Preparations can begin for residents to return to the town of Kawamata near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The town was the final evacuated municipality to be redesignated.
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 has been permitted, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has now announced that controls on entry to most of Kawamata town, northwest of the plant, have been relaxed today.
|Most of Kawamata, circled in blue, is now classed as an area where residents can freely enter (marked in green). The orange areas are those with restricted access, while entry to the red area is allowed only in exceptional circumstances (Image: METI)
The redesignation will allow decontamination work to begin and for essential infrastructure and services to be reconstructed. Residents may return at will to visit and work without the use of protective equipment. The only restriction is that they may not stay overnight. The radiation dose rate for a person living in these areas would be less than 20 millisieverts per year - the government's benchmark for permanent return.
"I believe the restoration process of Fukushima has now reached a new starting point towards realization of the return of residents."
Japanese prime minister
Restricted access will remain in just a small part of Kawamata as dose levels in that area could exceed 20 mSv. People will be permitted to these 'restricted' areas to carry out specific jobs without being monitored or using protective equipment. People entering these zones are advised to avoid doing so unnecessarily, to refrain from working outdoors, to use cars rather than to walk for more than a short period and to wash upon re-entering a building.
Speaking at a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, prime minister Shinzo Abe said, "Taking this opportunity of the completion of the revisions of the areas, I would like to ask all ministers to once again listen carefully to the opinions of the people in the area. Based on this, I would like specific measures to be examined with urgency for the restoration of Fukushima."
However, Abe noted that decontamination and interim storage remain "especially critical" issues. He said, "Together with strengthening the system for accelerating these measures, I would like to ask that the progress of the decontamination program be fully reviewed and that decontamination work is advanced in coordination with the reconstruction efforts."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News