TOKYO: Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels.
The formal announcement, expected from the government this week, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant. The affected communities are all within 19 kilometres of the plant, an area that was evacuated immediately after the accident.
The government is expected to tell residents that they will not be permitted to return to their homes for an indefinite period. It will also begin drawing up plans for compensating them. While it is unclear if the government would specify how long the restrictions would remain, news reports indicated it could be decades. That has been the case for areas around the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine after its 1986 accident.
Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year.
The government was apparently forced to alter its plans after the survey by the Ministry of Science and Education, released over the weekend, showed even higher than expected radiation levels within the evacuation zone around the plant.
About 80,000 people were evacuated from communities around the plant, which was crippled by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Many of those residents now live in temporary housing or makeshift refugee shelters.
The New York Times