The government has notified five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture their designation as evacuation preparation zones will end later this month.
The five municipalities are, from north to south, Minami-Soma, Tamura, Kawauchimura, Narahamachi and Hironomachi. They are located between 20 and 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The government earlier said it would end the designation across the board when rebuilding plans, including those for decontamination of radioactive substances, are worked out by the five municipalities.
Hironomachi, the last municipality to do so, submitted a rebuilding plan to the central government Monday. The town had faced difficulties coordinating timing of the decontamination work.
The emergency evacuation preparation zone, set by the central government on April 22, encompasses the five municipalities either partially or completely. Before the nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 disaster, they had a population of about 58,000, with about 30,000 evacuating the zone.
Officials of the municipal governments concerned said they were notified by central government officials earlier this month that the designation would be lifted within the month.
In their rebuilding plans, the municipalities specified areas for decontamination work and expected implementation dates. As for the timing for residents to return home, Kawauchimura mentions "by next March" while Minami-Soma does not give any date.
Narahamachi, most of which is located within the 20-kilometer restricted area, has no formal plan to have residents return as there were very few residents in the area before the nuclear crisis.
However, a few companies in the Naraha-Minami industrial complex, a portion of which lies in the evacuation preparation zone, have expressed their intention to resume operation after the designation is lifted. They hope to resume operation by March.
In the evacuation preparation zone, a policy of staying indoors or evacuating is in place in case of an emergency. Children, hospital inpatients and those requiring nursing care are asked not to enter the zone.
Primary and middle schools in the area have been closed and classes are conducted outside the zone.