” FUKUSHIMA – Evacuees from three municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture are being allowed to return home for long-term stays before the central government formally lifts the evacuation order for those areas.
The government says it made the move, which took effect Monday, because radiation levels have dropped sufficiently in Minamisoma, Kawamata and Katsurao since the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The government will decide by November whether to lift the evacuation order after hearing from the evacuees.
The long-term stays are allowed for 14,255 people in 4,647 households, the largest number in the long-stay program so far.
Some areas will remain no-go zones because radiation levels remain high.
As of Monday, 1,308 people in 478 households, some 10 percent of the total, had reported to the government that they would start the long-term stays in their homes.
Decontamination work in residential areas in Kawamata and Katsurao was completed in summer last year, halving the average radiation level in the air to 0.5 microsievert per hour.
In Minamisoma, only 26 percent of decontamination work had been finished by the end of July, but natural falls in radiation levels were taken into consideration.
Dosimeters will be given to each household, while consultants will be dispatched to check the health status of residents. Minamisoma has set next April as its target date for the lifting of the evacuation order, while Katsurao and Kawamata are being less exact and have set the target for next spring.
Long-term stays have already been conducted in Tamura and part of Kawauchi, where evacuation orders have been removed, and in Naraha, where it is slated to be lifted on Wednesday. ”