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  • FASSERT Christine (1)
  • SHIRABE Masashi (1)
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  • Working paper (2)
  • Article (1)
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Voluntary return is one of the pillars of durable solutions proposed for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) under the international normative framework and human rights instruments. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident that occurred in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, displaced more than 150,000 persons as a large amount of radioactive materials were released into the sea and the atmosphere from crippled reactors. Four years later, many of these evacuees remain displaced, unable or hesitant to return home, due to radiological and social consequences caused by the disaster. This policy brief seeks to examine the case of Fukushima evacuees with a special focus on the question of return and attempts to make policy recommendations, specifically tailored to deal with the nuclear displacement. It explores ways in which genuine durable solutions can be found for their case in line with international protection guidelines for IDPs.

in Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) - Expert Opinion Publié en 2016-03
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JAPAN’S 2011 DISASTER: RESPONSES TO NATURAL AND INDUSTRIAL CATASTROPHES The triple disaster that hit the Tohoku region of Japan on 11 March 2011 triggered a massive human displacement: more than 400,000 people evacuated their homes as a gigantic tsunami induced by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake engulfed the coastal areas, and the following nuclear accident in Fukushima released a large amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. This study analyses the disaster response, with a particular focus on evacuation of the population, and social consequences of this complex crisis, based on intensive fieldwork carried out one year after the catastrophe. It reveals that the responses of the Japanese authorities and population were significantly different between a natural disaster and an industrial (man-made) accident. TWO EVACUATION PATTERNS: RISK PERCEPTION VERSUS VULNERABILITY Being prone to both earthquakes and tsunamis, Japan had been preparing itself against such risks for many years. A tsunami alert was immediately issued and the population knew how and where to evacuate. In contrast, the evacuation from the nuclear accident was organised in total chaos, as a severe accident or large-scale evacuation had never been envisaged—let alone exercised—before the disaster. The population was thus forced to flee with no information as to the gravity of the accident or radiation risk. In both cases, the risk perception prior to the catastrophe played a key role in determining the vulnerability of the population at the time of the crisis. SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES FROM THE DISASTER: DIVIDED COMMUNITIES AND FAMILIES While tsunami evacuees are struggling with a slow reconstruction process due to financial difficulties, nuclear evacuees are suffering from uncertainty as to their prospect of return. One year after the accident, the Japanese authorities began to encourage nuclear evacuees to return to the areas contaminated by radiation according to a newly established safety standard. This triggered a vivid controversy within the affected communities, creating a rift between those who trust the government’s notion of safety and those who do not. The nuclear disaster has thus become a major social disaster in Japan dividing and weakening the affected communities. www.iddri

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In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, many of the post-disaster responses undertaken by the Japanese government sparked vivid debates and criticisms from the civil society. These concern emergency responses such as the revision of public exposure dose limit, designation of evacuation zones, distribution of iodine tablets, and risk communication as well as mid and long-term policies including radiation dose monitoring, decontamination, waste management, return of evacuees, and health and food monitoring. Convinced that such public agitation derived from their lack of scientific knowledge, the authorities undertook a strategy to enhance their communication on radiological risk and its health effects. In this paper, we attempt to challenge the traditional notion of “risk communication” which considers that the concerned risks have been clearly defined by the scientific community and that the problem simply remains in communicating them “rightly” to the population. We argue, in contrary, that risks cannot be properly defined without understanding the “real” concern of the population – what they consider as risks - nor taking into account existing scientific controversies and uncertainties. In such a context, what we need is not so much of risk communication but rather participatory risk assessment where risks are debated by multiple stakeholders and actors including counter- or independent experts and third parties such as NPOs, and are defined collectively rather than decided single-handedly by policymakers – the authorities and their affiliated experts. The paper is drawn from the preliminary results of the SHINRAI (‘trust’ in Japanese) project led by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), in collaboration with Sciences Po Paris and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech). This research examines the relation between science, expertise, trust and decisions in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident by conducting an extensive field interviews in the affected areas of the Fukushima prefecture.