Japanese evacuees vote on Fukushima problems


Anti-nuclear activists demonstrate on March 17 in Barcelona, Spain in reaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The debate over nuclear safety has reignited worldwide, as workers in Fukushima desperately seek to prevent a nuclear meltdown.


Lluis Gene

Japanese evacuees from the towns of Okuma and Futaba near the Fukushima Daiichi reactor are voting in local elections Sunday, despite the fact that they have not been able to return to their homes since March, reported Wall Street Journal. Residents will be voting for mayors and representatives who will be faced with growing problems related to the failed nuclear plant.

According to The Guardian, more than 58,000 of the 80,000 residents in the Fukushima prefecture are living in other prefectures, making it difficult logistically to coordinate local elections. Turnout has been low, so far, hovering around 13 percent.

The Mainichi Daily News reported that there are two candidates in Okuma's mayor's race who have wildly different views on responding to the nuclear crisis. Former Okuma Municipal Assembly member Jin Kohata is calling for the town to be completely moved to 3 miles away on the premis that residents will never be allowed to return, while incumbent Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe is calling for decontamination efforts to people can return to their homes.

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According to the Daily News, a poll by Fukushima University showed that one in four residents of the Futaba district never plan on returning.

The overwhelming issues for the candidates are how to deal with the nuclear fallout from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor after the deadly earthquake and resulting tsunami last March.

The Los Angeles Times reported that two studies published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified hot spots of radioactivity as well as safe zones. The studies and maps could help governments decide what to do with certain tracts of land.

One piece of good news from the studies: A survey of 5,000 people over three months found low radiation levels. Only 10 people had exceptionally high doses of radiation in their system.

Still, the Associated Press reported that even if the nuclear disaster will cause higher instances of cancer, we may never know, since cancer rates for residents in industrialized nations are so high to begin with.

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