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Major road reopened in no-go zone

September 15, 2014

Stretch of road in no-go zone near Fukushima plant reopened to traffic


The government has reopened an approximately 14-kilometer stretch of road through an otherwise off-limits zone around the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, judging that decontamination work has sufficiently lowered radiation levels.

The road is a part of National Route No. 6, which runs north to south along the coast, connecting the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Futaba and Tomioka. The section was opened to traffic Sept. 15, making it the first in the so-called "difficult-to-return" no-entry zone to be reopened. Decontamination of the road finished in August.

Futaba, and Okuma, another town that the road passes through, are due to host mid-term storage facilities for radioactive soil from the Fukushima disaster.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, radiation levels on the road peak at 14.7 microsieverts per hour, and average 3.5 microsieverts per hour. Officials conducted a test in which a car was driven at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour for about 42 kilometers through the no-entry zone, including the opened stretch between Futaba and Tomioka. It recorded a radiation level of 1.2 microsieverts, and very little radioactive material stuck to the car. Based on the results, the government gave the OK to reopen the 14-kilometer stretch, but only to automobiles, not bikes or pedestrians. No permission will be needed to use the road.

Hidekiyo Tachiya, mayor of the city of Soma, also in Fukushima Prefecture, welcomed the move.

"More people will come and go, and it should boost local recovery efforts," he said. The opening of the road will cut down what was a four-hour trip when traveling south from Soma to Iwaki to two hours, since a detour around the no-go zone will no longer be necessary.

At the same time, the increase in traffic on the road will also present some challenges to roadside shops. Hiroyoshi Wada, 59, manages a convenience store some 20 kilometers north of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. While he gets plenty of customers in the form of nuclear plant and decontamination workers, it is not easy for him to find store staff.

"I'm glad that sales will rise (because of customers using the newly opened road), but I'm afraid the store won't be able to cope," he says.

There are also concerns from locals that criminals will take advantage of the reopening to break into unattended buildings. The national government is addressing this issue by strengthening barricades at intersections with local roads, while municipalities are installing security cameras and stepping up crime patrols.

September 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

Major road in Fukushima open for general traffic


Sep. 15, 2014 - Updated 03:38 UTC+2

Authorities have lifted a traffic restriction on a major road near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The entire stretch of the No. 6 national highway along the Pacific coast is now open to all four-wheeled vehicles.

Since the March 2011 nuclear disaster, the government has designated local areas with high radiation levels as no-entry zones.

Traffic on the 14-kilometer section of the road that runs through Namie and Tomioka towns had been closed, except to vehicles with special permission.

The restriction was lifted on midnight Sunday, after decontamination and repair work was completed.

Motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians are still barred from travelling on the stretch of road. Motorists are also not allowed to get out of their vehicles.

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