Recovery efforts in Fukushima face a complex range of daunting challenges, which are perhaps most evident in the multiple communities that have now been displaced for more than three years by the nuclear accident following the March 2011 disasters. Effective and informed decision-making will be of crucial importance for long-term recovery, together with enhanced communication efforts to include all stakeholders. These and other topics were discussed during a panel session at the July 2014 International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP2014), organised by the FGC project and the FAIRDO project of IGES. The session was developed by Ana Mosneaga, lead researcher of the FGC team, and Totoki Yoshiaki of IGES.
The session promoted the exchange of views and findings between the FGC and FAIRDO projects, and drew on inputs from a range of stakeholders active in relevant academic disciplines as well as the recovery process in Fukushima. The primary objective throughout the session was to draw lessons from, as well as for, the displaced communities of Fukushima.
A number of key messages emerged over the course of the panel presentations and subsequent discussions with the audience:
- Nuclear disasters carry wide-reaching economic, social and environmental consequences.Such disasters differ from natural disasters due to, among other things, the uncertainty of when evacuees can return home, and how they can resume their livelihoods. Due to such specificities, nuclear disasters tend to deepen the divisions among and within affected families and communities.
- Recovering from nuclear disasters requires striking a balance between often divergent opinions and perspectives. Creating mechanisms for consensus-building such as local roundtables comprising a representative group of different stakeholders, involving residents of the affected areas, public authorities and experts, as well as providing platforms for sharing information is important for improving stakeholder communication and promoting informed decision-making.
- Learning lessons from Fukushima and transferring these to future generations is a matter of shared responsibility of all stakeholders involved in the recovery process. Technical investigation of the nuclear accident has been performed, but greater focus needs to be placed on improving nuclear emergency responses and evacuation procedures based on the lessons learned following the accident. At the same time, improving the general public’s knowledge about radiation issues should be part of disaster preparedness strategies. Likewise, good practices and success stories from recovery efforts in Fukushima need to be shared with the public in Japan and the rest of the world.
- Experiencing nuclear emergencies and recovering from them also entails mental health challenges. Timely and adequate provision of information is essential for addressing these challenges.
The panel of speakers who delivered presentations and responded to questions from the audience was comprised of Mr. Norio Kanno (Mayor, Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture), Dr. Naoya Sekiya (Project Associate Professor, Center for Integrated Disaster Information Research, The University of Tokyo), Dr. Hiroshi Suzuki (Senior Fellow, IGES;Professor Emeritus, Fukushima University; Chair, Fukushima Prefecture Reconstruction Committee) and Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi (Research Fellow, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health).
A detailed report of the presentations and subsequent discussion is now available in both English and Japanese.