No-go zones in Fukushima to be gradually reduced by setting up livable hubs

The ruling coalition's task force commissioned to accelerate reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident is poised to request the government to leave intact "difficult-to-return" zones in Fukushima Prefecture and set up reconstruction bases within them with a view to working toward the eventual elimination of these contaminated zones in line with the progress of cleanup work. The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito showed a draft plan based on the policy to seven municipalities concerned on Aug. 5. Under the plan, the prefectural and municipal governments will map out programs for establishing reconstruction hubs. The central government will authorize the programs while ensuring they are enforced through new legislation and necessary budgetary appropriations. In the difficult-to-return zones, the annual dosage of radiation from nuclear fallout caused by the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant exceeds 50 millisieverts. Affected by the zoning are some 24,000 residents comprising 9,000 families who are currently living elsewhere after being evacuated. The zones include Minamisoma city, Tomioka and Namie towns, and Katsurao and Iitate villages as well as the towns of Okuma and Futaba that host the crippled plant. In principle, these zones are off limits. The zones comprise areas where the radiation dosage is extremely high and relatively less polluted areas as a result of the natural attenuation of radioactive substances as well as decontamination work. Against this background, the two parties have concluded that it will be difficult to seek to restore entire zones to a safe condition in one go. They have instead chosen to aim for the gradual elimination of no-go zones, starting with areas where a livable environment can be put into place. The draft plan calls for "reconstruction footholds" to be set up in areas where radiation levels are low enough for residents and workers engaged in cleanup operations to live. It also envisages the removal of all evacuation zones by 2021. The location of these reconstruction hubs is to be decided according to each municipality's realities. Decontamination work and the restoration of infrastructure necessary for daily lives will be undertaken in a comprehensive manner while cleanup operations and other efforts for improving living conditions will be promoted along main roads linking the zones, such as Route 6. Evacuation orders will be lifted after these undertakings have mostly been completed. As for areas outside the reconstruction hubs, the coalition partners are to discuss ways of addressing them in terms of reduction in radiation dosages and progress in reconstruction efforts. They hope to expand the size of the reconstruction hubs gradually with a view to completing the rebirth of all municipalities eventually. (Translated by Kyodo News)