Pains, gains accompany Fukushima disaster recovery work via The Mainichi

FUKUSHIMA — Nearly six and a half years since the outbreak of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, numerous people from across the country are engaged in disaster recovery work in Fukushima Prefecture, including 5,000-plus workers a day engaged in reactor decommissioning at the plant and others joining decontamination work in the region. Despite a lack of deep exchanges with local communities, the workers take pride in their jobs that contribute to regional reconstruction.

A former farmer in his 50s hailing from southern Fukushima Prefecture has been engaged in reactor decommissioning and decontamination of houses tainted with radioactive materials emanating from the nuclear disaster over the past four years. He found the job through a public job placement office after abandoning his apple orchard due to harmful rumors in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

“The succulent apples that I used to grow were very popular,” he said, reminiscing about his farming days during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun at a park near National Route No. 6, whose traffic is busy with vehicles involved in disaster recovery work. He used to be a part-time farmer while working for an automobile company, but he switched to full-time farming after being reassured of the popularity of his apples with a high sugar content, as they had earned a good reputation among consumers even from as far away as Tokyo.

The nuclear disaster broke out at a time when he was adding more apple trees to his orchard. Telephone orders for apples slowed after fears of possible radiation contamination spread among consumers. He was overwhelmed by snowballing debts, becoming even unable to cover fertilizer expenses. He had no choice but to leave farming.

Currently, he clears land at a construction site for an interim storage facility straddling over the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Okuma and Futaba for radiation-tainted soil generated from decontamination work in the prefecture.

As disaster recovery work often takes place in areas with high radiation doses, workers’ daily wages are almost 10,000 yen higher than those of general construction workers, according to him. When it comes to work on the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the monthly wage sometimes even tops 500,000 yen.


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