” The government on June 12 lifted the evacuation order for Katsurao, a village northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but most of the residents appear reluctant to return home.
The lifting of the order covers more than 90 percent of the households in Katsurao. The entire village was ordered to evacuate after the crisis at the Fukushima plant started to unfold on March 11, 2011.
Katsurao is the fourth municipality in Fukushima Prefecture that had the evacuation order lifted, following the Miyakoji district in Tamura, the eastern area of Kawauchi village and Naraha.
Government officials said cleanup and other efforts have reduced radiation levels in Katsurao to a point that poses little problem. The lifting of the evacuation order means that 1,347 people from 418 households, out of 1,466 people from 451 households in Katsurao, can return to their homes to live in the village.
But only 126 people from 53 households, or 10 percent of those eligible to return, have signed up for a program for extended stays in the village to prepare for their return, according to Katsurao officials.
The officials said they believe that many evacuees would rather go back and forth between temporary housing and their homes in Katsurao for the time being, given the situation in the village.
Medical institutions and shops have yet to resume operations in Katsurao. And nearly half of the rice paddies there are being used for the temporary storage of radioactive waste produced in the cleanup operation.
Local officials say they have no idea when the waste can be moved out of the village for permanent storage.
Among the Katsurao residents eligible to return are those with homes in the government-designated “residence restricted zone,” where the annual radiation dose was projected at more than 20 millisieverts and up to 50 millisieverts as of March 2012.
This was the first time evacuees from such a zone have been permitted to return home.
Only the “difficult-to-return zone” carries a higher annual radiation dose.
The government plans to lift evacuation orders for other parts of the prefecture by the end of March 2017, except for the “difficult-to-return zone,” where the annual radiation dose was estimated at 50 millisieverts or higher as of March 2012.
The additional lifting of the evacuation orders would allow 46,000 of 70,000 displaced residents to return to their homes to live. ”
by Makoto Takada and Yuri Oiwa