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Asking the tough questions on Fukushima

What a load of spun crap, to be polite: “Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.”

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In the thick of it: Industry Minister Yosuke Takagi (right) is exploring a variety of options to boost agricultural areas near the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.

In January, regional newspaper Fukushima Minpo interviewed Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry. While talking about reconstruction plans for areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Takagi mentioned resurrecting Dash-mura (Dash Village), a farm created from scratch by boy band Tokio for its Nippon TV series “The Tetsuwan Dash.”

The location of Dash-mura was always secret, lest Tokio’s fans descend on the project and destroy its rustic purity. But following the reactor accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake, it was revealed that the farm was in an area declared off-limits due to its proximity to the plant. It was promptly abandoned.

A different news outlet, Fukushima Minyu, clarified that the revival of Dash-mura is “nothing more than a personal idea of Takagi’s,” but that he intends to discuss it with related parties. An 80-year-old farmer who once worked with Tokio on the project told Minyu that bringing back the farm would be a great PR boost for the area’s agriculture, which is obviously Takagi’s aim. The show’s producer, however, after hearing of Takagi’s comment, tweeted that he knew nothing about the news, adding cryptically that “Dash-mura is no one’s thing.”

The Huffington Post called the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to ask if it had any intention of reviving Dash-mura. A representative only “confirmed” that Takagi had “made such a comment” and said METI had no “definite plan” to that end but might “study it.”

Nevertheless, the idea fits in with the government’s goal of getting former residents to move back to the area. Last week, authorities announced they would further reduce the evacuation zone at the end of the month, which means it will have shrunk by 70 percent since April 2014. The concern is that few people want to return. Some have already made lives for themselves elsewhere and see a lack of opportunity in their old communities.

Many also remain suspicious of the government’s assurances that radioactivity has dropped to a safe level. There is still debate among experts as to whether or not the radiation in the area is dangerous. The government says that the problems caused by the accident are now “under control,” and affected residents can soon go back to their old lives.

One media outlet who has challenged this assumption is TV Asahi’s “Hodo Station.” On March 9, the nightly news show sent its main announcer, Yuta Tomikawa, to Iitate, a village located about 40 km from the crippled nuclear facility. All 6,000 residents were eventually evacuated after the accident.

Standing in front of rows of black plastic bags, Tomikawa reported that, according to the government, decontamination efforts have been a success. A safe annual radiation level is 1 millisievert, but a local dairy farmer told Tomikawa that his own readings showed five times that level, adding that 70 percent of Iitate is wooded and forest land had not been decontaminated yet.

Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.

Tomikawa did not say that people who returned to Iitate would be in danger, but he did imply that the government is manipulating numbers in an attempt to persuade evacuees to return to their homes.

The web magazine Litera wrote that TV Asahi is the only mainstream media outlet to question the government line in this regard. Actually, Nippon TV did something similar, albeit indirectly. Last month, it rebroadcasted an episode of its “NNN Document” series about the married manzai (stand-up comedy) duo Oshidori Mako-Ken’s efforts to come to terms with the Fukushima meltdowns and their aftermath.

The couple belongs to the large Osaka-based entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo, but ever since the disaster Mako has attended about 500 related news conferences, making a nuisance of herself by plying Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings employees and government officials with questions the mainstream media don’t usually ask.

In order to gain access to the news conferences, she offered stories to the weekly magazine Spa! Her editor there told Nippon TV that Mako is now respected or resented by a lot of full-time journalists, partly because she’s a geinojin (entertainer) who has proved her mettle as a reporter, but mainly because of her hard-line queries, which put her interlocutors on the spot.

Following the disaster, Mako became suspicious when she saw people fleeing Tokyo in large numbers but heard nothing about it on the news. In order to make sense of the situation she’d watch unfiltered news conferences about the disaster on the internet. She realized only independent reporters asked tough questions, so she started attending them herself as a proxy for average people who didn’t understand what was going on. The more officials obfuscated, the more she studied.

She’s now recognized by some foreign press as one of the most informed persons on the subject — she even received a letter of encouragement from Pope Francis — and yet she’s shunned by the Japanese press. Nevertheless, she has dedicated followers, including workers cleaning up the reactor who often feed her questions to ask of officials. She’s won awards for her work, but from citizens groups, not media groups.

