Evacuation order lifted in Fukushima host town

10 April 2019

Some residents of Okuma, the closest town to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, have today been allowed to return home. The evacuation order issued in 2011 has been lifted for the more mountainous and less inhabited western area, where around 380 of the town's former population of 10,500 lived.

(Image: METI/WNN)

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant sits on the border of two municipalities, Okuma to the south and Futaba to the north. Those towns and many others within 20 kilometres of the plant were evacuated as the accident of March 2011 progressed. A total of 164,000 people were once counted by authorities as having evacuated their homes. That number has reduced to 43,000 now, which represents about 2.3% of Fukushima Prefecture's population.

Surveys of airborne radiation in Okuma Town indicate that levels have dropped by over 88% since the accident. This is mainly due to natural processes such as rainfall washing away surface contamination and the natural turning-over of soil and vegetation. Remediation efforts by the Japanese government have accelerated the process by removing topsoil from more affected areas. The main contaminant from the accident, caesium-137, has a half-life of about 30 years and so its radioactivity has reduced naturally by about 17% over the last eight years.

Okuma Town has supported the process of stabilising and now decommissioning the power plant by hosting a meal service centre to feed the many thousands of workers who have rotated through the Fukushima Daiichi site. A research centre has also been built there to study solid radioactive wastes, develop methods to analyse certain hard-to-measure radionuclides and to develop technology to treat and dispose of the fuel debris from the accident.

A year ago schools were opened in all the towns where evacuation orders had been lifted and earlier this year Okuma's newly-built government office began being officially used. By April 2020 it is hoped that the entire Joban train line serving towns near the coast will be re-opened.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News