Matsumoto, Japan : A generation ago, Dr. Akira Sugenoya performed lifesaving cancer surgery on more than 100 children after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. Today, as mayor of a central Japanese city, he's trying to avoid a repeat of his own history.
Beginning in April, parents living in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be able to send their children about 300 kilometers (200 miles) away to his city, Matsumoto, to go to school. The city will pay 14 million yen ($140,000) a year for a six-bedroom house and caretakers; parents won't pay tuition but will cover expenses such as utilities and meals.
“If my fears turn out to be unfounded, nothing would be better news,” Sugenoya said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at Matsumoto city hall. “But if they become reality, then there is little time before it's too late.”
Sugenoya has been critical of the government's response to the three meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which exploded after the March 2011 tsunami and is still releasing radiation into the air and sea. Decommissioning will take decades, and experts disagree over how much the disaster will affect the health of area residents.