June 13, 2022
TOKYO – An area of Katsurao, Fukushima prefecture, saw the lifting of an evacuation order in effect since the 2011 nuclear power plant incident at 8 a.m. on Sunday.
The area of the village had been designated as a so-called “hard to return zone”, where entry was subject to prolonged restrictions due to high radiation levels. However, decontamination work in sections of the area has brought radiation levels below the criteria needed to lift the order. As of June 1, 82 residents from 30 households lived in the restricted area.
This is the first time that the evacuation order for residential areas in the hard-to-return area has been lifted.
The now unrestricted area is in Noyuki District, in the northeast part of the village. The 0.95 square kilometer section of land is designated as specified anchor points for rehabilitation and revitalization under the Special Measures Law to Promote Reconstruction of the Prefecture following the incident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
Barricades were removed from the causeway linking Prefectural Road No. 50 which runs through the center of the area on Sunday morning, allowing unrestricted entry for the first time in some 11 years since the nuclear power plant was crippled.
“It’s a big step, but it’s all starting again now,” Katsurao Mayor Hiroshi Shinoki said in an area where barricades have been removed. “We will continue to be close to the residents of the Noyuki district.”
Encouraging residents to return is also a big challenge. Many citizens have already moved to other places after the evacuation of the area. In a survey conducted by the village in the fall of 2020, only eight residents from four households said they wanted to return.
A special measure to allow residents of the restricted area to stay overnight in their homes or other places to prepare for their return began last year in November. However, only four residents from two households registered to participate.