15 Août 2013
August 8, 2013
The government recently completed reorganization of 11 municipalities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture into three evacuation zones. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about the rezoning of evacuation areas.
Question: What is this rezoning for?
Answer: The national government sees the reorganization of evacuation zones as a step forward for residents to return to their homes. The government designated "no-entry zones" and "planned evacuation zones" in April 2011 after the onset of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March mainly to prevent residents from being exposed to radiation. However, such evacuation orders didn't indicate when people could actually return home.
The government started the rezoning process after it announced in December 2011 that reactors are in a stage of cold shutdown and radioactive discharge had stopped.
Q: How are these areas rezoned?
A: The government rezoned 11 Fukushima municipalities into three areas according to radiation dosages. These three zones are: "areas preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders" (radiation exposure doses 20 millisieverts or less per year), "residency restriction zone" in which residents can't return for several years (radiation doses between over 20 millisieverts and 50 millisieverts per year) and "difficult-to-return zone" where residents can't go back for at least five years (radiation doses over 50 millisieverts per year).
People still can't stay overnight or live in zones preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders, but the new situation could offer evacuees optimism for the future.
Q: Would the rezoning help evacuees return to their towns and advance disaster recovery?
A: People can enter the "residency restriction zone" and "areas preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders" during the day to clean up and repair their houses. The national and municipal governments can work on infrastructure as well as decontamination work. Private sectors are allowed to open up disaster recovery-related businesses such as farming and gas stations. We can say that evacuees will be able to take small steps to return their lives to how they were before the disaster.
Meanwhile, "difficult-to-return" zones remain as restricted no-entry areas. The government hasn't set up decontamination plans for these parts. The Nagadoro district of Iitate was reorganized into "difficult-to-return" areas from "planned evacuation zones" and is now blocked with barricades.
Q: What will happen next?
A: The national government aims to bring residents home by working on the decontamination process. It plans to lift evacuation orders based on degrees of infrastructure recovery as well as with the consensus of residents. The Miyakoji district of Tamura completed all its decontamination work and residents are allowed a three-month stay from Aug. 1.
However, residents can't return there easily as people still have doubts about the effectiveness of decontamination work and young people are moving out of the area. Some residents have started to settle in places where they had evacuated. The government needs to understand the situation of each evacuee and plan support systems. (By Makoto Fukazu, Fukushima Bureau)