Cleanup Begins at Evacuated Futaba, Close To Meltdowns

Here's a sound that has not been heard in the town of Futaba, Japan, since March 2011, when the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown after an earthquake-triggered tidal wave knocked out backup power at the plant:

FutabaThat would the sound of a lawn mower.

Or a weed-wacker.

But both sounds were heard Monday as the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company began its cleanup efforts in a specially-designated area of the town that is hoped could be re-populated with new homes and infrastructure by 2022.

Japan Times reported that the cleanup had begun in a “special reconstruction zone,” which comprises about 11 percent of the town's land. The remaining 89 percent will remain designated as a “difficult to return to zone” that currently encompasses about 96 percent of the town.

The town's mayor, Shiro Izawa, said he hoped rebuilding part of the town would encourage some of the evacuated residents to return. The newspaper, however, quoted a 69-year-old woman who said she had become to old since March 2011 to think of returning. Her former home, one of 60 houses to be destroyed in the cleanup effort, represents too much of an effort, she said, to think of rebuilding at her age.

Weed-wacking, moving neglected lawns and lots, bulldozing buildings are part of the tasks that will be paid for by Tepco and the government. They will also remove the top layer of soil, potentially, in the entire 555-hectare area to be reconstructed.

Futaba is one of seven municipalities that were evacuated during the crisis and the first to undergo reconstruction cleanup. Some former residents still envision returning. “I hope that Futaba will become a town where people can visit one day,” said former resident Masamichi Matsumoto.

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