Nowadays, Mako and Ken do more free lectures on Fukushima No. 1 than they do comedy shows. One of their main themes is that media reports tend to confuse the public rather than inform them, but that’s really the fault of the government, which would like nothing better than for people to feel as if nothing ever happened.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/18/national/media-national/asking-tough-questions-fukushima/

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March 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

More Evacuation Orders to Be Lifted in Namie and Tomioka Towns

15 March, 2017, from Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Japan pro-nuclear website :

On March 10, the Japanese government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters decided to lift evacuation orders in two categories in Namie and Tomioka Towns: specifically, those areas where “living is not permitted” and those where “evacuation order will soon be lifted.” The orders will be lifted at 12:00 a.m. on March 31 and April 1 in Namie and Tomioka, respectively.

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Since similar orders in the same two categories will also be lifted on March 31 in Iitate Village and Kawamata Town, the latest decision means that the only areas where evacuation orders are still in effect are those where “residents will not be able to return home for a long time.” Specifically, that refers to all of Okuma and Futaba Towns, as well as certain areas of Minami-Soma City, Tomioka Town, Namie Town, Katsurao Village and Iitate Village.

Apart from those, sections of the JR Joban Line unusable since the earthquake will be reopened when the orders are lifted in Namie and Tomioka Towns: namely, the line between Odaka and Namie on April 1, and the line between Tomioka and Tatsuta in some time in October.

According to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, area-wide decontamination has already been completed as of the end of January in nine of the eleven municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that are now designated as “special decontamination areas,” which are directly managed by the national government. The term does not include areas where residents will not be able to return home for a long time.

The decontamination work is expected to be completed in the remaining two municipalities—Minami-Soma City and Namie Town—by the end of this month.

As for the transport of soil removed in decontamination work to sites planned for the interim storage of radioactive waste, a total of about 210,000 cubic meters has already been transported as of the beginning of March. In FY17 (April 2017 to March 2018), some 500,000 cubic meters of removed soil will be transported, in anticipation of the beginning of storage next fall, with priority to be placed on soil now stored at schools.

http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/more-evacuation-orders-to-be-lifted-in-namie-and-tomioka-towns/

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Govt. to lift more Fukushima evacuation orders

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The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in 2 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, issued after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The government will hold a joint meeting between the reconstruction taskforce and the nuclear disaster task force on Friday. On Saturday, it will be 6 years since the earthquake and tsunami.

Participants will decide on whether to lift an evacuation order in part of Namie town on March 31st and a portion of Tomioka on April 1st.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the government issued evacuation orders for 11 municipalities in the prefecture and has since gradually lifted them.

With the latest measure, the orders will be in effect only in no-entry zones with high radiation levels as well as part of the towns of Futaba and Okuma that co-host the nuclear plant.

About 1,150 square kilometers were initially subject to the government evacuation order. That number is now expected to shrink to about 369.

The central government hopes to continue decontamination work and infrastructure projects in some no-entry zones. It says it wants to create a hub for reconstruction by the end of fiscal 2021, where residents and decontamination workers will live.

But the government faces challenges in rebuilding communities as an increasing number of people, mainly the young, say they don’t want to return to their hometowns even if evacuation orders are lifted.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170310_09/

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

SIX YEARS AFTER: 4 more districts in Fukushima set to be declared safe to return to

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Evacuation orders will be lifted shortly for four more municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, but the prospect of residents returning to their old homes in huge numbers seems unlikely.

The restrictions, in place since the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, will be lifted by April 1.

About 32,000 residents will be affected, but there is no guarantee that all will soon, if ever, return.

In similar past situations, evacuated residents came back in dribs and drabs, and many never returned.

Authorities in Namie on Feb. 27 decided to accept the central government’s proposal to lift the evacuation order for the town on March 31.

This means that orders for the municipalities of Kawamata and Iitate will be lifted the same day, and for Tomioka the day after.

Naraha and Katsurao are among five municipalities that are no longer subject to evacuation orders.

However, only 11 percent of Naraha residents and 9 percent of Katsurao residents have returned.

One reason for the low rates is that evacuees have already established new domiciles elsewhere. Others are concerned about the availability of medical workers in areas where evacuation orders will be lifted.

In the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, the central government ordered the evacuation of 81,000 residents in 11 Fukushima municipalities.

In 2012-13, the evacuation region was redesignated into three zones: one where returning would continue to be difficult; another where residential areas would be limited; and lastly, where preparations would be made for former residents to return.

