IYO, Ehime — Evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster who now live near nuclear reactors targeted for restart by power companies are uneasy and critical about power companies’ plans to restart nuclear reactors.
“They can’t say 100 percent that a disaster won’t occur, and they’re trying to take that risk. More than anger, I feel sadness,” says Hiroshi Watanabe, 34, a farmer who evacuated from Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, to Iyo, Ehime Prefecture, with his family. They now live near Ikata Nuclear Power Plant. Shikoku Electric Power Co., which owns the plant, has applied for a safety evaluation to have the No. 3 reactor restarted.
Back in Fukushima, Watanabe made a living growing rice and vegetables and raising chickens around 12 kilometers from the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. He used less artificial fertilizers and agricultural chemicals as a farmer, for which he was well-received. He was just in the middle of working with local governments and local farmers on plans to use organic farming to bring economic benefit to the area when the nuclear disaster struck.
“The blessings of the land, our efforts, everything went to nothing,” he says.
Together with his wife and two daughters, he evacuated to Ehime Prefecture, where he had spent his university days. They set up a new home that is around 40 kilometers from the Ikata plant. Watanabe borrowed some land and began growing rice and mandarins. His income recovered to about half of what it had been in Fukushima, and his wife had a son.
However, he carries with him the fear of a nuclear accident happening here as well, and he joined other residents in a December 2011 lawsuit to block the restart of the Ikata plant.
However, many people in the town of Ikata, which hosts the plant, want it to restart. Mamoru Mizumoto, a 54-year-old restaurant owner, says, “I strongly welcome (the application to restart the reactor.)” Many of his regular patrons are nuclear plant workers. Since the Ikata plant shut all its reactors in January last year, his sales have been down to a third of what they were when the reactors were all running.
“If not for the reinforcement construction on the No. 3 reactor (that started in spring), I might have had to close shop,” he says.