High levels of radiation, planned evacuations and no-entry zones as a result of the meltdown at Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear facility have combined to place the prefecture’s forest industry in danger of collapse.
As news continues surfacing showing the nuclear disaster was far greater than government and power company officials initially reported, its negative impact continues spreading throughout the region. Towns which were once part of the government’s stay-indoors policy are now being designated as emergency evacuation preparation zones. As a result, long-term ramifications of the nuclear catastrophe are beginning to be felt.
Approximately 341,000 acres (138,000 hectares) in Fukushima Prefecture are under the jurisdiction of five forestry cooperatives, based on information from the Fukushima Prefectural Government and an association of prefecture forestry cooperatives. Located in 11 municipalities, the woodlands are either part of a no-entry zone or required evacuation areas in coming weeks, based on government orders.
“If we can't go in to thin the trees for a year or longer, the underbrush will grow and the saplings that have been newly planted will suffer from lack of sunlight,” said Hiroshi Sagara, a forestry cooperative chief, the Mainichi Daily News (MDN) reports. “The forest will fall into disrepair and trees will fail to grow well.”
Adding to the woes are concerns of severe soil contamination caused by radioactive materials, a probability which would impact the forest industry for some time to come. “Improving soil quality (in forests) is harder than it is for farmland. Even if the evacuation orders are rescinded, it may be a long time before radiation levels are low enough for workers to go in there,” Sagara added.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) continues to be slow in releasing vital information. Almost two months after the earthquake and devastating tsunami struck, the power company admitted a nuclear meltdown had occurred at one of the plant’s reactors. Days after the late revelation, it stated meltdowns had also occurred in two additional reactors at the plant.
In May, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered a shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, located two hours southwest of Tokyo, over growing concerns a major quake is likely to occur in the Chubu region within the coming decades. Located above a risky tectonic faultline, the plant’s operator has been ordered to upgrade the facility and build a higher seawall which officials believe will prevent another disaster such as the ongoing one at Daiichi.