KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Pref. — During a visit in late February to Shidamyo, less than 30 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a few elderly residents could be seen ambling around the tranquil rural district, but there were no signs of any children.
Experts say decontamination can prove effective in cities, but they express doubts about whether rural areas, especially mountains and forested regions, can be adequately cleansed. To fully decontaminate forests, for instance, in theory all trees would have to be cut down and all the surface soil scraped away, they point out.
About 70 percent of Fukushima Prefecture is mountainous, forested, or both, making decontamination work especially problematic.
And even if radiation readings drop, a lot of municipalities expect that many former residents still will not return home.
Kawauchi, whose population stood at around 3,000 before March 11, is one of the municipalities that fear resident numbers will never return to predisaster levels.
According to a survey conducted by local authorities in February, more than 60 percent of the 1,817 respondents said they do not intend to return to the village or have yet to make up their mind.
The top reason cited by respondents was fear of radiation exposure, followed by concerns that municipal medical and welfare facilities are now insufficient.
Rikizo Nishiyama, a 78-year-old farmer from Kawauchi currently living in temporary housing in the city of Koriyama, also in Fukushima Prefecture, said he and his wife plan to return to the village at the end of March, but their future doesn’t look bright.
“I used to farm land in Kawauchi, but it’s not an option when I return” because it hasn’t been decontaminated yet, Nishiyama said. “I will have to live off my pension.”
Back in Iwaki, meanwhile, authorities have conducted a limited decontamination trial, but due to a lack of temporary storage sites for contaminated waste they can’t proceed with full-scale efforts to cleanse the area, according to Sakai, the farmer in Shidamyo.
“Children should not come back (to Shidamyo) yet. Nothing has been done (to decontaminate the area),” he said.
Continue reading at Tohoku fears nuke crisis evacuees gone for good