Six years after the catastrophic nuclear meltdown, a new chapter for the Fukushima Daiichi plant will soon open. Even as residents prepare to move back into long-abandoned villages and towns, the site continues to leak radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding area.
But some of the space will have to be taken back by force. Hundreds of wild boars – sometimes hostile and aggressive, and irradiated – have taken control of entire neighborhoods in the years since the humans left in 2011, according to an the on-the-ground report by Reuters.
“It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars,” said Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie, a seaside town. “If we don’t get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable.”
Namie is closer than three miles away from the ruined Fukushima reactors. But the town is expected to be opened back up to residents, along with Tomioka and settlements.
Namie was once home to 21,500 residents – but more than half have decided not to return, according to the wire service.
A roving group of hunters in Tomioka are using baited cage traps and air rifles to kill the animals, they told reports.
The concern is the boars can become aggressive to humans in territorial disputes – and they may also cause serious car crashes as they wander the long-deserted streets along the eastern coast of Japan.
The boars are illegal to eat, since they have been subsisting on irradiated plants and garbage.
The monitoring of the area surrounding the nuclear disaster has become a massive undertaking. Mothers working without scientific background have been enlisted to work part-time in a laboratory in Iwaki to monitor food-water and soil, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
Still, a study published last week by scientists from the Fukushima Medical University and the University of Tokyo found that the levels of radioactivity in the area had subsided enough to permit people to move back to their old homes in the area.
The utility that is administering to the continued problems told The Associated Press last year that the total fixes at Fukushima would take another four years.
"We will bring an end to the problem by 2020," says Yuichi Okamura, who led the Tokyo Electric Power Co. team dealing with radioactive water at Fukushima.
Officials estimated placed the initial death toll of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster at 18,000. But thousands are more expected to develop cancer in the coming years. About half of the 100,000 people who were evacuated in the wake of the meltdowns have still not returned, and have relocated elsewhere.
There have been scares since the 2011 disaster, as well. An earthquake in November 2016 was considered to be an aftershock of the seminal temblor five years earlier, and prompted major tsunami warnings, although major damage and destruction was avoided.