TOKYO, April 21 (Xinhua) — The Japanese government will prohibit people from entering an area within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government said Thursday.
The restricted zone is already covered by an evacuation directive from the central government, but local residents have become concerned about their homes being burgled and the area has seen increasing numbers of residents going back to their homes to collect items of financial and sentimental value, as the previous directive was on a voluntary basis.
Under the government’s new mandate, residents will be allowed a supervised visit to collect items of value and other necessities and following this will have access to their homes cut off.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a televised press conference that only one person per family will be allowed to return for up to around two hours. They will be made to wear protective clothing and carry dosimeters.
The government plans to start the brief return “in a few days” to complete the first stage in one to two months, Edano added.
But the government has decided not to allow residents living within a 3-km radius of the plant to do so, and will likely exclude also areas outside the 3km radius that have registered high levels of radiation exposure.
All roads and access routes into the area will be sealed off. Persons violating the new governmental directive, including evacuated residents who live within the no-go zone, could face legal repercussions and will be forcibly removed.
Between 70,000 and 80,000 local residents in 10 districts in Fukushima Prefecture within the 20-kilometer radius evacuation zone have already relocated to other places, with some opting to move out of the prefecture.
Of the 3,378 households in the 20-km radius visited by police from March 29 through April 18, 63 households remained despite government’s persuasion.
Edano also said that the evacuation zone around Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant will be cut to 8 km from the current 10 km, as the possibility of serious accident at Fukushima No. 2 plant is low.