Thirty-two percent of residents from the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will be unable to return home in 2017 if decontamination is not carried out, according to a government prediction.
That percentage represents more than 27,500 people.
Even in 2022, 18 percent of the evacuees will be stuck in the same situation, central government officials told a meeting on June 9 with officials from Futaba county in Fukushima Prefecture.
When the central government rezoned areas around the crippled Fukushima plant in April, it said evacuees could return home if annual exposure to radiation in their communities is less than 20 millisieverts.
The central government’s predictions are based on the pre-disaster population of 85,988 of the 11 municipalities in the evacuation zone.
Currently, 64 percent of the evacuees are from areas where annual radiation levels are estimated to exceed 20 millisieverts.
The percentage is predicted to fall to 32 percent in 2017 and 18 percent in 2022 as the radiation declines with the passage of time.
But 97 percent of residents in Okuma and 75 percent in Futaba, the towns that host the nuclear plant, will not be able to return home in 2017, according to the forecast.
The forecasts for 2022 are 81 percent of residents of Okuma and 49 percent from Futaba.
If the decontamination operation goes smoothly, many more evacuees will be able to return home, officials said.
But the efforts have run into problems, including finding locations to store and eventually dispose of the radioactive debris.
If decontamination takes longer than expected, more people may have to give up hope of returning home, the officials said.
The central government plans to draw up measures in autumn to help local governments rebuild their communities after asking evacuees’ preferences while presenting forecasts for radiation levels for the coming years.
In the June 9 meeting, central government officials mentioned their policy of seeking industrial promotion and farming programs in the affected areas. But they did not present a detailed road map for restoring infrastructure and revitalizing local industries.
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