Official doubts Tokyo plan to let refugees return to Fukushima

Reuters, TOKYO

Mon, Nov 04, 2013 - Page 5

A Japanese ruling party official has called into question a government plan to let people who fled from the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant go home, saying the government should identify which areas will never be habitable.

The Fukushima plant north of Tokyo was battered by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, leading to meltdowns and explosions that sent plumes of radiation into the air and sea.

About 150,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding areas and a large area of land is off-limits because of radiation.

Despite this, the Japanese government is hoping to eventually allow everyone to go home.

However, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said it was inevitable that some people would never get to go back.

“The time will definitely come that someone must say: ‘They cannot live in this area, but they would be compensated,’” Ishiba was quoted as saying in the Asahi newspaper.

The question of letting people go home is politically sensitive for the government and it would not want to have to tell thousands of residents that cannot go back.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, has been struggling to stop radiation leaks from the wrecked plant.

It is now preparing to remove 400 tonnes of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a very dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.

Ishiba also said authorities might have to relax limits for radiation exposure if anything was ever going to be done in terms of rebuilding the area.

“Unless we come up with answer as to what to do with a measure for decontamination, [the] reconstruction of Fukushima won’t ever make progress,” Ishiba was quoted as saying.