TAMURA, Fukushima Prefecture--The central government for the first time lifted an evacuation order around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, affecting 360 people, or 0.4 percent of the total population from the evacuation designation zones.
The measure, effective at midnight March 31, covers an eastern strip of Tamura’s Miyakoji district, which falls within a 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant.
The official exclusion from the evacuation zone means residents are now free to live in their old homes in the Miyakoji area, but few of them are expected to return immediately to rebuild their communities. Many evacuees have become acclimated to their lives in evacuation shelters, and fears of radiation persist.
The government ordered all residents living within a 20-km radius of the Fukushima plant to evacuate on March 12, 2011, the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami set off a triple meltdown at the power plant.
The following month, the government added areas of high radiation levels outside the 20-km radius to the evacuation zone, which was expanded to straddle 11 municipalities.
About 80,000 residents remain evacuated from the designated zones.
Radioactive cleanup operations overseen by the central government were completed in June 2013 in the Miyakoji district. Afterward, residents from the area were allowed to stay in their homes for extended periods if they filed applications with the central government.
The government hopes to lift the evacuation order for a portion of the village of Kawauchi, home to 276 people, in late July. It is also considering lifting evacuation orders at early dates in the municipalities of Katsurao, Nahara, Iitate, Minami-Soma and Kawamata.
However, evacuation zone designations are not likely to be lifted any time soon in Okuma and Futaba, co-hosts of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and other municipalities that contain many areas of high radiation levels.
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