For many Fukushima evacuees, the truth is they won't be going home

For many Fukushima evacuees, the truth is they won't be going home
Norio Horiuchi, an evacuee from the town of Tomioka, near the tsunami-crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant, speaks during an interview with Reuters in his unit in a temporary housing estate, where 200 former Tomioka town residents also have been evacuated to, in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture November 8, 2013.

IWAKI, Japan - For many of Japan's oldest nuclear refugees, all they want is to be allowed back to the homes they were forced to abandon. Others are ready to move away, severing ties to the ghost towns that remain in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.

But among the thousands of evacuees stuck in temporary housing more than two and a half years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, there is a shared understanding on one point - Japan's government is unable to deliver on its ambitious initial goals for cleaning up the areas that had to be evacuated after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

"You can't have a temporary life forever," said Ichiro Kazawa, 61, whose home was destroyed by the tsunami that also knocked out power to the Fukushima plant.

Kazawa escaped four minutes before the first wave. Next year, he hopes to return to a home within sight of the Fukushima plant and take his 88-year-old mother back. But he wants the government to admit what many evacuees have already accepted - for many there will be no going home as planned.

"I think it will be easier for people who can't go back anyway to be told that so they can plan their future," said Kazawa, who remains unemployed.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition parties on Monday recommended the government step back from the most ambitious Fukushima clean-up goals, and begin telling evacuees that a $30 billion clean-up will not achieve the long-term radiation reduction goal set by the previous administration. "The government and ruling party will act as one and deal with this firmly," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, adding that Abe would consider the proposal seriously.

The government is also considering a proposal floated earlier this month to offer new compensation to residents in the areas of highest radiation who have no prospect of returning home, officials involved have said.

"There will come a time when someone has to say, 'You won't be able to live here any more, but we will make up for it'," the secretary general of the LDP, Shigeru Ishiba, said in a speech earlier this month.

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