Futaba unveils plan to set up reconstruction hubs in 555-hectare area

The wholly evacuated town of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture unveiled a plan on Aug. 2 to establish “specified reconstruction footholds” in areas designated as “difficult-to-return” zones due to still high levels of radioactive fallout from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, which straddles Futaba and the neighboring town of Okuma. The plan, shown to the day’s meeting of all municipal assembly members, covers a block totaling about 555 hectares, or some 10% of the town’s whole area. It calls for the block to be divided into five zones, including a new downtown-developing area and an urban reconstruction sphere. The plan envisages the elimination of all difficult-to-return areas within the block by around the spring of 2022. Futaba is the first Fukushima Prefecture municipality to publish such a plan among the towns and villages that still have difficult-to-return zones. Under the plan, a “new downtown zone” will be set up on the west side of Futaba Station on East Japan Railway’s Joban Line as an area where houses for townspeople and workers are to be built. On the east side will be an “urban rebirth zone” where a shopping street and a base for exchanges among residents are to be established. Two areas on the north side will be zones for “the use of renewable energy” and for “the revitalization of agriculture.” The prefectural government discussed the plan at a meeting of its headquarters for the promotion of Fukushima’s reconstruction held at its office in Fukushima city on Aug. 4. The prefecture is set to apply for central government approval of the plan within this month. If the plan is endorsed, the prefecture will undertake reconstruction projects such as decontamination work and restoration of roads and other infrastructure facilities -- all financed by the national budget -- in an integrated manner. The plan seeks to reduce the annual dosage of radiation to 20 millisieverts or less in five years through these projects. It aims to terminate evacuation in the neighborhood of Futaba Station earlier than elsewhere in the town by the March 2020 end of fiscal 2019, eventually doing so in the entire reconstruction block by around the spring of 2022. "The 555-hectare block is not the end of the story," Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa told reporters following the meeting. "We expect to make efforts to broaden evacuation-ending areas further in the future." Other municipalities having difficult-to-return zones in place are also moving to set up specified reconstruction bases. In April this year, Tomioka town mapped out "a vision for the reconstruction of difficult-to-return zones," portraying ways of thinking and directions in which the town should proceed toward the rebirth of such zones. The town office is exchanging views with citizens on the basis of the vision. It is poised to work out a plan for establishing reconstruction hubs with a view to obtaining central government approval within the current fiscal year. The town of Okuma that hosts the crippled plant together with Futaba is discussing the ambit of reconstruction foothold locations and other relevant issues within the municipal office. It expects to put a reconstruction plan into shape for application for central government endorsement after taking account of opinions of the parties concerned, including the town assembly and the heads of administrative districts. In Namie town, difficult-to-return zones account for about 80% of its total area. The town office intends to establish a reconstruction hub each in the Tsushima, Obori and Karino districts, all former villages before their merger with old Namie town. It hopes to show a reconstruction plan this fall to the municipal assembly, district heads and other parties concerned. Katsurao village is to lay down a reconstruction plan, possibly by the end of fiscal 2017, focusing on a community hall in the Noyuki district. Currently, town officials are making the rounds of evacuated residents to confirm their views. In Iitate village, evacuees from the Nagadoro district, designated as a difficult-to-return zone, are collecting views among themselves regarding the scope of a reconstruction base, necessary facilities and other issues. The village is to draw up a reconstruction plan on the basis of residents’ intentions. (Translated by Kyodo News)