Futaba, Fukushima Pref., March 4 (Jiji Press)–The evacuation order for the town of Futaba, which hosts the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, was partially lifted at midnight on Tuesday (3 p.m. GMT).
The move was a significant step for the town moving toward new urban development following the devastation from the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The town saw the first lifting of the evacuation order issued after the nuclear disaster. The lifting was also the first for a “difficult-to-return” zone with relatively high radiation levels.
The evacuation order was lifted for an area in the northeastern part of Futaba, or 4 pct of the town’s total area, as well as difficult-to-return zones around Futaba Station on East Japan Railway Co.’s <9020> Joban Line.
But authorities do not assume that people can live in the areas, as the lifting was intended to attract companies to an industrial complex and build houses.
Following Futaba, the evacuation orders will also be partially lifted for the town of Okuma at midnight on Wednesday and for the town of Tomioka at 6 a.m. on March 10. The three towns are among the seven municipalities where difficult-to-return zones were set after the nuclear accident.
The Joban Line will fully reopen on March 14, a move expected to improve accessibility to Futaba.
In the Futaba areas where the evacuation order was lifted, there are plans to build a center for interactions between companies, which will have restaurants as tenants, and a facility for passing on lessons from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.
“I want many people, including locals, to visit these facilities and have an interest in how reconstruction work is going,” Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said.
All of Futaba’s some 7,100 residents evacuated from their homes due to the nuclear accident.
A survey of evacuees conducted in autumn last year showed that only 10.8 pct of them hoped to come back to Futaba, while 61.5 pct said they had decided not to do so and 25.6 pct said they have not made up their mind.
The Futaba government has announced plans to create a compact city where the town office, homes and commercial facilities will gather around Futaba Station. It aims to lift the central government’s designation as a special reconstruction base in spring 2022.
“First we’ll create jobs, and then we’ll work to create an environment where former residents would want to come back,” Izawa said.