from Sunday Herald, 12 October 2014, from Fukushima
Shortly after 3.30 in the afternoon of 11 March 2011, Yukiteru Naka watched from the window of his gleaming new hilltop house in Tomioka, Japan, as a tsunami broke over the roofs of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power station a kilometre down the coast. As a nuclear engineer, he knew just how serious this could be.
Last Saturday he stood forlornly outside his empty dream home with his Geiger counter in his hand, admitting that he had no idea when he would ever be allowed to return. Although his house survived the huge wave because of its altitude, it was badly contaminated by the subsequent nuclear accident at the sister plant of Fukushima Daiichi, 10 kilometres to the north.
Radiation levels in his garden are now about three microSieverts an hour, 37 times higher than in Tokyo 200 kilometres away. “The house is is not locked, there is nothing there,” he says with a sad laugh. “I’ve lost the key.”
Naka’s home is in the Japanese government’s designated restricted zone, which means he is allowed to return briefly during the daytime, but not to stay overnight. Just across the road, is the more contaminated “no return” zone where residents won’t be allowed home.
He has been forced to leave his contaminated car in the garage and the barbeque he built on the grass, and relocate with his wife 130 kilometres away to the city of Koriyama. He has also had to move his nuclear engineering firm, which has been contracted to work in the Fukushima plants.
Near his house, the town of Tomioka is deserted, patrolled only by solitary ghost-like officials in masks and bright white radiation coveralls. The tsunami smashed the railway station, gutted shops and wrecked homes – all still unrepaired because they’re contaminated.