Contamination and community support in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster

By K. Itonaga | July 1, 2014

The Japanese village of Iitate received some of the highest radiation exposures resulting from the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, particularly on March 15, 2011. Iitate, which had previously been a model eco-village, is still heavily contaminated. The village’s abundance of forested area not only makes decontamination difficult but may also cause re-contamination of areas after they are cleaned up. Before the accident, many households in Iitate had multiple generations living under one roof, but many families were forced to split up when they evacuated. Villagers are now living in dispersed housing or in temporary units constructed after the accident. Many villagers, particularly young families, have given up hope of returning to Iitate anytime soon. It will take decades for the radioactivity to naturally decay. In the meantime, the author proposes creating new settlements so that villagers can rebuild their lives and sense of community while retaining the right to return to Iitate. Villages torn apart by tsunami damage are being allowed to move to higher ground as entire communities; the author argues that Iitate and other villages devastated by radiation should have similar rights.

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