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» Decontamination work has not progressed in Nasu resort area

Decontamination work at Nasu Highland, one of Japan’s most famous cottage areas, is making little headway because many owners of vacation houses have been unreachable in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant.

As of Nov. 4, only 3,361 houses or less than 20 percent of about 20,000 houses under the decontamination program in the town of Nasu have been cleared of radioactive soil and other contaminated waste. The disaster cleanup has not progressed as scheduled because town authorities have been unable to contact many vacation homeowners from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa Prefecture in the south to win their consent.

Rainwater runs down from contaminated hilly terrain dotted with vacation houses, prompting local residents to ask the town government to do something about it.

More than half of the houses in Nasu along the Tochigi-Fukushima border are vacation homes and the town has been designated as a contamination research area. But consent from each homeowner is a prerequisite for carrying out decontamination work. And the town has sent out research and decontamination consent forms to absentee homeowners since January last year.

While about 11,000 homeowners have given consent to decontamination work, some homeowners have refused to comply, saying they rarely use their vacation houses. About 3,600 homeowners have not responded to the consent forms. Most reminder notices that the town government sent to vacation home owners have been unanswered.

In many cases, consent forms have been sent back to the town because homeowners have relocated from their registered address, according to town officials. Furthermore, there are a significant number of cases in which relatives who have inherited the ownership of vacation houses have given up on managing the homes, leaving them in a dilapidated condition.

As a result, decontamination work in all of an area has been next to impossible and done sporadically. A town official in charge says vacation homeowners probably lack interest in radiation doses and decontamination work, as compared to permanent residents.

Under a special law on decontaminating radioactive substances, authorities concerned can proceed with decontamination work by posting a notice in a newspaper and taking other procedures even if a homeowner is unreachable. But contaminated soil from the cleanup work has been temporarily stored covered with water-shielding sheets on the premises of respective homes. ”We can’t do anything without consent from homeowners,” the town official said.

The town extended the targeted completion of the decontamination program mapped out in April 2012 from the originally scheduled March 2014 to March 2017.
<Media Report>
Vacation houses hamper decontamination work in famous Tochigi Pref. town (Mainichi Newspaper)

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