Demolition of decrepit homes progressing in Fukushima 6 years, 8 months after disaster

11 November 2017

Dilapidated houses left in evacuated areas of Fukushima Prefecture following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant are being torn down at a steady pace of late. Of some 11,800 homes subjected to demolition applications by October in 11 municipalities where evacuation zones were once set up, about 8,700, or 70%, have been scrapped. Difficult-to-return zones are not included in the demolition work. Applications have been increasing even after the start of fiscal 2017 in April in the towns of Namie and Tomioka where evacuation orders were lifted this spring. As of last year, the Environment Ministry had targeted work completion by the end of fiscal 2017 through next March. But attaining the goal remains uncertain at present.

■Accelerating demolition work

Of the residences for which demolition applications were in place, all 19 have been dismantled in Tamura city and all 102 in Kawauchi village. About 360 houses out of some 390 have been taken down in Kawamata town, about 1,330 out of some 1,420 in Naraha town and about 340 out of some 360 in Katsurao village, marking a progress rate of more than 90% each. In Minamisoma city, about 2,350 homes have been demolished, nearly 90% of some 2,670 requested.

As of last April, approximately 6,700 houses had been dismantled, about 60% of some 10,900 applied for. In half a year since then, roughly 2,000 residences were removed. The ministry spurred surveys, preparatory work and other undertakings necessary for demolition in an effort to establish a living environment for returning evacuees, focusing on areas where evacuation has been terminated.

■Demolition requests greater than expected in Namie, Tomioka

Of municipalities where evacuation orders were eliminated this spring, Tomioka saw demolition work completed on some 1,700 houses, about 70% of almost 2,400 targeted, Namie on roughly 1,660, approximately 60% of some 2,840, and Iitate village on about 740, only 50% of some 1,390. Notable are swelling demolition applications in Tomioka and Namie, where more than 400 requests have been submitted each since the start of fiscal 2017, far exceeding the pace at which demolition work was assumed to be undertaken for completion by the end of the fiscal year. According to the ministry, many evacuees live in places far away from their hometowns, requiring substantial time for them to confirm the current status of their houses before applying for demolition. Against this backdrop, it is set to wait and continue accepting further applications.

If the demolition of aging houses is prolonged, they pose the risk of collapsing, possibly causing adverse effects on the hygienic environment around them. "We have to undertake demolition work while securing safety amid progress in the permanent return of evacuees," said an official of the ministry’s environment office in Fukushima, indicating difficulty to accelerate the work drastically. "But we want to complete the work as soon as possible."

(Translated by Kyodo News)