Japan will lift an exclusion order on an area around the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, allowing some residents to return to live for the first time since the disaster, officials said yesterday.
“The formal lifting of the evacuation order will come on April 1, affecting about 300 people” whose homes are in part of Tamura city, about 20km west of the plant, a Japanese Cabinet Office official said.
Over the next two years, up to 30,000 people will be allowed to return to their homes in the original exclusion zone, initiated to protect people from being exposed to leaking radiation, he added.
The decision comes despite sharp divisions among residents over whether they should return, with many still concerned over the persistence of low-level radiation, despite decontamination efforts.
Under Japanese government guidelines, areas are declared suitable for habitation if someone living there is exposed to a maximum of 20 millisieverts of radiation per year.
Officials have said they would like to get exposure down to 1 millisievert annually.
The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends a dosage limit of 1 millisievert per year from all sources of radiation, but says that exposure to less than 100 millisieverts per year presents no statistically significant increase in cancer risk.
A hospital CAT scan delivers approximately 10 millisieverts, according to the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences.
Once the evacuation order is lifted, people will be free to choose whether to return home, the official said.
“Compensation [paid by the government and Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co] will continue, in terms of properties and the disaster-led joblessness,” he said.
“But the monthly pay of ￥100,000 (US$980) to address emotional distress caused by the accident will end if residents decide to return home,” he said.
Nearly three years after a massive tsunami and earthquake devastated Japan — killing more than 18,000 and setting off the worst nuclear accident in a generation — about 100,000 people remain displaced because of evacuation orders, the Japanese Reconstruction Agency said.