Nuclear evacuation zone revised in Fukushima’s Tomioka

JIJI

The government exclusion-zone designation was lifted Monday for Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, and the town was realigned into three nuclear evacuation zones according to estimated annual radiation doses.

Even after the revision took effect at midnight Sunday, the municipal government will keep the whole-town evacuation in place for at least four years due to the need to rebuild infrastructure damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which set off the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, located north of the town.

Tomioka was the last Fukushima municipality to the south of the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s two host towns to come out of the no-go zone designation by the central government.

Of the 11 municipalities around the plant that have been designated for evacuation, Tomioka is the eighth to undergo rezoning.

The prefectural police no longer restrict entry into the town, but the central government will take over checkpoints on national roads.

For a newly set zone where residents will not be allowed to return home at least for five years due to estimated annual radiation doses exceeding 50 millisieverts, the town will in principle ban people other than registered residents from entry. It blocked access by barricades at 128 locations on roads near the town border.

In the zone, which covers the northeastern part of the town, about 4,500 people had lived before the nuclear crisis started.

The central part of the town that used to be home to some 10,000 residents was designated as a residence restriction zone, with annual radiation doses estimated to be between 20 millisieverts and 50 millisieverts.

The remaining zone with an estimated 20 millisieverts or less, where the evacuation advisory is expected to be lifted at an early time, mainly covers southern Tomioka. About 1,500 people once resided in the area.

The central government, which issued the rezoning guidelines in 2011 for application beginning last spring, expects to lift the evacuation advisory for the most heavily contaminated zone in Tomioka in 2017 and the other two zones in 2016. The municipal government believes the town will not be fully ready for living at least until 2017.