Radiation removal work in six Fukushima Prefecture municipalities could take up to three years longer to complete than initially planned, according to a proposal put together by the Environment Ministry, further protracting the wait for evacuees to return home.
The central government has assumed responsibility for decontaminating 11 municipalities that were polluted by radiation after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.
The initial plan called for decontamination to be finished by the end of the current fiscal year.
However, the work period has been extended for seven of those municipalities, and the Environment Ministry recently presented its proposed new road map for decontamination to six of those municipalities. Decontamination work in the four other municipalities has either been completed or is expected to be finished by March, the end of the fiscal year.
Under the new proposal, decontamination in Iitate would be delayed by as much as three years, while completion will be two years behind original plans in Minami-Soma.
The four other municipalities presented with new decontamination road maps were Kawamata, Namie, Tomioka and Katsurao.
According to ministry sources as well as those connected with the six municipalities, the ministry presented between two and four scenarios for the completion of decontamination work, depending on the number of workers that would be put in place.
The plan for decontamination work in Futaba has not yet been compiled.
The proposals have different assumptions for the number of workers, from about 1,000 a day to several thousand.
One proposal for Iitate called for using as many as 9,600 workers a day.
Those proposals led to complaints from municipal government officials who said the assumptions were unrealistic.
An Environment Ministry official said: "The new road maps show how many days would be needed depending on the number of workers used for the area that would have to be decontaminated. We are asking the municipalities to think together with us about what should be done."
The Environment Ministry plans to announce before the end of the year a new schedule for completion of decontamination work.
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