60% in Fukushima say more than 2 decades needed to return to pre-disaster lifestyles

March 05, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Sixty percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents said it will take more than 20 years to recoup the lifestyles they lost when the prefecture was hit by the triple disaster of 2011, a survey showed.

Nineteen percent said pre-disaster lifestyles can return in "20 years or so," 14 percent said around 10 years and just 3 percent picked "five years or so" among the four options.

By age, 80 percent of those in their 30s and 73 percent of those in their 40s and 50s chose the answer "more than 20 years."

The survey, conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun Co. and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on March 2-3, showed some signs of optimism in the prefecture struggling to rebuild from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.

For example, fewer residents want to move out of the prefecture or to areas of lower radiation levels.

But for the most part, the outlook for getting Fukushima Prefecture back to normal remained dim among residents ahead of the second anniversary of the multiple disasters.

The telephone survey received valid responses from 1,014 eligible voters in Fukushima Prefecture, or 59 percent of those contacted. Similar surveys were carried out in September 2011 and March 2012.

Thirty-eight percent of the respondents in the latest survey were positive about the radioactive cleanup work conducted so far, including 2 percent who said they “greatly” appreciated the work and 36 percent who said they did so "to a certain extent."

In contrast, 62 percent saw the work in a negative light, with 45 percent saying they did "not appreciate the work very much" and 17 percent saying they did not appreciate it at all.

The residents were also evenly split over future decontamination work.

Fifty percent said they held positive expectations, including 12 percent with “strong” expectations and 38 percent with “moderate” expectations for the cleanup efforts to come.

A combined 49 percent were pessimistic, with 39 percent saying their expectations were “weak” and 10 percent saying they held "no expectations at all."

The Fukushima prefectural government has argued that all areas contaminated with radioactive substances, including forests, should be cleaned up.

Thirty-eight percent of the respondents agreed “very much” with the prefecture’s stance, whereas 35 percent agreed "to a certain extent," 18 percent did "not agree with it very much" and 6 percent did "not agree with it at all."

The residents were asked how deeply they were concerned about the impact of radioactive substances on themselves and their family members.

Thirty-one percent said they were "greatly" concerned, 45 percent were concerned "to a certain extent," 21 percent were "not concerned very much," and 3 percent were "not concerned at all."

Those figures were largely unchanged from the previous survey in March 2012, in which the results were 32 percent, 46 percent, 17 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

The pollees were also asked if they would want to relocate outside Fukushima Prefecture or to areas with lower radiation levels if that option was available.

Twenty-six percent said they would wish to do so, down from 32 percent in the previous survey.

A combined 80 percent of the respondents were negative about the work to lay the groundwork for rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture. Fifty-nine percent said they believed "little groundwork" has been laid, and 21 percent said "no groundwork" has been laid.

Those numbers were down from the corresponding figures a year ago--92 percent, 54 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Seventy-three percent of the respondents were critical of the way the central government has handled the nuclear disaster so far. Only 17 percent gave the government a positive assessment.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s defeat of the Democratic Party of Japan in the Lower House election in December did not lead to a significant rise in optimism in Fukushima Prefecture.

Only 27 percent of the respondents said they believed that the change of power will help accelerate the central government’s response to the nuclear disaster. Sixty-four percent said they did not believe it would.

The central government has said it wants to set up an interim storage facility for radioactive soil and other contaminated substances in Futaba county, which contains the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they could accept that idea, up from 39 percent in the previous survey a year ago, while 29 percent said they could not accept it, down from 41 percent.

The survey also asked the Fukushima residents about their feelings toward nuclear power, and the results were compared with a nationwide survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 16-17.

The differences in opinion were quite stark.

In Fukushima Prefecture, 19 percent were in favor of nuclear power and 64 percent were against it. Nationwide, 37 percent were in favor and 46 percent opposed.

In both surveys, the pollees were asked to choose one of five scenarios they hope to see for the future of Japan’s nuclear power generation.

Twenty-nine percent of the respondents in Fukushima Prefecture and 13 percent of the respondents across Japan chose an immediate departure from nuclear power.

Abandoning nuclear power before 2030 was favored by 32 percent in Fukushima Prefecture and 24 percent nationwide. Seventeen percent in Fukushima Prefecture and 22 percent across Japan wanted a nuclear phaseout completed during the 2030s, while 7 percent in Fukushima and 12 percent across Japan wanted the nation to be nuclear-free after the 2030s.

Eleven percent in Fukushima and 18 percent nationwide wanted Japan to continue using nuclear power.

Seventy-two percent of Fukushima residents and 66 percent across Japan said they believed general public interest in issues related to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is fading.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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  • Yuki Endo, 28, who evacuated from Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, is now a maintenance worker for temporary housing in Koriyama. (Jun Kaneko)

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