For the first time since Japan's Fukushima nuclear
disaster more than three years ago, residents of a small district 20 km
from the wrecked plant are about to be allowed to return home.
The Miyakoji area of Tamura, a northeastern city inland from the Fukushima
nuclear station, has been off-limits for most residents since March 2011, when
the government ordered evacuations after a devastating earthquake
triggered a triple meltdown
at the power plant.
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The reopening of Miyakoji will mark a tiny step for Japan as it seeks to
recover from the Fukushima disaster and a major milestone for the 357
registered residents of the district – most of whom the city hopes will go
But homesick evacuees have mixed feelings about returning to Miyakoji, set amid
rolling hills and rice paddies, a sign of how difficult the path back to
normality will be for those forced from their homes by the accident.
Many families with young children are torn over what to do, one city
"Young people won't return," said Kitaro Saito, a man in his early
60s, who opposed lifting the ban and had no intention of going home yet.
"Relatives are arguing over what to do" and friends disagree, he
said, warming his hands outside his temporary home among rows of other one-room
trailers in a Tamura parking lot. "The town will be broken up."
Saito said he wanted to go back to his large hillside house in Miyakoji, but
thinks the government is using residents as "guinea pigs" to test
whether larger returns are possible.
Lives on hold
The 2011 crisis forced more than 160 000 people from towns near the Fukushima
plant to evacuate. Around a third of them are still living in temporary housing
scattered over Fukushima prefecture, their lives on hold as they wait for Japan
to complete decontamination work.
short film about radioactive contamination in Japan
Japan's $30 billion cleanup of radioactive fallout around Fukushima is
behind schedule and not expected to achieve the long-term radiation reduction
goal – 1 millisievert per year – set by the previous administration.
Across Fukushima prefecture, hundreds of workers are still scraping the top
soil off of the ground, cutting leaves and branches off trees and hosing down
houses with water to lower radiation levels.
Radiation levels in selected monitoring spots in Miyakoji ranged from 0.11
microsieverts to 0.48 microsieverts per hour, according to Tamura city's
Greater chance of cancer
This was higher than the average 0.034 microsieverts per hour measured in
central Tokyo, but comparable to background radiation of about 0.2
microsieverts per hour in Denver. A commercial flight between Tokyo and New
York exposes passengers to about 10 microsieverts per hour.
Populations exposed to radiation typically have a greater chance of
of all kinds after receiving doses above 100 millisieverts (100,000
microsieverts), according to the World Health Organisation.
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