Fukushima fallout: Not just radiation
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Fukushima fallout: Not just radiation

14 months on, residents of Fukushima prefecture are still coping with a variety of problems.

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pic: Hajime Nakano (Flickr CC)

In the wake of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resultant meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, those who live near Fukushima face compounded difficulties rebuilding their lives.

Many areas in Fukushima Prefecture were no-go for a year after the meltdown, delaying cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Since the bans have been lifted, there has been a shortage of volunteers to help out. Many residents simply need help with their daily activities.

79-year-old Kazui Nagayama is quoted in The Mainichi:

My house is far from being cleaned up. It’s exhausting, both emotionally and physically. I want people to understand that not all disaster areas are the same; those that have been affected by the nuclear crisis are different.

Victims of the nuclear crisis also face problems of unemployment, uncertainty about the future and low motivation. According to Japan’s welfare ministry, around 20% of Fukushima’s earthquake survivors are either still unemployed or not seeking work following an extended period of unemployment benefit. Some residents feel unsure about when they will be able to return home, which also means when they will have to leave their temporary residences. This uncertainty about relocation is unhelpful to both potential employers and employees.

Read more on that story in the Daily Yomiuri.

Of course, Japan experienced general economic hardship after such a large-scale disaster as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Whatever your opinions on nuclear power, the fact that Japan now has zero of its 54 nuclear energy plants up and running has meant a steep increase in fossil fuel imports. From March 2011 to March 2012 imports in general climbed by 11.6% while exports fell by 4%.

From the New Statesman:

Japan’s economy is expected to pick up 2 per cent by 2013. However, business casualties of Fukushima include the electronics giant Toshiba, whose profits halved over the fiscal year, and Sony, whose annual loss of 456.7bn yen set a new record for the company. Both lay the blame on disruptions to infrastructure and other repurcussions of the earthquake, as well as on the eurozone crisis and unfavourable exchange rates that have pushed up the yen.

Read more on Japanese trade figures here.

I’ll end this post by trying to paradoxically lighten the mood with a bit of black humor-inducing news.

Wild monkeys are set to be used to measure nuclear radiation around Fukushima. Is this considered testing on animals? Not really, I guess. These monkeys will be caught, fitted with collars equipped with GPS and dosimeters, and let go again to do what they normally do (monkey around), where they normally do it.

Monkeys have been deemed a good way to measure radiation in mountainous forests because of their habitual behavior and the fact that they live in habitats that are difficult to get accurate radiation measurements from by using conventional methods.

Read more about that on asiaone.