Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.9 Mr. Masahiro YUNOKAWA

This is a dosimeter to measure spatial radioactivity, which is pocket-sized, and easy to handle. As I measured it just before this session and it was 0.05 μSv/h in Yotsuya, Tokyo. How much is it in Fukushima now? It still measures about 0.3 μSv/h around my house in Fukushima City even now (2015).
The Government sets the annual radiation exposure standard at 1 mSv, which is converted to 0.19μSv/h. The natural radioactivity which used to read before the nuclear accident is 0.04μSv/h, and therefore the annual radiation exposure reading becomes 0.23μSv/h. The today’s reading of 0.05μSv/h in Yotsuya is very low, comparing with 0.3μSv/h around my house. This exceeds the tolerance limit of 1 mSv per annum. It was about 3μSv/h in our garden six months after the evacuation. It was 10 times more than the present reading which is very high.
However, after the accident, the figure that the Government orders evacuation was set at 20 mSv per year. Conversely, if it is 20 mSv or less, there is no need to evacuate. But, judging from the original standard, it is too high. If you continue to live in a place like that, you always have to worry about your health. The situation is all too painful.

The most worrisome at present is thyroid cancer. Children of Fukushima regularly undergo an ultrasound to see if there is a lump in the thyroid gland. They had it twice already. If there is no lump, it is classified as A1. If a lump is small and seems benign, it is classified as A2. If a lump is large, it is classified as B or C, and one will undergo a further examination which includes blood, urine, cell test and ultrasonic examinations. If there is no problem found, one will wait for the next one two years later. If there is some doubt about the test results, a biopsy will be given. If there is some doubt of cancer, one will go and see the doctor. 300,000 out of about 370,000 young people under the age of 18 at the time of the accident took the first test. There are a total of 109 people who were diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery together with the suspected cases which are under observation. Only 75,000 people took the second examination which started last year (2014). However, another eight came out already who were diagnosed with cancer or were suspected to be cancerous. Those who were diagnosed with cancer are meant that they underwent surgery. Those who were suspected of cancer are people who would not undergo an operation yet, but are most likely to be cancerous. Therefore, to be suspected of cancer meant only that they have not yet undergone surgery.

In these circumstances, my children also underwent thyroid cancer examination. I was relieved to know that all of them passed the first test: they were classified into A1. However, the last fall when they had the second, the eldest of my children, a 9th grader, was found to be on B level. Being told that a lump was found in her thyroid, we were advised to have a further check-up. My wife took the child to the Fukushima Medical University. The doctor did not tell the result at that time. It was I who went to the Thyroid Center to hear the result. I was surprised to see so many pre-schoolers to high school students. There were about 20 to 30 in the waiting room – some for a check-up, and other for hearing the result. I thought that the majority was okay, but there may be some who were diagnosed with cancer. The hospital is staffed by counselors, and they say that you can come whenever you have questions or when a diagnosis is made. But it is too late after one is diagnosed with cancer, isn’t it?
On March 11, 2014, news was featured on TV program “the Press Station,” one of the popular TV programs, under the title of “Fukushima’s Thyroid Cancer,” while other stations featured mainly the Great East Japan Earthquake, such as extensive damage by “tsunami,” the reconstruction after the disaster, food, the distribution system, etc. “The Press Station” interviewed a mother whose child was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The news was very painful to see, but I remember I was watching with a feeling that it was someone else’s worry, but not mine. At that time, I’d never imagined that my daughter would be classified into level B.
She passed the minute examination without any problems found this time and I came home relieved. But what will the verdict turn out to be after two years? What’s more, a worry such as this will come every two years. This medical examination is said to be continued over a span of 30 years. We are constrained to live in this situation. This is the reason why we should keep evacuating.

Now, various projects are undertaken in Fukushima under the name of reconstruction.
The decontamination work which is being done throughout Fukushima City now is one of them. Decontaminating my house was over the year before last (2013), which was done rather early even in Fukushima City. The work is limited exclusively within the residential area. What is more problematic is that the depot to keep contaminated soil has not been ready yet. Therefore, it must be kept within our own premises. In my case, as I have a vacant lot a little away from my house, I have buried it there for the time being. Those in the town who do not have such a space dig a hole in the garden to throw the contaminated mud in it or simply store it in a corner of the premises covering it with a blue sheet. The work is being done throughout the city of Fukushima. Currently, 60% of the residential area has been decontaminated, but 40% remains untouched. In the case of Fukushima City, all the houses must be decontaminated: 55,000 households out of 95,000 was over and the remaining 40,000 are still on the waiting list.
Following the residential area, roads, fields, mountains and forests must be decontaminated. To begin with the roads, they started, this year (2015), with the municipal roads and side gutters near my house. Then comes the decontamination of the forest and banks within a 20-meter radius of housing zone. Since Tatsugoyama is in the countryside, there are vast areas that must be decontaminated.
I think it hard to understand what decontamination really means. The work is to scrape the soil about 3 cm, which is believed to be enough for radioactive substances to be removed. However, if the radiation level is still high, the soil has to be scraped deeper still. The work is repeated until the radiation level satisfies the required standard. Roofs and concrete driveway are washed by a high pressure washer. Tarnished brown concrete driveway have turned to white. In our case, all the bricks were peeled and washed one by one, all the planes of hexahedron. There were about 200 pieces. Such work continues endlessly.
The task is laborious, and workers have a hard time. Being short-staffed, a lot of workers join in the task from Kanto, Kansai and Kyushu areas. We see their cars parked near our house. Since the decontamination work has started all at once not only in Tatsugoyama, but the neighboring districts and entire Fukushima City, workers of tens of thousands have rushed into Fukushima. I heard that one area alone has 200 to 300 workers. Farm roads, waterways, reservoirs, fire-prevention water tanks, and orchards also have to be decontaminated in the future. I wonder when it will end. All the expense is covered by the Government, but the endless work still continues today.
Watching such a situation every day, I think I cannot go back to Fukushima right away. Evacuees living in Yonezawa also have the same idea with me, and encourage ourselves each other, saying “Let’s bear up a bit more.”