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Residents visit crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant, doubt 40-year decommissioning timeline

8 December 2019

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) organized an inspection tour of the utility's accident-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for local residents and held round-table discussions on Dec. 7.

The event was intended to help dispel uncertainty over the plant's decommissioning as the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which share the hosting of the facility, remain designated as difficult-to-return zones while evacuated residents elsewhere continue their slow return to their hometowns. But participant after participant voiced suspicion over the decommissioning project, questioning if it will really be completed as planned within 40 years.

About 30 residents from the two towns who remain evacuated to nearby areas participated in the gathering. They initially inspected the facility, including the buildings that house the Nos. 1-3 nuclear reactors, from which TEPCO is seeking to remove melted nuclear fuel debris, and a massive array of tanks containing contamination-treated water.

At the meeting later, some participants gave impassioned speeches that brushed aside as "wishful thinking" TEPCO's target for completion of decommissioning work in 30 to 40 years after the 2011 nuclear accident. Others came up with emotional appeals, saying they "would not like to leave the burden on children and grandchildren." Referring to swelling treated water, some residents urged TEPCO to "consider how to deal with it by giving top priority to the interests of residents."

Decommissioning work has made headway at the Daiichi plant over the eight years since the nuclear disaster. Now about 96% of the entire plant area is safe enough for people to enter without wearing heavy protective gear such as full-face masks, creating an environment that allowed the residents' tour. But many participants expressed anxiety, saying they "felt unsure" and "were shocked at the sight of the collapsed buildings."

【Photo】 Local residents are briefed by an Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry official (2nd from right) in Tomioka on Dec. 7 after inspecting TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

26 November 2019

Gov’t begins demolishing former base for battling nuke accident in Fukushima

The Environment Ministry began full-fledged work on Nov. 25 in Okuma town to dismantle the former Fukushima Prefecture Nuclear Emergency Response Center building where the central government situated its local headquarters to cope with the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Starting on the east side of the building, workers used heavy machinery to begin crushing the 20-centimeter-thick outer wall, causing a thunderous sound to reverberate around the site. The ministry expects to complete the demolition work by the end of March next year.

The former center is located about 5 kilometers west of the crippled nuclear power plant. About 100 people were working there at the time of the disaster. But the facility lacked sufficient equipment to keep out radioactive fallout, sending indoor radiation dosage higher and forcing staff to retreat to the Fukushima prefectural government’s offices just four days after the accident began. The center ended up failing to fulfill its duties, which included supporting the evacuation of residents, and later came to be seen as a symbol of weak preparedness for nuclear hazards.

The facility is situated inside a designated reconstruction and revitalization base area in a difficult-to-return zone. The Okuma town office is seeking to have the evacuation order still in force lifted in the spring of 2022, and develop the area and vicinity for residential use.

Ahead of the demolition work, the prefectural government recovered more than 200 items from inside the facility, including whiteboards on which developments at the time of the disaster were scribbled down. Some of them are to be displayed in a “hall for passing down the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster” to be opened next summer in Futaba, adjacent to Okuma, to transmit lessons from the accident to future generations. The nuclear plant straddles the two towns.

【Photo】 Heavy machinery is used to begin demolishing former Fukushima Prefecture Nuclear Emergency Response Center.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

25 November 2019

Website launched for "Mugenkyo" ravine boat in Fukushima's Okuaizu area

A website has launched for "Mugenkyo no watashi" (Mugenkyo ravine river crossing) at a top tourist spot in the Okuaizu area in northwestern Fukushima Prefecture, allowing tourists to conveniently reserve boat tickets around the clock.

The service ferries passengers by rowboat across the Tadami River between the towns of Kaneyama and Mishima. Weather permitting, visitors can enjoy fantastic views of mist shrouding the river surface. The number of passengers has been increasingly sharply in recent years. The website (//www.mugenkyo.info/) introduces the history of Mugenkyo and various must-see spots elsewhere in the area. It is also available in English, Chinese and Korean.

This season's service has already closed, but it will restart around late April 2020.

【Photo】 "Mugenkyo no watashi" website for river crossing reservations around the clock.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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