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Village remains empty 11 years after Fukushima nuke disaster

Village remains empty 11 years after Fukushima nuke disaster

Posted June. 04, 2022 08:56,   

Updated June. 04, 2022 08:58


Futaba Township in Fukushima Prefecture is located 270 kilometers to northeast from Tokyo, Japan. The center of the township is only 5 kilometers from Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant 1 where the nuclear disaster occurred following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The entire village was declared as an ‘uninhabitable zone’ where access to the area and lodging is prohibited after the Japanese government ordered residents to evacuate following leaks of radioactive materials there. All villagers escaped from the village, and no one is currently living in the area.

When this reporter visited Futaba Minami Elementary School in the village on Thursday, it remained standstill exactly the way it was 11 years ago. School bags left by children who evacuated at the time were intact while the blackboard showed scribbles on class schedules for March 11, 2011 when the evacuation order was placed. The school with 196 students enrolled was rather big for an elementary school in a rural village before the disaster, but now only weed is everywhere.

The radiation dosage at Futaba Minami Elementary School, which is 3 kilometers from Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant 1, measures 0.171 μSv per hour at present, which is below the standard level (3.8μSv per hour) for lifting the evacuation order.

The Japanese government’s evacuation order will be officially lifted from Futaba Township, the symbol of the nuclear disaster in Japan, this month. The measure will allow villagers to freely return and reside there. “Environmental restoration has been successfully completed through removal of pollutants and disposal of waste,” the Japanese government said. However, as the government received applications for return to the village, only 57 of more than 7,000 residents have applied.

Sang-Hun Lee sanghun@donga.com