March 27, 2012
Since the creation of the Fukushima Revitalization Vision, the prefecture has been making steady progress along the difficult path to full recovery. While the regional government is taking the lead in this enormous undertaking, it is receiving vital support from organizations such as the Fukushima Future Center.
The Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization was set up by Fukushima University as part of its efforts to assist local people and evacuees following the devastating Tohoku earthquake. The national university has been working with cities, towns and villages as well as several NPOs and other organizations to provide voluntary support for sufferers, radiation check-ups in contaminated areas and research on agricultural products, among various other activities.
To further this program, the university created the Fukushima Future Center in early April 2011, specifically to provide scientific analysis and research on the impact of the Great East Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The center works in close cooperation with the prefectural government and consists of four departments operating a total of nine project teams, each addressing a theme included in the Fukushima Revitalization Revision.
The center is currently expanding its operations with funds made available by the Japanese government under its third supplementary budget. This includes continuing to set up its facilities, procure the necessary equipment and hiring its staff. At present, the center is giving particular focus to three of its nine research themes, as follows:
1. Support for devastated areas: This mainly involves efforts to improve the quality of life for people living in evacuation centers and temporary housing. Between September and October 2011, the center conducted a research program in which staff interviewed evacuees in eight villages and towns in Futaba, an area that has largely been designated as a caution zone.
2. Support for industry: In this case, activities include researching the current state of soil contamination caused by radioactive particles and instructing local governments in measurement techniques. The center has also been helping some areas to create detailed soil contamination maps to counteract negative rumors. It is also discussing further measures to prevent such rumors, including agricultural product checks both at the time of shipment and in shops.
3. Support for children: The center is actively conducting research to analyze the social and mental impact of the disaster on children in the devastated area. Working with university student volunteers, it has implemented a care program that includes play activities as well as actual counseling.
While research activities form the core of its operations, the center is also undertaking a variety of practical measures to assist evacuees. In January 2012, it concluded an agreement with eight villages and towns in the Futaba area to provide full-scale support to assist evacuees in returning to their homes. At the same time, it also began to draw up a plan for longer-term rebuilding and revitalization of damaged areas.
Also in January, it used some of the funds from the third supplementary budget to set up a satellite link within the center for radiation countermeasure of minamisoma city. Having this equipment in an area heavily affected by the nuclear disaster will help the center to pursue more practical and realistic support, beyond its research work.
Through these activities, the center plans to keep itself on the frontline of recovery efforts, allowing it to maintain contact with both the people and area. This will be an important factor in developing improved solutions to current problems. The center intends to constantly review its programs so it can provide the best support to help evacuees return home and reconstruct and revitalize the region.
Dr. Mitsuo Yamakawa, the chief of the center
Lecture about the effects of radiation on children