FUKUSHIMA – Voters in Fukushima Prefecture, where about 150,000 people still can’t return to their homes because of the nuclear crisis, urged politicians Thursday to face the reality of the catastrophe as official campaigning for the July 21 Upper House election got under way.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized to voters during a speech in the city of Fukushima, saying his Liberal Democratic Party “must reflect deeply” on its past policy of promoting nuclear power without thoroughly considering reactor safety.
“Japan cannot be revived unless Fukushima recovers,” Abe said.
But he made no reference to efforts to end the crisis, to restart reactors in other parts of the country or to export nuclear technology.
Yasuo Yoshida, a 46-year-old fisherman in Iwaki on the Pacific coast, said politicians should visit the areas affected by the nuclear disaster more often and listen to local people.
“Now we face a moment of truth in trying to rebuild Fukushima’s fishing industry and I want politicians to ensure that the central government will take responsibility” for the revival, Yoshida said.
Fukushima fishermen have refrained from catching fish except for trial operations out of fear of radiation.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has recently suggested that groundwater collected at the Fukushima No. 1 plant be discharged into the sea to reduce the overall amount of contaminated water at the crippled facility. Tepco, however, has also revealed that groundwater samples it has taken have high levels of radiation.
Talks between the utility and local fishermen remain bogged down.
“Even if the groundwater is clean, discharging it into the sea would ruin our recovery efforts due to the reputation (of the area),” Yoshida said.
He said he doesn’t know whether the regional economy has recovered, since he has no work.
Keiko Fujinami, a 42-year-old housewife from Naraha, said she doesn’t expect any change after the Upper House election.
“Nobody will stick to their election pledges,” said Fujinami, who has evacuated to Iwaki with her family.
The central government has said it will start research July 12 on the district in Naraha where her house is located to check whether it would be suitable to accommodate a temporary storage facility for contaminated soil and other waste.
The government is hoping to start transporting soil and waste to a new site by January 2015, but none of the municipalities approached so far has agreed to accept such a facility.
Fujinami said the government has promised to take measures to ensure safety if the facility is built in Naraha, but she doesn’t think she would be able to return to her home if it is constructed there.
“None of the Diet members or central government officials lives here,” she said. “Those people must be thinking that it’s OK as long as the facility is located far away from Tokyo.”