Another substantial part of the evacuation area in Fukushima prefecture has been recategorised, with most of Iitate village subject to conditional returns from tomorrow.
Most of Iitate's approximately 7000 residents will be able to return during daylight hours to homes and businesses without monitoring or protective equipment from 17 July, under changes to control measures announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This makes possible the resumption of commerce, retail and public services, thereby helping to prepare the areas for full rehabitation. It allows the maintenance and restoration of buildings, roads and other infrastructure, some of which suffered during the earthquake last year.
Separate from the evacuation area defined by a 20 kilometre radius from Fukushima Daiichi, the area near Iitate was evacuated once it was known that radioactive particles had been carried by the wind from the damaged power plant. The southern half of this 'planned evacuation zone' remains in force, as does about two thirds of the 20 kilometre zone. One portion of Iitate village administrative area remains cordoned off due to higher levels of radiation - the second area restricted in this way since the first revisions to the evacuation zone, made in April.
|The updated restrictions. Iitate is the northern area where boxes indicate newly-categorised green, orange and purple zones
|The evolution of evacuation areas: April 2011, April 2012 and July 2012 (click to enlarge with key)
Ready, steady, restoration
The Japanese government employs a traffic-light system to describe the status of the different areas affected by radioactivity released by the Fukushima accident last year. Residents may return at will to areas marked green to visit and work without the use of protective equipment. The only restriction is that they may not stay overnight. The radiation dose rate in these areas is less than 20 millisieverts per year - the government's benchmark for permanent return.
In the orange 'restricted' areas people can enter to carry out specific jobs without being monitored or using protective equipment. Dose rates in these areas are between 20 and 50 millisieverts per year. People entering these zones were advised to avoid doing so unnecessarily, to refrain from working outdoors, to use cars rather than to walk for more than a short period and to wash upon re-entering a building. Residents were told not to drink water from rivers, but that tap water would present no problem.
The third category of area is known as 'difficult' to return to because of an ambient dose rate of over 50 millisieverts per year, which is not expected to go below 20 millisieverts per year before March 2016 - five years after the accident. Entering these areas is possible for purposes in the public interest, although people doing so should use monitors and protective gear.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News