Minister for reconstruction Masahiro Imamura has praised efforts to rebuild the devastated Tohoku region but says a large-scale information campaign is needed to share accurate information about radiation six years after the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Imamura outlined the plan in a recent interview in response to what he said was incorrect information about radioactive contamination of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture.
It also comes as a growing number of children who evacuated from the prefecture fall victim to bullying.
Massive amounts of radioactive substances were emitted from the plant soon after it was knocked out by massive tsunami from the 9.0-magnitude March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit hardest in Fukushima and the nearby prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate.
Asked about the degree of progress in reconstructing areas hit by the disaster, Imamura said, “Acquisition of land and other procedures needed for the restoration of damaged infrastructure initially took time, but the pace of construction work was very rapid once it was launched.”
“From now, we should focus on the rebuilding of Fukushima,” he said, noting that medium- to long-term measures should be promoted, including decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant and decontaminating areas polluted with radioactive fallout.
“We want to encourage evacuees to return to their hometowns in Fukushima by presenting future visions for the communities through improving the living environment and accelerating the revival of local industries,” Imamura added.
On how to tackle the incidences of bullying targeting evacuated Fukushima children, Imamura said, “We’ll strengthen information-sharing about radiation. All government agencies should jointly work to compile and launch a campaign for that purpose, while obtaining cooperation from private companies.
“This is an issue for not only children, but adults,” he said. “We’ll prepare documents and other materials that are easy to understand in order to eliminate prejudice against evacuated people.”
Imamura said the campaign would also be an effort to tackle the issue of “misinformation about radioactive contamination crippling Fukushima foods.”
“I’ll seek cooperation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well,” he said.
Imamura said he believed the Reconstruction Agency’s efforts to date to rebuild areas affected by the March 2011 disaster have been praised to a certain degree. Still, he pointed to the importance of re-examining whether information on what affected areas need has been properly conveyed to the Reconstruction Agency and other government bodies.
Imamura said Japan’s aging population and low birthrate were also contributing to shrinking communities across the nation — something he described as a structural problem.
“It’s important to build a system that generates profits through stepped-up use of information technology and the modernization of factory equipment, even if human resources are limited,” he said.
“We need to check again whether communities will be able to smoothly help one another in times of disaster, although lessons from the March 2011 disaster were effectively utilized in a series of powerful earthquakes that mainly hit Kumamoto Prefecture in April last year, and the October 2016 strong quake in Tottori Prefecture,” Imamura added.