February 20, 2019
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–An evacuation order will be lifted for two districts here as early as April, eight years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant spewed massive amounts of radioactive substances into the air.
It would be the first time for Okuma, which co-hosts the plant, to see the evacuation order lifted, albeit partially.
The entire town, with a population of 11,500, was ordered to evacuate after the onset of the nuclear crisis following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The lifting of the order is expected to cover the Ogawara and Chuyashiki districts, both southwest of the plant.
Together the districts account for about 40 percent of the town’s acreage. The town’s records showed that 374 residents, or about 4 percent of the current population, are registered in the districts, as of the end of January.
As of Feb. 7, 46 people have returned to live there as an advance group.
In Ogawara, about 700 employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, live in the company’s dormitory built in 2016 as a special case and commute to the nuclear complex to engage in decommissioning work.
At the Feb. 19 meeting, a member of the town’s committee that assesses the progress of decontamination said, “Radiation levels have declined sufficiently.”
However, the psychological barriers are high for Okuma evacuees, as the town now hosts an interim storage site for radioactive waste produced from decontamination operations in the prefecture.
Preliminary results of a survey conducted last year to gauge the sentiment of residents showed that only 10 percent of respondents expressed a desire to return. About 60 percent said they had no plans to return.
The town government of Futaba, the neighboring town that co-hosts the nuclear plant, aims to have its evacuation order partially lifted around spring 2020.