Evacuation Mandate Eased Near Fukushima Plant

The Japanese government on Sept. 30 lifted its order requiring municipal governments within a radius of 20 to 30 kilometers from the plant to keep children and pregnant women out of that zone.

The Japanese government eased its safety measures around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for the first time on Sept. 30, more than six months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused a prolonged crisis at the plant. The government has lifted its emergency order requiring municipal governments within a radius of 20 to 30 kilometers from the plant to keep children and pregnant women out of that zone, according to a report posted on the Asahi Shimbun's English-language website.

The exclusion zone inside the 20-kilometer radius remains in effect. The emergency order was lifted for the outer zone because cooling of the plant's reactors is proceeding smoothly, and there is little change of a new major leak, government officials said.

The report says much work remains to be done before residents who left the outer zone can return, including restoration of water supplies and electricity and removing tons of soil that has been contaminated with radiation. Homes, business offices, and even forests still must be decontaminated; the site has not been designated for storing the volume of contaminated soil, which is estimated at 9 square kilometres and 10 meters deep, according to the report.

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