KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Prefecture--Some residents of this village who lived within the 20-kilometer restricted zone surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were told on Aug. 17 that they can soon return home, only the second time the right of return has been granted.
The lifting of the evacuation order will allow the return of 275 residents living in 139 households in the eastern area of the village of Kawauchi.
The government made the announcement during a meeting with residents of the village on Aug. 17.
In the meeting in downtown Kawauchi, Kazuyoshi Akaba, a senior vice industry minister who is also chief of the government’s task force handling the Fukushima nuclear disaster, proposed Aug. 26 and Oct. 1 for the dates of lifting the order.
"The evacuation order is forcing people (to stay out of the evacuation zones) despite the Constitution guaranteeing them the right to choose their residence," Akaba said. "If the zones are no longer life-threatening, then we must consider lifting the evacuation orders."
Though many residents opposed it, Mayor Yuko Endo accepted the government's decision.
"Nevertheless, many residents also wish to go back home,” he said. “We have no choice but to accept the decision to lift the evacuation order on Oct. 1."
Following the crisis at the nuclear power plant after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the government established three categories of evacuation zones in Fukushima Prefecture.
From highest to lowest in intensity of radiation contamination, they are the “difficult-to-return zone,” the “no-residence zone” and the “zone being prepared for the lifting of the evacuation order.”
In addition to the lifting of the evacuation order, an adjacent area with 54 residents in 18 households will also be upgraded to a zone being prepared for the lifting of the evacuation order from a no-residence zone. It is the first such case where a non-resident zone status will be upgraded.
Residents living in the Miyakoji district of the city of Tamura just north of Kawauchi, in April, were the first in the 20-kilometer restricted zone to be allowed to return to their homes.