NARAHA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The central government has notified the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, it will remove on Sept. 5 the evacuation order that has been in place since the March 2011 nuclear crisis.
Naraha will be the first to see the evacuation order lifted among seven Fukushima municipalities that were completely emptied by evacuation orders.
Government officials, including Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry, went to the town Monday afternoon and informed its mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, of the plan to lift the order.
The plan will be formalized soon by the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters.
The government proposed in June lifting the evacuation order before the Bon holiday period in mid-August. Members of the Naraha Municipal Assembly and other local people objected, arguing the town’s infrastructure had not been restored sufficiently.
The government decided to push back the date to allow enough time for additional measures to help smooth residents’ permanent return to their homes, such as expanding free shuttle bus services to medical institutions.
The removal of the evacuation order will allow 7,401 people from 2,704 households to return, the largest homecoming of Fukushima evacuees so far. Until now, the biggest returns have been to the Miyakoji district of the city of Tamura and the eastern part of the village of Kawauchi.
Decontamination was completed in Naraha in March 2014. The average radiation level in residential areas in the town was at 0.3 microsievert per hour, down some 60 percent from before the start of the decontamination work.
In April this year, the government started to allow Naraha evacuees to return home for long-term stays to prepare for their permanent return. In total, 688 people from 326 households have taken part in the long-stay program.