Nuclear cleanup for towns surrounding Fukushima is years behind schedule

Japanese officials can't say when residents of contaminated communities will be able to return home

By Lindsay Abrams

Published October 21, 2013 7:01PM (EDT)

It has been years since some of the 160,000 people living in the towns surrounding Japan's crippled nuclear facility were first evacuated from their homes. And it will be years more, Japanese officials announced today, before they'll be able to return. It's a different sort of reminder of the ongoing crisis brought about by the 2011 nuclear disaster, which workers are still struggling to contain.

From the Associated Press:

Environment Ministry officials said they are revising the cleanup schedule for six of 11 municipalities in an exclusion zone from which 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 completing all decontamination by next March.

Nobody has been allowed to live in the zone again yet, though the government has allowed day visits to homes and businesses in some places after initial decontamination, said Shigeyoshi Sato, an Environment Ministry official in charge of decontamination.

Experts say Japan has made important progress, such as reducing the radioactivity in food grown in some of the affected areas to permissible levels. The level of progress that will allow people to return to the daily lives, however, continues to elude them. As Sato told the AP: "We will have to extend the cleanup process, by one year, two years or three years, we haven't exactly decided yet."

Lindsay Abrams

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Contamination Evacuations Fukushima Japan