Tomioka eyes early April removal of evacuation order for "reconstruction base" area

The Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka is seeking to have the evacuation order lifted in early April for a "specified reconstruction and revitalization base" area designated to help expedite recovery from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. In a March 3 meeting of all municipal assembly members, the town office obtained discretionary authority to start talks shortly with the central and prefectural governments on how soon free access should be allowed for the area, which is part of a "difficult-to-return" zone where entry is restricted. Tomioka, one of the two municipalities that co-host the plant, is hoping that the evacuation order will be eliminated before a cherry blossom festival scheduled for April 8 to 9 in the town's Yonomori (night forest) district so that evacuated townspeople will return to enjoy the seasonal view. The meeting of assembly members was attended by officials from the national and prefectural governments as well. The members showed understanding regarding the town's assertion that the requirements for lifting the evacuation order had already been met, and unanimously agreed to entrust the town government with the task of negotiating a date for removal of the order. But some members strongly called for further, consistent efforts and measures to reduce radiation dosages, root out contamination, restore the environment and improve living conditions. "We would like to enjoy the cherry festival together by terminating the evacuation order in the reconstruction base area (which includes the Yonomori district) ahead of the event," Tomioka Mayor Ikuo Yamamoto told reporters after the meeting. The town expects the order to be removed sometime between April 1 and 7, according to municipal officials. The reconstruction base area in Tomioka is about 390 hectares in size, including the Yonomori district that constitutes a large portion of it. Residents registered in the area numbered 2,580 in 1,143 households as of March 1. An accommodation program was launched in April last year in preparation for a lifting of the evacuation order, with 54 people from 26 households having registered so far. ***** The reconstruction base area in Tomioka also includes some roads, graveyards and other sites located in the town's Oragahama and Fukaya districts, which lie outside the reconstruction base area. But they will not be covered if the evacuation order is lifted due to a delay in the completion of decontamination work in surrounding areas. Removal of the order for the roads and sites is expected in September at the earliest. (Translated by Kyodo News)