KAWAUCHI, Fukushima — Authorities in this village, part of which still stands in the no-go zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, plan to call on all evacuated residents to return by the end of March, it has been learned.
The local government organized a meeting for residents in January, during which officials explained plans for decontamination procedures and actions that have been taken to secure employment after residents return to the village.
“Most residents seemed to agree with our explanations and plans to a certain extent,” said a senior town official, who attended the meeting. Therefore, the municipal government has decided to encourage all residents to return to their homes. After consulting with the municipal assembly and others, the village will report its decision to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.
On Jan. 31, the municipal government will call on residents to return home, hoping that all evacuees will move back to their homes by the end of March. School and town hall operations will be resumed from April, officials said.
This is the first time for a municipality that fell in the government-designated evacuation zones following the nuclear disaster to announce return plans for its residents.
Kawauchi village, home to approximately 3,000 people, was one of the municipalities that fell within both the government-designated no-go zone and emergency evacuation preparation zones around the troubled nuclear power complex.
Last September, the designation of an emergency evacuation preparation advisory was lifted for the western part of the village. However, even after the advisory was lifted, less than 200 residents returned to their homes. The village’s eastern part still remains within the 20-kilometer no-go zone around the damaged nuclear power plant.
All Kawauchi residents evacuated from their homes in the wake of the nuclear crisis, with approximately 80 percent of them currently living in other places within Fukushima Prefecture and 20 percent having moved out of the area.
According to the municipal government’s plan, the homes of some 600 households, which fall within the former emergency evacuation preparation zone, will be decontaminated by the end of March. The homes of the approximately 340 remaining households in the zone will be cleaned by the end of the year. Radiation levels, however, in all places there are low, at less than one microsievert per hour.
As for the approximately 160 households whose homes fall within the no-go zone, the local government plans to build temporary housing units in safe areas within the village, where evacuees can restart their lives.
Decontamination of a nursery and schools will be completed within February, officials said, and all administrative organs and other main facilities will resume operations starting from April.
Local authorities also plan to secure employment opportunities for returned residents, including decontamination projects that will offer jobs to some 1,000 people. In the next fiscal year, job openings in metal factories and vegetable cultivating facilities will further expand opportunities, the plan explains.
Meanwhile, however, residents cannot hide their bewilderment over the municipal government’s most recent decision.
Shinichi Sakakimoto, 71, a farmer who evacuated to Koriyama in the prefecture following the nuclear disaster, says that he is not sure whether returning home will help him.
“Even if the town hall operates as usual, I don’t have a car so it will be very difficult to go shopping to a nearby village,” says the man, whose house falls in the former emergency evacuation preparation zone. “I want to go back eventually, but as I won’t be able to work on my rice paddies for now, I won’t have any income.”
A 36-year-old man, whose house falls within the no-go zone, says he thinks the move is too hasty. “I don’t believe that the plant has been brought under control. What will happen if another powerful earthquake strikes? This is impossible,” he said.
(Mainichi Japan) January 25, 2012