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Saturday, 5 September 2015

Fukushima: Japan ends evacuation of Naraha as 'radiation at safe level'

The town’s 7,400 residents are allowed to return to their homes after the four-year-old evacuation order was lifted on Saturday

  A man lights candles in Naraha, Japan. Residents of Naraha will return from Saturday to live in the town near the Fukushima nuclear power plant for the first time since the 2011 disaster.

The Japanese town of Naraha has lifted a 2011 evacuation order that sent all its 7,400 residents away after the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled by a tsunami that led to a meltdown and contamination.

Naraha was the first among seven municipalities forced to empty entirely due to radiation contamination following the massive earthquake and tsunami that sent the reactors into meltdown.

The government says radiation levels in town have fallen to levels deemed safe following decontamination efforts, and on Saturday lifted the four-year-old evacuation order.

The town represents a test case, as most residents remain cautious amid lingering health concerns and a lack of infrastructure. Only about 100 of the nearly 2,600 households have returned since a trial period begun in April.

The Naraha mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said Saturday marked an important milestone. “Our clock started moving again,” Matsumoto said during a ceremony held at a children’s park. “The lifting of the evacuation order is one key step but this is just a start.”

He said fear of radiation and nuclear safety was still present and the town had a long way ahead for recovery. It would be without a medical clinic until October and a new prefectural hospital would not be ready until February next year.

A grocery store started free delivery services in July, and a shopping centre will open in 2016. Still, many residents, especially those who do not drive, face limited options for their daily necessities.

Residents are given personal dosimeters to check their own radiation levels. To accommodate their concerns the town is also running 24-hour monitoring at a water filtration plant, testing tap water for radioactive materials.

In 2014 the government lifted evacuation orders for parts of two nearby towns.

Source: The Guardian

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