Decontamination work is conducted on March 2 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, which will no longer be designated an evacuation zone on March 31.
Half of Fukushima Prefecture residents believe it will take at least another 20 years for them to return to the lives they enjoyed before the 3/11 disaster, according to a new poll.
The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. contacted prefectural residents on Feb. 25-26 to ask about life after the triple nuclear meltdown crisis following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. It was the seventh in the annual series of polls on the issue.
In the survey, 50 percent of respondents said “more than 20 years” when asked their outlook on the timescale to restore their previous lifestyle. Twenty-one percent said “about 20 years,” followed by 16 percent who thought “about 10 years,” and 7 percent who responded “about five years.”
In the 2013 poll, those who thought it would take more than two decades for them to regain their pre-disaster life totaled 60 percent. The numbers cannot simply be cross-referenced since 18 and 19 years olds have been included in the latest survey for the first time, but while the results suggest some improvement, they also paint a picture of many residents of the prefecture still unable to have an optimistic outlook on their future.
Thirty percent of respondents of the latest survey said there are times they feel discriminated against for being Fukushima Prefecture residents.
The central government plans to cover part of the costs on the Fukushima nuclear crisis that is estimated to rise to 21.5 trillion yen ($188 billion) by including the expenses in electricity rates on regular households.
It is a plan that has been criticized to be nothing more than a scheme to bail out Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and 76 percent of respondents said they could not accept such a measure.
With the evacuation order for the town of Tomioka scheduled to be lifted on April 1, most residents of the prefecture who were displaced from their homes due to the nuclear disaster will be able to go back, excluding those who lived in areas still designated as “difficult-to-return zones.”
But opinions over the issue varied among respondents, suggesting skepticism over decontamination work and concerns over radiation still linger among many residents.
When asked about the timing of lifting the evacuation order, the most popular answer, from 40 percent, was that it was an appropriate decision. However, 19 percent said it was “too soon,” while 22 percent said the order “should not be lifted in the first place.” Nine percent said it was “too late.”
Respondents were also divided over their evaluation of decontamination work in the prefecture conducted by the central and local governments.
Those who applauded the effort, which comprised the 3 percent who “highly” praised it and the 48 percent who “somewhat” did, was at just over half. But an almost equal amount of respondents, 46 percent, expressed criticism, with 39 percent saying they “did not really” think enough was being done and 7 percent saying they were not at all satisfied.
When asked whether they had any concerns of the effects of radiation on themselves or their family, most residents, at 63 percent, said yes. This comprised the 19 percent who said they were very concerned and the 44 percent who responded they were worried to some extent.
Those who were more critical of the decontamination efforts, as well as respondents who expressed concern over the effects of radiation, tended to reply that the evacuation order “should not be lifted in the first place.”
Regarding “difficult-to-return zones,” the central government plans to concentrate their decontamination work on specific areas to allow residents to live there.
Respondents were divided over this decision as well, with 43 percent for and 42 percent against.
However, when asked about how the central government and TEPCO were handling the buildup of contaminated groundwater at the crippled nuclear plant, the majority of respondents expressed criticism. A total of 71 percent said they were dissatisfied, compared with the 14 percent who thought enough was being done.
The poll targeted eligible voters aged 18 or older living in the prefecture. Valid responses were received from 934 individuals out of the 1,739 randomly generated landline numbers contacted, or 54 percent.