Japan’s nuclear emergency response headquarters, part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), on 28 October approved lifting of the evacuation order for the municipality of Kawamata Town in Fukushima Prefecture, some 45km northwest of the Fukushima-Daiichi NPP. The lifting of the order, imposed after the March 2011 accident, will be effective from 31 March 2017.
The area near Kawamata was evacuated after it was shown that radioactive particles had been carried by the wind from the damaged power plant. Limited access to the town had been permitted, and METI relaxed controls on entry to most of Kawamata town, northwest of the plant, in August 2013. The redesignation allowed decontamination work to begin and for essential infrastructure and services to be reconstructed. Residents have been able to return at will to visit and work without the use of protective equipment. The only remaining restriction was that they could not stay overnight.
According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Kawamata will be the seventh municipality to have its evacuation order lifted. As from April 2017, it says, evacuation orders will remain in effect in parts of five municipalities - the towns of Tomioka, Okuma, Namie and Futaba, as well as part of the village of Iitate.
The government aims to lift all evacuation orders by March 2017, except for certain areas where radiation levels are expected to remain high.