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Fukushima town aims to have evacuation order partially lifted by 2022

In this August 2016 file photo, JR Futaba Station is seen. (Photo courtesy of the Futaba Municipal Government)

FUTABA, Fukushima -- Town authorities here look to have the evacuation order partially lifted for the town's so-called "difficult-to-return" zone with high radiation levels emanating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster by sometime around the spring of 2022, town officials disclosed on Aug. 2.

The move by the Futaba Municipal Government marks the first time for a municipality in difficult-to-return zones to have presented a plan to have an evacuation order lifted by the central government. The town of Futaba has been entirely evacuated since the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Six other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture still have areas designated as difficult-to-return zones.

According to Futaba town officials, the town office has included the plan in an application to be submitted to the central government for recognition of the areas subject to the lifting of the evacuation order as a special hub for disaster recovery, in hopes that local residents can return to their hometowns currently designated as difficult-to-return zones.

A special hub for disaster recovery is stipulated in the revised Act on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima. After the central government approves a plan worked out by a local municipality, the state will move ahead with decontamination work and infrastructure development in areas designated as a hub for disaster reconstruction, before lifting the evacuation order for the areas in five years.

Under the Futaba town's plan, the town will call for the development of a 555-hectare area including JR Futaba Station, which accounts for 11 percent of the town's total land area. The town plans to designate the recovery hub mainly in areas where many residents used to live before the onset of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, and to build housing complexes and other facilities there.

In addition, the town is also seeking to have the no-entry order lifted for the so-called "area preparing for the lifting of an evacuation order" in the northeastern part of the town, where radiation doses are relatively low, by sometime around the end of March 2020. The town plans to invite companies including those engaged in reactor decommissioning at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to be based there, but does not envisage the return of residents.

Currently, 96 percent of the town of Futaba is designated as a difficult-to-return zone.

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