In June 2015, the government decreed that all evacuees from the two latter zones should be allowed to return by March 2017. Efforts were made to decontaminate land affected by radiation fallout and to restore social infrastructure.

The next step involves the 24,000 former residents of the zone where returning continues to be considered difficult.

The government intends to pay for the decontamination of certain areas within that zone so former residents can return.

According to one estimate, the program would only cover about 5 percent of the entire area that is designated as difficult to return.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702280051.html

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | 1 Comment

High radiation risks in Fukushima village as government prepares to lift evacuation order – Greenpeace

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Tokyo, 21 February 2017 – The Japanese government will soon lift evacuation orders for 6,000 citizens of iitate village in Fukushima prefecture where radiation levels in nearby forests are comparable to the current levels within the Chernobyl 30km exclusion zone – an area that more than 30 years after the accident remains formally closed to habitation. Seventy-five percent of Iitate is contaminated forested mountains.

A recent Greenpeace Japan led survey team found radiation dose rates at houses in the village of Iitate well above long-term government targets, with annual and lifetime exposure levels posing a long-term risk to citizens who may return. Evacuation orders will be lifted for Iitate no later than 31 March 2017, to be followed one year later by the termination of compensation payments.

“The relatively high radiation values, both inside and outside houses, show an unacceptable radiation risk for citizens if they were to return to Iitate. For citizens returning to their irradiated homes they are at risk of receiving radiation equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is not normal or acceptable,” said Ai Kashiwagi, energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan [1].

As Japan nears the six years from beginning of the nuclear disaster, the Japanese government last week confirmed that it has not yet conducted any assessments of lifetime exposure risks for citizens if they were to return to Iitate.

The Greenpeace Japan survey results are based on thousands of real-time scanning measurements, including of houses spread over the Iitate region. This data was then used to calculate a weighted average around the houses, which were then computed to give annual exposure rates and over a lifetime of 70 years, taking into account radioactive isotope decay. The survey work also included soil sampling with analysis in an independent laboratory in Tokyo, the measurement of radiation hot spots and the recovery of personal dose badges that had been installed in two houses in February 2016.

For lifetime exposure due to external cesium radiation exposure, the dose range has been calculated, at between 39 mSv and 183 mSv, depending on either 8 or 12 hours per day spent outdoors, for citizens living at the houses over a 70 year period beginning in March 2017 [2]. Among the thousands of points Greenpeace Japan measured for each house, nearly all the radiation readings showed that the levels were far higher than the government’s long term decontamination target of 0.23µSv/h, which would give a dose of 1 mSv/yr.

The weighted average levels measured outside the house of Iitate citizen Toru Anzai was 0.7µSv/h, which would equal 2.5 mSv per year; even more concerning in addition, was the dose badges inside the house showed values in the range between 5.1 to 10.4mSv per year raising questions over the reliability of government estimates [3].

These levels far exceed the 1 mSv annual maximum limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) [4] , yet the decontamination program is being declared complete for the area that will have its evacuation order lifted next month.

“The government is not basing its policies on science or in the interest of protecting public health. It has failed to provide estimates of lifetime exposure rates for Iitate’s citizens, nor considered how re-contamination from forests will pose a threat for decades to come,” said Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium.

“The Abe government is attempting to create a false reality that six years after the start of the Fukushima Daiichi accident life is returning to normal. In the real world of today, and for decades to come, there is and will be nothing normal about the emergency radiological situation in Iitate,” said Vande Putte.

Greenpeace is demanding that the Japanese government provide full financial support to survivors, so that they are not forced to return for economic reasons. It must take measures to reduce radiation exposure to the absolute minimum to protect public health and allow citizens to decide whether to return or relocate free from duress and financial coercion.

Greenpeace has launched a public petition in solidarity in defense of human rights of Fukushima survivors.

Notes to Editors:

The report can be accessed here: “No Return to Normal”.

Photo and video is available here.

[1] X-ray dose rates range depend on multiple factors, including the equipment used and the patient. A typical dose per chest X-ray would be 0.05mSv, which if given each week would be 2.6 mSv over a year.

[2] These figures do not include natural radiation exposures expected over a lifetime, nor does it include the external and internal doses received during the days and weeks following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. In the case of many citizens of Iitate, evacuation was both delayed and complex, the early-stage external radiation exposure estimated for the 1,812 villagers where estimations of external radiation dose average 7 mSv, with the highest being 23.5 mSv according to Imanaka. Internal exposure from consumption of contaminated food products is also not included.

