Evacuation order lifted for part of Futaba

Jiji Press
Police officers and others gather in front of JR Futaba Station before taking part in patrol operations in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Tuesday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government on Tuesday lifted its nuclear evacuation order for part of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, allowing people to live there for the first time since the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Futaba, one of the two host towns of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, was the last remaining Fukushima municipality entirely under the evacuation order.

The evacuation order now covers 85% of the town.

Meanwhile, only 10% of Futaba’s former residents wish to return to the town, according to a survey conducted mainly by the Reconstruction Agency.

On Tuesday, the evacuation order was removed for a “reconstruction base” zone around Futaba Station on East Japan Railway Co.’s Joban Line. The area totals around 5.55 square kilometers, accounting for about 10% of the town. Before the nuclear accident, the area with shopping streets and facilities including a library was the center of the town.

A public housing facility and clinics will be developed on the western side of the station, and the town government’s new building will be built on the eastern side.

The town will also test rice growing, with the aim of restarting farming in 2025.

Futaba had about 7,100 residents before the nuclear disaster. But as of Friday, only 85 people from 52 households had registered with a preparatory lodging program in the town, which started in January this year.

As many evacuees have decided not to return to Futaba, the town aims to have 2,000 residents after five years. But it is uncertain whether the town will be able to achieve even this goal.

Another challenge for the town is having the evacuation order lifted for areas other than the reconstruction base zone. The government plans to conduct a survey of former residents of such areas by the end of the year and launch decontamination work in fiscal 2024 on a priority basis, reflecting the results of the survey.