TAMURA, Fukushima — The central government decided Feb. 23 to lift on April 1 the evacuation order imposed on this city’s Miyakoji district in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns in 2011, government officials said.
The district will be the first among 11 cities, towns and villages within a 20-kilometer radius of the stricken nuclear power plant to have its evacuation order lifted.
The government will formalize the decision at a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters. The decision will allow Miyakoji residents to return to the district permanently a little over three years after the nuclear crisis was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The central and the Tamura municipal governments held a joint briefing for Tamura residents on Feb. 23 to explain the impending decision. Kazuyoshi Akaba, head of the local office of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomitsuka and other officials attended the briefing.
The some 100 Tamura residents at the meeting were about equally divided on the prospect of having the evacuation order lifted, but Akaba explained the impending decision by saying, ”The government does not have the right to delay the reconstruction of your life.”
He went on to tell the residents that radiation levels have dropped sufficiently due to the completion of decontamination work, and that infrastructure such as expressways had been restored. The government decided to lift the evacuation order on April 1 because the district has met conditions for lifting evacuation orders, including a local annual radiation dose below 20 millisieverts, completion of lifeline infrastructure and sufficient consultation with local authorities.
Eastern Miyakoji, home to 358 people in 117 households, was designated a no-go zone because it was within 20 kilometers of the nuclear power plant. In April 2012, it was designated as a district subject to a possible lifting of the evacuation order with annual radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts or less. But residents were not permitted to spend nights in their homes.
Decontamination work in the district was conducted under central governmental supervision from July 2012 to June 2013. The government implemented a long-stay program in August-October 2013 to allow residents to repair their houses and other essential purposes. The government proposed lifting the evacuation order on Nov. 1 last year but residents balked, saying there were still places with high radiation doses.
Evacuation orders in Fukushima Prefecture have been divided into three categories depending on radiation levels — no-go zones (annual radiation levels of 50 millisieverts and over), domicile restriction zones (annual radiation levels of between over 20 millisieverts to 50 millisieverts) and zones subject to possible lifting of evacuation orders — in the 11 municipalities. About 80,000 residents of those cities, towns and villages have evacuated to other parts of Fukushima and elsewhere in Japan.