This week on SBS, Dateline looks at Japan six years after its earthquake and tsunami.
“Coming Home to a Nuclear Wasteland” is by reporters Amos Roberts.
Six years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster, radiation levels inside the Fukushima power plant are at an all-time high.
On 31 March 2017, the small town of Namie – just 11km away – will reopen, and former residents will be faced with an agonising decision.
Do they return and rebuild their community, or stay away; giving up the subsidies they receive as nuclear evacuees? Dateline’s Amos Roberts meets two Namie families struggling with this difficult choice.
Former resident Yoshiko, whose husband once worked at the power plant, tells Amos: “[Translated] It’s a contaminated town. We think about our children like every family with children. When I think about their future you wouldn’t want to go back.”
Amos meets a man determined to return and rebuild his life. Hisao Sasaki’s family has lived in Namie for generations and he can’t imagine his future anywhere else. He enthusiastically renovates his house and grows vegetables in readiness for his permanent move home, despite the invisible threat of radiation.
“[Translated] It’s the house that our ancestors built, my father built. If we let it go, that’s it, so I can’t let that happen. As long as I live here, we have to keep it going,” Hisao says.
Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba, one of the key people driving the re-opening of this prior exclusion zone, says: “[Translated] Our ultimate goal is to restore Namie to be more like it was in the past. We have the responsibility to hand the town to the next generation.”
It is estimated there are 80,000 nuclear evacuees from the entire Fukushima region.
Around 50% of Namie’s former residents say they’ll never return and 30% are still undecided. For those that do go back, they’ll have a challenging and uncertain road ahead.
Tuesday 14 March at 9.30pm on SBS.