The Environment Ministry said Thursday it now aims to finish cleaning up areas outside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex most seriously tainted by radiation by the end of March 2017.
The ministry wanted to finish the work at 11 cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of next March, or about three years after the nuclear crisis began. But that has been delayed by the difficulty of finding enough places to temporarily store the tainted soil and other waste.
“We reviewed the plans so that they will be realistic. We will proceed with the decontamination work, offering a detailed response to local needs,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.
Meanwhile, a government panel on compensation payment guidelines said Thursday that Tokyo Electric Power Co. should pay an additional ¥7 million each to people with homes in a zone designated as difficult to return to, near the crippled power plant.
The lump-sum payment is intended to compensate for the emotional distress of not being able to return to their homes and region for a long time. The number of recipients and what redress they may already have received was not disclosed.
The ministry says seven municipalities, including Kawamata and Minamisoma, will be unable to finish by the end of March.
But six of them, excluding the town of Futaba, which hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant, are expected to complete the work over the next three years, assuming a sufficient number of storage sites and workers can be secured.
The ministry said it plans to prioritize the remediation of residential areas, water and sewage systems and major roads needed to help the evacuees return.
The evacuation was split into three zones by radiation level: one where evacuation orders are ready to be lifted, one where habitation is restricted, and one where residents must stay away for a long time. The population of these areas totals about 81,000.