Add to Lightbox Download
Junichi Tanaka is director of disaster prevention for the town of Naraha. As residents consider returning to Naraha, they usually have two primary concerns. The first worry — is it safe? — Tanaka has no doubts about. Naraha has been decontaminated and radiation levels in the inhabited areas are close to normal, he asserts.<br />
 <br />
As towns like Naraha get decontaminated, low-level radioactive contamination—scraped topsoil, organic waste and debris from demolished buildings—gets loaded into heavy-duty cubic-meter bags. These bags pile up on worksites and roadsides, then get moved to temporary storage fields. In Naraha, the floodplain beside the Kido River has been converted to waste storage. A typical field has meter bags stacked three high in pyramids of 192 bags; a total of 12,096 bags will occupy such a site when it is full. Eventually this low-level waste gets trucked to a special exhaust-free incinerator. Anything with higher contamination will get moved to a “temporary” 30-year waste site, which everyone expects will eventually become a permanent disposal site.<br />
<br />
Former residents’ second fear is whether it will be too difficult to live in a ghost town, and Tanaka can’t answer them. At present Naraha has three convenience stores, two working gas stations and a few restaurants, but no supermarket, no banks (except for a temporary ATM on a truck) and no schools. All this infrastructure will return eventually, but it has not yet.<br />
<br />
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan and destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Some 488 thousand people evacuated from the three-part disaster; in 2015, nearly 25% remain displaced.<br />
<br />
A massive effort is now underway to decontaminate towns in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. In Tomioka, 5 to 8 miles from the nuclear plant, thousands of laborers are cleaning or demolishing every building, and removing and incinerating all topsoil in inhabited areas. In the adjacent forests and mountains, radiation
Junichi Tanaka is director of disaster prevention for the town of Naraha. As residents consider returning to Naraha, they usually have two primary concerns. The first worry — is it safe? — Tanaka has no doubts about. Naraha has been decontaminated and radiation levels in the inhabited areas are close to normal, he asserts.

As towns like Naraha get decontaminated, low-level radioactive contamination—scraped topsoil, organic waste and debris from demolished...
more »

Filename: JP-Naraha-town-official-TANAKA-Junichi-portrait15-B18685.JPG
Copyright