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Evacuation order finally lifted for Fukushima nuclear plant town

The town of Futaba, which hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. An evacuation order for the town was lifted on Tuesday for the first time since the March 2011 disaster.

Aug 30, 2022

Fukushima – An evacuation order in a town hosting the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was lifted Tuesday for the first time since the March 2011 disaster 11 years and five months ago, as the municipality prepares for the return of some of its residents.

The order for the Fukushima Prefecture town, which hosts the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. complex, was imposed after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the country’s northeast, triggering reactor meltdowns and making the area uninhabitable due to high radiation levels.

Futaba is the last municipality to see an evacuation order lifted among 11 municipalities subject to such orders in the wake of the disaster. Although residents are now allowed to return home, over 80% of the municipality, by acreage, remains designated as “difficult-to-return” zones.

The parts reopened for habitation are located near JR Futaba Station in the town’s previously downtown area and its northeast, where many commercial and public facilities, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum, are located.

With relatively low radiation levels, people had been allowed to enter the northeastern area since March 2020 but not to reside there.

As of late July, 3,574 people from 1,449 households, or over 60% of the town’s population, were registered as residents of the two areas accounting for just 15% of Futaba’s total area.

But the number of residents who participated in a preparatory program started in January, allowing them to return temporarily, totaled just 85 people from 52 households.

Following the disaster, most of the town’s residents were evacuated outside the prefecture, along with the town office’s functions. A number of them have since settled outside the town.

While Futaba aims to increase its population to 2,000 by around 2030, a survey of residents last year found that 60.5% had decided not to return, far exceeding the 11.3% who expressed a desire to return.

As for areas other than those that are reopening or scheduled to reopen, the government plans to decontaminate individual locations after confirming that residents intend to return. Futaba and Okuma, a neighboring town to the south that also hosts the crippled power station, are expected to start such work in fiscal 2024.

Although the government said last August it is aiming for the return of residents to areas outside reconstruction and revitalization bases by the end of the decade, the prospects are unclear as areas covering over 300 square kilometers in seven municipalities of the prefecture are designated as difficult-to-return zones.

In Okuma and Futaba, the return of such residents is likely to occur around fiscal 2025 or 2026 at the earliest, considering the time needed for infrastructure building, according to a government official.

Earlier this month, Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa asked industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura to “show a road map toward decontamination of the entire area” when he visited Fukushima after assuming the ministerial post.

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori also pointed out that “the steps and scope of decontamination, as well as how to treat the homes and land of those who do not wish to return, have not been worked out.”

The evacuation order was lifted a day after Futaba celebrated the reopening of a residential police box located approximately 3 km northwest of the nuclear plant in the municipality.

The police box, which will house one officer, was shuttered immediately after the nuclear disaster.

“I would like to support the town by keeping the peace here so residents can return feeling secure,” said Hirotaka Umemiya, 40, as he began his duties in the town.

A separate ceremony was held Saturday for the opening of Futaba’s new town office, which was temporarily located in the neighboring city of Iwaki, with its operations set to start Sept. 5.

Three nuclear reactors on the Okuma side of the Fukushima No. 1 complex suffered meltdowns, while the two reactors on the Futaba side was unscathed.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/08/30/national/futaba-evacuation-order/

September 4, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | ,

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