Jun 12, 2022 - 20:30


FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN - Residents from part of Katsurao village in Fukushima Prefecture can move back into their homes again more than a decade on from the March 2011 nuclear disaster, after evacuation orders were lifted Sunday morning.

It is the first time restrictions have been removed to allow residents to live again in part of the "difficult-to-return" zone once expected to stay closed far into the future due to high radiation exposure.

The government decided June 3 to end restrictions for the 0.95-square-kilometer area after determining decontamination had reduced radiation levels, and that infrastructure was in place to support habitation.

But while the government has poured funds into decontamination and infrastructure development for zones known as "specified reconstruction and revitalization base" which are earmarked for reopening, the intervening 11 years have depressed residents' desire to return to their homes.

In the part of Katsurao's Noyuki district where restrictions have been lifted, just four of the 30 households comprising 82 people intend to return, according to the local government.

... But Fujio Hanzawa, a 69-year-old resident who was quick to revisit his home, spoke carefully when asked about the reopening. "I'm glad I can return without limits, but I'm still 80 percent concerned. There are issues outstanding, like the unfinished decontamination of the mountain."