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Naraha residents gather for 1st community festival since 2011 quake, nuke disasters

22 March 2015

The town of Naraha hosted a community festival at the newly completed Naraha Junior High School and other venues on March 21 to pray for its reconstruction and recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. Many residents who have evacuated to other municipalities returned to their hometown for the occasion and the event was filled with joy and laughter from the participants.

It was the town’s first large-scale event since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The organizers said they wanted to let residents see in person the progress of recovery and reconstruction in the town, and hoped the event would motivate some to move back as well as build momentum for further rehabilitation.

The festival included a special lecture by TV personality-turned former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru, performances by popular animation and other characters, and small “class reunions” where residents of the same age groups got together to share their reminiscences of the old days.

In the festival’s finale, the residents released into the air about 200 balloons, on which were written their thoughts and wishes for Naraha, to pray for their hometown’s recovery, shouting “Our hearts are united as one, Naraha!”

14 March 2015

No radioactive cesium detected for 3rd year in row in 2014 survey of Miharu town kids

No radioactive cesium has been detected for the third straight year among elementary and junior high school students in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, in a 2014 survey on internal exposure to radiation, according to a research group’s announcement on March 13.

The monitoring survey has been conducted since 2011, the year of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, by the research team involving Ryugo Hayano, professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science, and members of the Research Institute of Radiation for Disaster Recovery Support in the village of Hirata.

In 2014, 1,265 of the town’s 1,315 elementary and junior high school students, or 96.2%, underwent tests for internal radiation exposure. Similar checkups were also conducted on 1,383 students in 2012 and on 2,338 in 2013, with no radioactive cesium detected in either year. In 2011, radioactive cesium was detected in 54 of 1,494 students tested. But the researchers said it was likely that the 2011 results had been influenced by cesium on the students’ clothing as they had not been told to change before taking the examination that year.

“I guess it is now clear that it is fine (for residents) to live their daily lives the way they did prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake and that there is no need to be overly worried,” Hayano told a news conference at the Fukushima prefectural government office as his team published the latest survey results.

In addition, the research group also surveyed the students’ parents and other guardians regarding their eating habits. Of all the families polled, 76% said they drink tap and well water, and 62% eat home-grown or locally cultivated rice. Meanwhile, 23% of the 1,265 households that responded said they avoid tap and well water due to concerns about radioactive contamination and drink bottled water instead.

While one in every five said they buy rice without any particular concern about its origin, another 13% of the respondents said they avoid eating rice cultivated in Fukushima Prefecture. Similarly, 16% said they avoid Fukushima-grown vegetables.

“I believe many families have been restricting their daily living (due to concerns about radioactive contamination), but I hope they can use (the test results) as reference and realize they can live more freely than they have been,” said Hayano.

14 March 2015

Shipment of contaminated soil to interim storage site begins in Okuma town

The Environment Ministry began on March 14 transferring radioactive soil and other contaminated waste to an interim storage site in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, as part of a 30-year project to store waste generated from decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. About 12 cubic meters of radioactive waste was transferred from a temporary site in Okuma’s Minamidaira district on the first day. The transshipment marks the long-awaited launch of interim storage work that is considered essential for the reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture, more than three and a half years since the government requested local authorities in August 2011 to permit installation of waste storage facilities.

Meanwhile, the ministry officially announced the same day it will start similar transportation on March 25 to an interim site in Futaba from a temporary place elsewhere in the town. This sort of transshipment over the next year will be conducted as a pilot project to identify problems such as safety. The project calls for the transfer of around 43,000 cubic meters of contaminated waste – about 1,000 cubic meters from each of 43 municipalities in the prefecture with decontamination plans – in the first year.

However, due to slow progress in negotiations with landowners, an area of only about 3 hectares of the interim storage site has so far been set aside for use, of which just 1 hectare is ready for receiving waste container bags on a temporary basis pending completion of interim storage facilities.

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