Evacuation orders lifted for part of Fukushima nuclear plant town

Storage tanks for radioactive water at tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (DPA) - The Japanese government on Wednesday (April 10) lifted its evacuation order over part of a Fukushima town hosting the damaged nuclear power plant, despite lingering concerns about radiation contamination.

Critics say the move is largely symbolic, as the order was lifted for about 40 per cent of Okuma, where only 367 people, or around 3.5 per cent of the town's original population of 10,341, had registered as residents.

Around 60 per cent of Okuma will remain a no-go zone due to high levels of radiation, while the order has been in place for Futaba, the other town that co-hosts the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, run by Tokyo Electric Power.

Wednesday's move comes eight years after a powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the plant, forcing the government to issue the evacuation order to tens of thousands of residents.

For the past eight years, Okuma residents have been evacuated to other parts of Fukushima or outside the prefecture.

"Evacuees have been worn out both mentally and physically," Okuma assembly member Masumi Kowata told dpa.

Even if the order is lifted for the rest of the town, many residents would be reluctant to return home due to fears about radioactive contamination, Mr Kowata said.

The government lifted the evacuation order for much of neighbouring Tomioka two years ago. But only 10 per cent of Tomioka's population has so far returned.

The figure includes workers who moved there for the decommissioning operation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

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