Gov’t eases curbs on farming, business operations in Fukushima contaminated areas

The government’s nuclear emergency task force in Fukushima Prefecture decided on June 19 to allow for farming activities aimed at full-fledged commercial shipments to be conducted in residence-restricted areas designated as a result of radioactive contamination from the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, effective from the same day. In addition, the task force also eased restrictions to enable the reopening or new establishment of offices for businesses essential for rebuilding social infrastructure in evacuated areas, where permanent returns in the near future are deemed difficult, on condition that outdoor radiation does not significantly exceed 3.8 microsieverts an hour, equivalent to 20 millisieverts in an annual exposure. The team reached the decision after consulting the affected municipalities in light of the gradual reduction of radiation stemming from decontamination and natural decay. Farmers and business operators can apply to their respective local governments by providing information on their businesses and the radiation level near their venue. Permission will be granted by the task force and the relevant mayor. Until now, farming had been banned in principle in residence-restricted areas, where annual radiation levels range from more than 20 millisieverts up to 50 millisieverts, except in certain districts where experimental rice farming has been practiced. Following the deregulation, farmers can ship to markets rice, vegetables and other produce that clear limits set under the Food Sanitation Act for radioactive substances. According to the Fukushima prefectural government, there are over 3,000 hectares of farmland in residence-restricted areas. As for evacuated areas to which permanent returns in the near future are believed difficult due to contamination of over 50 millisieverts a year, businesses can be opened if they are determined necessary after discussions between the central and local governments, such as operations to restore social infrastructure, waste disposal and gasoline stations. (Translated by Kyodo News)