Japan announces plans to return residents to the Fukushima region

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 11:11pm

Japan will lift an exclusion order on an area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, allowing some residents to return to live there for the first time since the disaster, officials say.

"The formal lifting of the evacuation order will come on April 1, affecting around 300 people" whose homes were in part of Tamura city, 20km west of the plant, a cabinet office official said yesterday.

Over the next two years, up to 30,000 people will be allowed to return to their homes in the original exclusion zone, created to protect people from the harmful effects of leaking radiation, he said.

Residents remain divided over whether they should return, with many still concerned over the persistent presence of low-level radiation, despite decontamination efforts.

Under government guidelines, areas are declared suitable for habitation if anyone living there is exposed to a maximum of 20 millisieverts of radiation a year. Officials have said they would like to get radiation exposure down to one millisievert a year.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends a dosage limit of one millisievert per year from all sources of radiation, but says exposure to less than 100 millisieverts per year presents no statistically significant increase in cancer risk.

A single CT hospital scan delivered about 10 millisieverts, according to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan.

Once the evacuation order was lifted, people would be free to choose whether or not to return home, the official said.

Nearly three years after the tsunami hit, killing more than 18,000 and setting off the worst nuclear accident in a generation, about 100,000 people remain displaced because of evacuation orders, according to the Japan Reconstruction Agency.