Evacuation order lifted in Fukushima nuclear power plant city after 11 years

An evacuation order imposed due to high radiation levels was lifted on Thursday in part of a town housing the Fukushima nuclear power plant, allowing residents to return home permanently for the first time since the March 2011 nuclear disaster .

Restrictions in a “hard to return” area in Okuma were lifted at 9 a.m., making it the first of two municipalities that host Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in the northeast. is from Japan to do so.

Photo taken from a drone shows buildings at the Okuma City Reconstruction and Revitalization Base Area in Fukushima Prefecture June 25, 2022. An evacuation order for the area was lifted on June 30. (Kyodo)

The approximately 8.6 square kilometer neighborhood, including the area around JR Ono Station, has been redesignated as a base for reconstruction and revitalization following decontamination work to reduce radiation levels, allowing residents to come back.

Okuma’s entire population of around 11,500 was forced to evacuate after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at the nuclear power plant that rendered the area uninhabitable.

Photo taken on June 30, 2022 shows the city of Okuma in northeastern Japan, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where an evacuation order was partially lifted later in the day, about 11 years and three months after March. 2011 nuclear disaster. (Kyōdo) ==Kyōdo

The city’s emergency broadcast announced the end of evacuation orders, and a ceremony marking the start of patrols by prefectural police and local firefighters was held in front of the station.

“This is a major step in the reconstruction, but it will take time to get closer to the bustling city that it was. We are finally at the starting line,” Okuma Mayor Jun said. Yoshida, during the event.

While the recently reopened area was once home to around 60% of the population, with 5,888 registered residents in 2,233 households, only 49 people from 18 households had stayed overnight from December as they prepared for a full return.

The city government aims to reduce the population to 2,600 in five years.

Photo taken on June 30, 2022, shows police vehicles patrolling the northeastern Japanese city of Okuma – which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – where an evacuation order has been partially lifted the same day about 11 years and three months ago after the March 2011 nuclear disaster. (Kyōdo) ==Kyōdo

Even more than a decade after the disaster, an area totaling around 337 km2 in seven municipalities in Fukushima remains off-limits due to high levels of radiation, with much of the area expected to remain uninhabitable in the future.

As of April 2022, some 21,000 people were registered residents inside the zone.

A southwestern part of Okuma that had evacuation orders for low-radiation areas lifted in April 2019 has seen around 400 people return.

With the lifting of restrictions on Thursday, Okuma became the second municipality in Fukushima prefecture to allow people to return to an area designated as a hard-to-return area, after a similar evacuation order for part of Katsurao village was issued. was lifted on June 12.

An evacuation order for the reconstruction and revitalization base in Futaba, another town hosting the nuclear plant, is expected to be lifted in July or later, while the other three municipalities of Tomioka, Namie and Iitate where residents are not not allowed to return are expected to see restrictions lifted around spring 2023.

For areas other than those classified as reconstruction and revitalization bases, the government intends to bring back all those who wish to return in the 2020s, but no specific timetable for the lifting of restrictions has been given.

Related coverage:

Japan’s highest court finds state not responsible for Fukushima disaster

Residents of Fukushima village allowed to return after 11 years

Court orders TEPCO to pay 73.5 million yen for Fukushima crisis

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