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Report from Fukushima: lots of cleanup to do, not enough workers to do it

The sudden arrival of a battered Toyota and its three occupants at our place last week underscores the problems Japanese construction steel producers face.

I’m back from a quick trip home. It’s in a once pristine corner of rural Fukushima, just outside the 20km exclusion zone around the crippled Daiichi nuclear plant. The back roads were busier this time, and more lights peeked from distant farm houses.

After the March 2011 disaster the local government urged all residents to evacuate, emptying the village overnight and leaving the roads to convoys of military trucks, police and support vehicles heading east over the mountains to the stricken plant.

The signs of normalcy this time reflected the fact that ours was among the first areas to have its evacuation order lifted by the Japanese government, effective April 1. The authorities insisted decontamination activities had reduced radiation to “safe” levels.

I’d watched those efforts last September when a small army of men in hard hats and boots – some locals but many lured from elsewhere in Japan – descended on our place. The theory ran that removing the top few inches of ground surface, plus lopping trees, trimming shrubs, steam-cleaning roofs, and hosing walls and paths all helped lessen the radiation.


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