[3] The government estimates that levels of radiation inside houses is 60 percent less than outside due to the shielding effect of the building. The Greenpeace results raise the possibility that this is not a reliable basis for estimating dose levels in houses.

[4] ICRP recommendations for the public, sets the maximum recommended dose for areas that are not affected by a nuclear accident at 1 mSv a year. However, the Japanese government set a condition that it is acceptable for the public to receive up to 20 mSv per year in Iitate, as a response to an emergency right after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/2017/Greenpeace-exposes-high-radiation-risks-in-Fukushima-village-as-government-prepares-to-lift-evacuation-order/

February 23, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Up to 20µSv/h at Namie Junior High School, Fukushima


Namie Junior High School, Namie, Futaba, Fukushima prefecture.
Measures taken on February 5, 2017, on March 31, 2017 the japanese government will lift the evacuation order in Namie, for its inhabitants to return….
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At 1m above the ground : 3.5μSv/h

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At 50cm above the ground : 6μSv/h

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At 5cm above the ground 20μSv/h

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Measurement location
https://goo.gl/maps/27kyf41xyUr

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 3 Comments

Kawamata evacuation order to be lifted

The evacuation order for the town of Kawamata in Fukushima prefecture will be lifted next March, allowing residents to permanently return to their homes there, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has announced.

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The evacuation zone for Kawamata, marked in red, is to be lifted in March 2017. The orange areas are those with restricted access, while entry to the pink area is allowed only in exceptional circumstances

 

In a 28 October statement, the ministry said the evacuation order for Kawamata would be lifted on 31 March 2017.

The town’s entire population of 15,877 people were evacuated after a large earthquake and tsunami struck the nearby Fukushima Daiichi plant on 11 March 2011. The loss of power at the plant led to core meltdowns at three of the plant’s six units, resulting in the spread of radioactive materials across the area.

Separate from the evacuation area defined by a 20 kilometre radius from Fukushima Daiichi, the area near Kawamata was evacuated once it was known that radioactive particles had been carried by the wind from the damaged power plant.

While limited access to the town had been permitted, METI relaxed controls on entry to most of Kawamata town, northwest of the plant, in August 2013. The redesignation allowed decontamination work to begin and for essential infrastructure and services to be reconstructed. Residents have been able to return at will to visit and work without the use of protective equipment. The only restriction has been that they may not stay overnight.

The radiation dose rate for a person living in Kawamata would be less than 20 millisieverts per year – the government’s benchmark for permanent return – METI said.

As of 1 August 2016, the number of Kawamata residents classed as evacuees totalled 1159, only 46 of which now live outside of Fukushima prefecture, according to figures from the prefectural government.

According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Kawamata will be the seventh municipality to have its evacuation order lifted. As from April 2017, it says, evacuation orders will remain in effect in parts of five municipalities – the towns of Tomioka, Okuma, Namie and Futaba, as well as part of the village of Iitate.

The government aims to lift all evacuation orders by March 2017, except for certain areas where radiation levels are expected to remain high.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Kawamata-evacuation-order-to-be-lifted-0211164.html

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Hopes To Lift No Go Zone Order In Fukushima In Next Five Years

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By the end of the 2021 fiscal year, the Japanese government intends to repeal an evacuation order on the remaining “no go zone” around the Fukushima no.1 nuclear plant, the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.


Tokyo announced Wednesday that it aims to conduct infrastructure restoration and radiation clean ups in reconstruction bases built within the zone, which was highly contaminated when the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), was shut down during a March 2011 tsunami and earthquake.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a joint meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Council and Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, where the proposal was adopted, said, “Based on the basic policy, we will embark on reconstruction work in the zone as soon as possible.” In June 2015 the government decided it would lift the ban on areas of Fukushima with lower contamination levels by March of 2017.


Headquarters also announced that the decontamination of Fukushima would be paid for with state funds. It was estimated in 2013 that cleanup would cost upwards of 2.5 trillion yen (about $24 billion), and the decontamination efforts would be financed with funds collected from selling state-owned shares of TEPCO.


Tokyo hopes to profit 2.5 trillion yen from selling the shares, but TEPCO stock would have to trade at about 1,050 yen for that to happen, and shares are currently valued at around 360 yen. After evacuation and some rearranging, Tokyo has been gradually lifting no-go zones restrictions in Fukushima since 2013.


