LDP wants to let evacuees move back to areas tainted with 50 millisieverts or less by March 2017

JIJI

A team from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is requesting that Fukushima’s nuclear evacuees be allowed to return to parts of the prefecture where the annual radiation dose is 50 millisieverts or less by March 2017.

The proposal to prematurely lift the nuclear evacuation orders was made Thursday by the LDP’s Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The conservative party will submit this and other related measures to its leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, later this month after consulting with coalition partner Komeito.

The LDP’s proposal covers two of the three restricted areas around the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which tainted much of the prefecture during the three core meltdowns triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

One of the areas has an estimated annual radiation dose of 20 millisieverts or less. It has been designated as an area where residents can prepare for evacuation orders to be lifted.

The other has an estimated annual radiation dose of between 20 and 50 millisieverts.

The 55,000 or so registered residents in the two areas are only allowed entry for a handful of activities, including short visits and business.

The third restricted area, which won’t see its evacuation status lifted by March 2017, is the most heavily polluted and is estimated to have an annual radiation dose beyond 50 millisieverts. The area, which has about 22,000 registered residents, remains a no-go zone.

The LDP team said the government should take steps to pave the way for a smooth transition in the two less-polluted areas by accelerating decontamination work and rebuilding infrastructure.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is paying ¥100,000 in consolation money to each displaced resident in the two areas every month. The payments are to be terminated one year after the evacuation orders are lifted.

The LDP team proposed that Tepco continue making the payments until March 2018, regardless of when the evacuation orders are lifted for the two areas.

Last year, Japan lifted evacuation orders in parts of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi that had been included in the least-polluted of the three areas. The proposed uniform expiration rules for the consolation payments should also apply to Tamura and Kawauchi residents, said key headquarters official Shinji Inoue, former state minister of the environment.

The LDP team also said the two years through fiscal 2016 should be designated as a period of intensive assistance to help residents restore their independence in their hometowns.

The government should create a new assistance organization for that purpose, the team said, urging the government to instruct Tepco to compensate a wider range of businesses damaged by the nuclear disaster.

The team also said disaster-affected municipalities should cover a portion of the costs for some reconstruction projects. So far, the central government, which had placed responsibility for both promoting nuclear energy and overseeing the industry under the same ministry for decades, has been footing the entire bill.