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As the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster looms, the No. 1 plant’s decommissioning is behind schedule and many evacuees from the area are yet to return home, which is in turn stymying revitalization efforts.

Last month, the Tokyo High Court ordered Tepco, the operator of the tsunami-hit No. 1 plant, to pay damages to evacuees from the disaster, but it overturned a lower court ruling that acknowledged the government’s responsibility for the meltdowns. The decision contradicted a Sendai High Court ruling in September that found the government partly responsible.

The central government wants people to return to the decontaminated parts of the town of Tomioka in 2023, the Fukushima Minpo reports, but ex-residents say they first need to see more thorough decontamination and lower radiation levels than the government is currently aiming for.

Fukushima No. 1 nuclear accident, national government responsibility denied, tsunami couldn't have been predicted, split decision in appeal at Tokyo High Court (Japanese) | JIJI PRESS VIDEO CENTER
Fukushima No. 1 nuclear accident, national government responsibility denied, tsunami couldn’t have been predicted, split decision in appeal at Tokyo High Court (Japanese) | JIJI PRESS VIDEO CENTER

Within Fukushima, commercial complexes built as part of revitalization projects in areas affected by the triple meltdown are struggling to stay afloat, reports the Kahoku Shimbun, as former residents opt to delay their return, while customers employed in reconstruction efforts are set to finish up their jobs and move on.

Meanwhile, the process of removing melted fuel in the No. 1 plant’s second reactor was supposed to start this year, but the spread of the coronavirus has stalled tests in Britain of a robot arm that will be used for the job.

But perhaps students can lend a hand. An annual Japan-wide college robotics competition held this year on the theme of decommissioning the Fukushima plant was won by none other than Fukushima College — maybe because its students have an added incentive to solve that vexing problem.

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