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Fukushima town lifts evacuation order, but few former residents want to come back

More than 80% of the municipality is designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone still experiencing high levels of radiation, the spokesman said. And a survey conducted last August found that 60.5% of residents had decided not to return — far exceeding the 11.3% who wanted to come back.

Fukushima town lifts evacuation order, allowing former residents to return 11 years after nuclear disaster, By Emiko Jozuka and Jessie Yeung, CNN, August 30,

Tokyo (CNN)More than a decade after Japan’s worst nuclear disaster, the town that hosts the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant finally lifted its evacuation order on Tuesday, allowing former residents to come home.

The town of Futaba, previously deemed off-limits, is the last of 11 districts to lift its evacuation order, a spokesman for the town’s municipal office told CNN.

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s east coast, triggering a tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown at the power plant and a major release of radioactive material. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

More than 300,000 people living near the nuclear plant were forced to evacuate temporarily; thousands more did so voluntarily. Once-bustling communities were turned into ghost towns.

In the years since, large-scale cleanup and decontamination operations have allowed some residents who once lived in the former exclusion zone to return.

…………………….Authorities began preparing for the town’s reopening this year; in January, they launched a program allowing former residents to return temporarily, but only 85 people from 52 households took part, the Futaba official said……………….It remains unclear, however, how many people will return — and how long the town will take to recover.

More than 80% of the municipality is designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone still experiencing high levels of radiation, the spokesman said. And a survey conducted last August found that 60.5% of residents had decided not to return — far exceeding the 11.3% who wanted to come back.

Futaba has no official timeline on when other areas of the town will be fully decontaminated.

But the spokesman expressed hope for the town’s future, saying Futaba aims to increase its population to 2,000 by 2030.

If other Japanese towns affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster are any indication, Futaba has a long road ahead. Even places that lifted evacuation orders several years ago have continued to face challenges.

For instance, Katsurao village, which lies about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from the plant, reopened to residents in 2016, but some households are still waiting for their sections of the village to be decontaminated.

Others may still have concerns about radiation. Despite the decontamination efforts, a 2020 survey by Kwansei Gakuin University found 65% of evacuees no longer wanted to return to Fukushima prefecture — 46% feared residual contamination and 45% had settled elsewhere.

CNN’s Kathleen Benoza contributed reporting.  https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/30/asia/futaba-fukushima-nuclear-evacuation-order-intl-hnk/index.html

August 30, 2022 - Posted by | Japan, social effects

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