FUKUSHIMA – The central government has said it is considering plans to lift its evacuation order for most of the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, effective March 31.
The village is nearby the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which experienced a meltdown disaster in 2011.
Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry, conveyed the plan to Mayor Norio Kanno and other officials of the Fukushima Prefecture village at a meeting on Wednesday.
The government plans to make an official decision on the lifting shortly, along with a program to be launched in July to allow residents to stay overnight at their homes as part of preparations for permanent returns.
The evacuation order will be lifted for areas with less radiation from the three reactor meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. plant, which was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
As of the end of May, 5,917 residents in 1,770 households, or over 90 percent of the overall population of the village, were registered as citizens of such areas.
The government plans to finish decontamination work on houses by the end of this month and on farmland, roads and other facilities by the end of this year.
Visiting the village’s temporary office in the city of Fukushima on Wednesday, Takagi said the government aims to get the residents to return home by “resolving a series of challenges one by one.”
Kanno said, “We still have a long way to go and have to rebuild our village in a new form.”
The evacuation order will remain in place for highly contaminated areas, where 268 residents in 75 households are registered as local citizens.