The government hopes to partly lift its evacuation order starting Nov. 1 at a district within the 20-km no-go zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to sources.
The government will present a plan to lift the order for the Miyakoji district, located in the city of Tamura in Fukushima Prefecture, at a meeting with residents Monday, the sources said.
The period in which Miyakoji residents are allowed to visit the area for long stays to prepare for their permanent return is set to expire at the end of October.
The long-stay program was launched in August following the completion in Miyakoji of work to remove radioactive substances emitted by the March 2011 triple meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear plant.
Miyakoji would be the first district to see the evacuation order lifted among those falling within the no-go zone designated by the government soon after the nuclear crisis was triggered by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. If the order is removed, Miyakoji residents would be able to return to their homes without restrictions.
But local concerns about an early lifting of the evacuation order remain strong. If many residents express caution at Monday’s meeting, the government may extend the long-stay program and delay lifting the order until December or later, the sources said.
Miyakoji is currently an area in which preparations are being made for a possible lifting of the evacuation order and the permanent return of residents. The district was reclassified in April 2012, as the annual radiation dose per person was found to be 20 millisieverts or less.
Officials from the Cabinet Office and the Environment Ministry, as well as Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomitsuka, will take part in Monday’s meeting, the sources said.
The central and municipal governments will propose lifting the evacuation order and will then solicit residents’ opinions. The government and the municipality will also explain support measures, including a plan to distribute dosimeters to those returning home.
The city will further present a progress report on setting up a makeshift shopping area in Miyakoji and explain plans to call on a major convenience store chain to establish an outlet in the district, the sources said.
The central and local governments will consider further support measures if they are requested by local residents.
Tepco to check port
Tepco said it will reinforce radiation monitoring inside the small man-made harbor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, as the concentration of radioactive cesium is rising.
For a week from Friday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to check the cesium levels of the seawater at five points, including at the entrance to the port, on a daily basis, officials from the utility said Friday.
Tepco has detected rising cesium levels near the water intake of the power plant’s reactor 2, one of three units that suffered meltdowns in March 2011. An undersea “silt fence” around the intake is supposed to prevent the spread of contamination.
Seawater samples taken from inside the fenced off area Tuesday were found to contain 90 becquerels of cesium per liter. Samples collected Wednesday contained 1,200 becquerels and those taken Thursday around 970 becquerels, Tepco said.
Radiation levels outside the silt fence have also been rising.