University of Montana Journalism Professor Denise Dowling and several students are traveling to Japan for what is being termed an environmental writing course, specifically to study the effects of the Fukushima disaster.

"Nadia White, a fellow professor at the journalism school and I are leading 14 students to study in Japan," Dowling began. "We are going to take a look at the people who were evacuated and displaced after the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant meltdown in 2011. What's news is that the people who had been evacuated had been receiving payments from the government for housing and distress pay. Those payments have ended and the government is urging them to move back to their hometowns. We're going to see if they have enough trust in the government that these places are cleaned up, that they'll actually be going back."

Dowling said their first week will be spent in Tokyo where they will speak with young people who have moved there after being evacuated from Fukushima province . Following that, they will travel to the Fukushima prefecture.

"That will include a tour of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which is still melting down, and we will talk to people who never left, along with people who will be moving back to the area," she said.

Dowling commented on any concerns for herself and her students about lingering radioactivity.

"I'm not concerned," she said. "We've had experts come and talk to us about the level of radiation that is ongoing there," she said. "There are people who are living and working in the area and they are not having problems with exposure. Because we'll only be there for a week, there's just no chance we'll have a risk of exposure."

Dowling said the journalism students will be producing multimedia reports featuring video, audio and still photos in addition to regular posts on Facebook. They will be launching a website specific to the project on Monday, May 15.

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