TAMURA/KAWAUCHI, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – An exclusion ban was lifted Sunday for parts of the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture, allowing residents to enter freely without taking measures against radiation exposure.
But residents from these areas, which are close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, will not be allowed to stay overnight, although radiation levels remain relatively low.
It was the first revision to the evacuation zone banning entry to areas within 20 km of the plant since the nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11 last year.
Eimasa Tsuboi, 72, from Tamura said the first thing he wants to do is rebuild his family’s collapsed ancestral grave.
“I have to fix the grave,” he said. “And today, I will open the door of my home and let the wind in.”
In Kawauchi, Katsutoshi Kusano, 67, and his wife, Shigeko, 66, visited their homes. “We hope we can clean our garden,” they said.
Under the government’s revision, zones where radiation exposure exceeds 50 millisieverts per year and that are expected to stay at or above 20 millisieverts over the next five years, will be designated as difficult to return to. The current yardstick for evacuation is 20 millisieverts a year.
In zones with radiation levels between 20 and 50 millisieverts, residents will be permitted to return only on a limited basis.
In areas with 20 millisieverts or less, preparations will be made for lifting evacuation orders.
In these latter zones, the order will be lifted as soon as infrastructure is restored and enough progress is made in decontaminating schools and other public facilities.
Soon after the nuclear disaster, the government issued an evacuation directive for residents within 20 km of the plant. Later, however, it designated areas with high radiation levels outside the no-go zone as “emergency evacuation preparation” areas where residents were required to evacuate within one month.
Opposition mulls restarts
Opposition leaders were divided Sunday over the ruling party’s apparent intention to restart suspended reactors in the face of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
“I have to allow it under present circumstances. Otherwise, factories will not be operated and it will lead to the loss of employment,” Sadakazu Tanigaki of the Liberal Democratic Party said in support of resumption on a TV program on NHK.
New Komeito’s Natsuo Yamaguchi, meanwhile, expressed caution. “Standards need to be set up for resumption to ensure safety,” Yamaguchi said.
The leaders of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party flatly opposed restarts.
“It’s absolutely absurd. We need to make a decision toward zero reactors,” said JCP leader Kazuo Shii.
“The accident at the Fukushima complex has not yet concluded. We are not in a situation to restart the reactors,” the SDP’s Mizuho Fukushima said.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s policy chief, Seiji Maehara, suggested last week the government is likely to decide to restart the idled reactors by the time all 54 commercial reactors have suspended their operations in early May.