to restore the areas of Fukushima. The new cooperation between Japan and the Ukraine to share knowledge on post-accident recovery may have influenced the new policy change in Japan towards the region.
Another hint at the length of clean up work comes in the announcement of work starting on the new shelter building over the damaged reactor in Chernobyl. Work at Chernobyl is expected to take 100 years. The current roadmap for Fukushima is estimated at 30-40 years including total dismantling of the buildings. Even with Fukushima’s shorter decommissioning plan, many of us will not live to see the completion. It is quite sobering to realize that clean up work at these two sites will be multi-generational problems.
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