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Japan Nuclear Plant Cleanup: Could Be Years Before People Can Go Home

Image: Japan Nuclear Plant Cleanup: Could Be Years Before People Can Go Home

By Robin Farmer   |   Monday, 21 Oct 2013 04:37 PM

A revised radiation cleanup schedule near Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant will keep some evacuees from returning to their homes for years.

Residents were evacuated after three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant went into meltdown following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The original plan called for decontamination by March 2014, The Associated Press reported.

Environment Ministry officials said Monday the cleanup schedule will be revised for six of 11 municipalities in the exclusion zone.

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"We would have to extend the cleanup process, by one year, two years or three years, we haven't exactly decided yet," Shigeyoshi Sato, an Environment Ministry official in charge of decontamination, told the AP.

Part of the delay stems from opposition to where the decontamination waste will go. Residents have stated they do not want the waste dumped in their communities, Sato said.

After some initial decontamination efforts, the government has permitted some residents to visit their homes for the day.

During a visit to the Fukushima area last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted in a statement the progress made since its last visit two years ago.

“Japan has done an enormous amount to reduce people's radiation exposure in the affected areas, to work towards enabling evacuees to go back to their homes and to support local communities in overcoming economic and social disruption," said team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, Director of the Division of Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

Lentijo told a news conference Monday: "The main conclusion of the mission is that Japan has achieved important progress,” the Lebanon Daily News reported.

In a preliminary report released Monday, the team noted advancement in the remediation of some farmland and monitoring that has shown the land has the ability to grow food with levels of radioactivity lower than the permissible level. It also praised Japan's efforts to involve stakeholders.

Lentijo also said the public must stay informed about the decontamination work, its costs, and benefits.

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