Fukushima Victims Cleared to Come Home

For the first time in three years, revitalization looks possible for those affected by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster as more than 300 people have been approved to return to their homes. Officials say radiation levels in the Miyakoji district of Tamura are now low enough for residents to start moving back, and although that is good news for some, many are hesitant to return.

The evacuation was ordered following a tsunami in March, 2011, which destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, contaminating surrounding areas with deadly levels of radiation. Nearly 140,000 people were forced to leave the area and 138,000 people are still living in temporary housing accommodations. Efforts to rid the region of such chemicals were originally criticized for the lack of progress and organization, but now the relief efforts are reaching some small milestones.

Miyakoji is only 12 miles from the edge of the exclusion zone, the closest area to be cleared for inhabitation. Officials limit the amount of radiation to a maximum of 20 millisieverts per year in order for a region to be declared suitable for residents. Radiation levels in Miyakoji currently range between 0.11 microsieverts and 0.48 microsieverts per hour, which authorities say are safe. A total of 116 households, or about 355 residents, are now allowed to permanently return to their homes, but some have mixed enthusiasm.

Kimiko Koyama, a former resident of Miyakoji, said, “Many of our friends and neighbors won’t come back. There are no jobs. It’s inconvenient and young people are scared of radiation.” Other residents just want to feel a sense of normalcy. One resident told CNN, “Yes, I am a bit worried. But it’s my land, my house, so I feel safer and more at home here.” Kitaro Saito, a 60-year-old resident said he has no plans to return and believes the government is using citizens as “guinea pigs” to test how many people will go back.

Despite the doubts and concerns, this is one of the first good signs towards recovery from the crisis. Since 2011, decontamination work has been riddled with setbacks, but now it’s clear some progress is being made. There are no estimated deadlines for when remaining evacuees will be able to return, or if they ever will, but for many, just the potential to go home has brought a renewed hope.



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