53-year-old Toshiko Yokota, who was able to return to clean up her home in Naraha in 2015 said, “My friends are all in different places because of the nuclear accident, and the town doesn’t even look the same, but this is still my hometown and it really feels good to be back. I still feel uneasy about some things, like radiation levels and the lack of a medical facility,” she said. “In order to come back, I have to keep up my hope and stay healthy.”


According to Jiji Press, the public cost of decontamination and cleanup of the nuclear accident exceeded 4.2 trillion yen by the end of the 2015 fiscal year. Factoring in costs for reactor decommissioning, compensation payments to people and organizations affected by the accident and radioactive decontamination, the government spent about 33,000 yen per capita.

http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160902/1044873179/tokyo-lift-no-go-zone.html

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ban to be lifted on Fukushima’s worst-affected zone in 2022

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A barrier set up at the difficult-to-return zone as Typhoon No. 10 approaches Okuma, which co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in Fukushima Prefecture on Aug. 30

 

Some of the most contaminated areas of Fukushima Prefecture rendered uninhabitable by the 2011 nuclear disaster will be declared safe to live in again in 2022.

The government’s decision to lift the partial ban on repatriation to the “difficult-to-return zone” was announced Aug. 31 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a joint meeting of the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and Reconstruction Promotion Council.

By 2022, the area’s 24,000 or so residents will have been displaced for more than a decade and there is no way of knowing how many will choose to return to their hometowns.

The difficult-to-return zone encompasses seven municipalities situated in a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as well as a spur of land northwest of the radius.

Partial lifting of the ban, in the eyes of the government, is reasonable as “radiation levels in the zone have dropped” even though no decommissioning work has been done there.

The government said the move is aimed at bolstering efforts to rebuild the prefecture, adding that leaving the zone intact would only perpetuate negative images of the area and sully the reputation of local products.

The ban will initially be lifted for areas where local government buildings, train stations and community halls are located, and eventually the rest of the zone.

There was no word, however, on how many years it will take for that to happen.

The government envisages enacting a law to designate areas earmarked as rebuilding hubs so as to encourage residents to return. The government will try to give priority to decisions by local officials as to which areas fall into that category.

In preparation for the lifting of the partial ban, the government will start extensive decontamination work in the zone from fiscal 2017, which begins next April.

The government estimates it would take 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) to clean up the entire zone, and is balking at making such an outlay on grounds of time and cost.

Even if the operation done on a limited basis, it is bound to come with a hefty price tag.

Funds needed for construction of housing and makeshift shops in the hub areas will be set aside in the government’s budget, starting from fiscal 2017.

According to government officials, some municipalities will likely to set up more than one rebuilding hub.

But one of the villages in the zone may end up having no hub at all due to depopulation.

A 2015 survey by the Reconstruction Agency found that the share of displaced people from Okuma, Futaba, Namie and Tomioka who expressed their intention to return to their hometowns varied from 11.4 percent to 17.8 percent. While the ratio was 32.8 percent for Iitate, no figures were available for Katsurao and Minami-Soma.

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http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609010066.html

September 2, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

State to lift evacuation order for most of Fukushima village of Iitate from March 31

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FUKUSHIMA – The central government has said it is considering plans to lift its evacuation order for most of the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, effective March 31.

The village is nearby the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which experienced a meltdown disaster in 2011.

Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry, conveyed the plan to Mayor Norio Kanno and other officials of the Fukushima Prefecture village at a meeting on Wednesday.

The government plans to make an official decision on the lifting shortly, along with a program to be launched in July to allow residents to stay overnight at their homes as part of preparations for permanent returns.

The evacuation order will be lifted for areas with less radiation from the three reactor meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. plant, which was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

As of the end of May, 5,917 residents in 1,770 households, or over 90 percent of the overall population of the village, were registered as citizens of such areas.

The government plans to finish decontamination work on houses by the end of this month and on farmland, roads and other facilities by the end of this year.

Visiting the village’s temporary office in the city of Fukushima on Wednesday, Takagi said the government aims to get the residents to return home by “resolving a series of challenges one by one.”

Kanno said, “We still have a long way to go and have to rebuild our village in a new form.”

The evacuation order will remain in place for highly contaminated areas, where 268 residents in 75 households are registered as local citizens.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/17/national/state-lift-evacuation-order-fukushima-village-iitate-march-31/

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June 17, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment