Village in Fukushima evacuation zone plans for return

December 17, 2011

The local government in Iitate, a village in Fukushima Prefecture where high radiation levels forced all residents to evacuate, announced its reconstruction plan on Dec. 16.

"There is no way for us to return unless we set up realistic goals and proceed with decontamination," said Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno.

The foremost short-term goal included in the plan is to reduce the annual dose of external radiation exposure to 5 millisieverts through decontamination. The goal is to begin moving residents back in two years' time and have them all returned within five years.

Although the aim is to bring radiation levels down to 1 millisievert per year, officials settled on the more realistic goal of 5 millisieverts.

Other measures in the plan include: decontaminating residential land plots to a substantial extent in two years; decontaminating all farmland in five years; setting up an independent inspection body to ensure that the village is providing safe farm products; and taking steps to introduce renewable energy programs.

Iitate is located roughly between 30-50 kilometers to the northwest of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Although the village lies outside the 20-km no-entry zone around the nuclear plant, it was included in the government-designated "planned evacuation zone" because the radioactive plume that wafted to the northwest during the early days of the crisis left a sizable volume of radioactive particles on the village.

The current annual dose in most parts of the village amounts to around 20-40 millisieverts. Ninety percent of the village's 6,200 residents have evacuated to other parts of Fukushima Prefecture.

Kanno criticized the government's Dec. 16 announcement that the nuclear crisis has been settled because the reactors have reached cold shutdown.

"It's out of the question to call it under control," the mayor said. "They know nothing about the reality here."

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To prepare for the winter, staff distribute electric heating blankets to evacuees on Nov. 30 at an evacuation center in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, set up by the government of Iitate village in the same prefecture. (Shinichi Fujiwara)

To prepare for the winter, staff distribute electric heating blankets to evacuees on Nov. 30 at an evacuation center in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, set up by the government of Iitate village in the same prefecture. (Shinichi Fujiwara)

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  • To prepare for the winter, staff distribute electric heating blankets to evacuees on Nov. 30 at an evacuation center in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, set up by the government of Iitate village in the same prefecture. (Shinichi Fujiwara)
  • A dosimeter in front of the Iitate village office in Fukushima Prefecture on Nov. 30 shows a reading of 2.46 microsieverts per hour. Not a soul is to be seen nearby. (Shinichi Fujiwara)

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