MIYAKOJI, Japan — Ever since they were forced to evacuate during the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant three years ago, Kim Eunja and her husband have refused to return to their hilltop home amid the majestic mountains of this rural village for fear of radiation.
But now they say they may have no choice. After a nearly $250 million radiation cleanup here, the central government this month declared Miyakoji the first community within a 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant to be reopened to residents. The decision will bring an end to the monthly stipends from the plant’s operator that have allowed Ms. Kim to relocate to an apartment in a city an hour away.
Now they feel growing pressure to return whether they want to or not. The government has declared that the stipends, which range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, will end next March, when temporary housing will also begin to be closed. Villagers who move back before then will receive a $9,000 bonus from Tepco, adding to the pressure to return.
“Tepco is being so stupidly unfair with the compensation,” said Yukei Tomitsuka, the mayor of Tamura, the city that administers Miyakoji. “We are the victims. Should we have to go hat in hand to Tepco to ask for more money?”
Experts call Miyakoji a forerunner of the problems that will be faced by the 150,000 people displaced by the accident over all, as additional communities are reopened as a result of a $36 billion government-financed cleanup. They say the evacuees will feel increasing pressure to go back from a government that wants to restore the preaccident status quo as much as possible to limit criticism of the powerful nuclear industry.
“This is inhumane and irresponsible,” said Teruhisa Maruyama, a lawyer who leads the Support Group for Victims of the Nuclear Accident, a Tokyo-based legal organization that helps residents seek increased compensation.
“The national government knows that full compensation could add up to big money, enough to raise public doubts about the wisdom of using nuclear power in Japan.”