Voice of Russia, 24 February 2014, 22:25
Japan said Monday it would lift an evacuation order around the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant allowing residents to return home despite radiation concerns. Up to 30,000 residents are expected to get back to the current "no-go zone" in the next two years. Mycle Schneider, lead author of The World Nuclear Industry Status Reports, shared his take on the issue in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
Is the area around the Fukushima plant is suitable for habitation today?
No, absolutely not. I don’t think there is any question about that. I think that unfortunately there are economic considerations that come into play here because basically people moving back to their homes means they would not get compensated for loss. And thus this is very major savings for TEPCO and Japanese government. But I think it is very clear that this is not safe. In fact, people have to realize that there were hot spots identified as far away as 70 km (43 miles) from the site that were beyond the level of contamination within the exclusion zone of Chernobyl. So, there are up to now very high levels of radiation that are certainly not suitable for living.
So, is Japan willing to take the risk of human health and lives for financial benefit?
That is exactly what it looks like. You see that after the disaster happened the admissible level of doze rates have been increased by a factor of 20, which of course is relatively simple, it means that the risk is at least multiplied by a factor of 20 if you consider that on a theoretical model basis, the higher the doze is, the higher the risk, the lower the doze is, the lower the risk. And now to say that people can go back into an environment, it is not only a matter of individual homes or some private property, it is the entire environment. I mean what does it mean? Where do people go then? Where do children go to play? Where do people go to go shopping? So I think it is highly premature for that kind of message and measure.
How many people do you think will be willing to actually come back to their homes?
That would be pure speculation. It is very difficult to say. The problem is that in the past the government has measured free, if I may say so, certain properties. So, individual homes have been basically cleared for people coming back whereas the neighboring property is not cleared for people coming back. Now traditionally the Japanese people have often, for example, the parents’ home beside the children’s home. So, families get separated again through this kind of measure because it is not holistic approach to an entire area but an individual home basis. I don’t think there will be many people that would be willing to go back under these circumstances.