Issues Facing Voluntary Evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident Based on the Collection and Analysis of Cases of Voluntary Evacuation
Kota Tomoyasu*, Reo Kimura*, Hitomi Mashima**, and Ikuno Kazama**
*Graduate School of Human Science and Environment, University of Hyogo, Hyogo, Japan
**NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Tokyo, Japan
Although over three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, it is estimated that there remain approximately 135,000 evacuees from the nuclear power plant accident, 81,000 of whom had been living in areas under evacuation orders and 54,000 of whom had been living outside these areas (i.e., voluntary evacuees). However, the lived experience of such voluntary evacuees has been uncertain, as it is not possible to identify them. Consequently, it has not been possible to clarify the anxieties they harbor as they continue their extended existence as evacuees or to determine the issues they face in reconstructing their lives, making it difficult to extend suitable assistance measures. In this study, we worked with NHK to conduct a survey of voluntary evacuees. A list of interviewees compiled by NHK reporters was used to survey voluntary evacuees, who are difficult to identify. By analyzing the collected cases, we examined issues faced by “voluntary evacuees.” The results showed that the majority of the voluntary evacuees in this survey were mothers who had evacuated with their young children (but without their spouses) and who felt that they had had to evacuate due to anxieties about the effects of radiation exposure on their children’s growth. They tended to feel that it was difficult to return to their former areas of residence and that they had no choice except to continue living as evacuees. Furthermore, there were cases in which couples that had previously been living together had separated for reasons of work or place of occupation and had been forced into situations where they were obliged to economically support two households, with adverse effects on their budgets, minds, and bodies. In addition, the nuclear power plant accident made it difficult for them to decide where to base themselves in the future; in some cases, evacuees returned to their pre-disaster areas of residence only to evacuate again. Against the designation “voluntary,” the voluntary evacuees in this survey lived under circumstances in which they felt that they had had no choice but to evacuate; in enduring the difficulties of evacuation, they did not feel they had acted according to their voluntary will. This points to the need to implement effective assistance.
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