Japan Govt speeds rezoning of contaminated areas

Original story by Yoshihiro Kiyonaga and Koichi Yasuda December 18th 2011

After declaring that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant’s reactors were in a state of cold shutdown, the government is expediting a review of the zoning of radiation-contaminated areas.

The government has set a rough guideline to allow residents to return home to places where radiation levels are under 20 millisieverts a year.

However, the government is expected to continue restricting entry into areas where radiation levels are higher.

Many difficult tasks remain, including how to decommission the damaged reactors–a problem that may take 30 years or longer to complete.

At a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters on Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda emphasized the government would do its best to restore Fukushima Prefecture.

“The accident still forces many people to live in places far from their hometowns. The entire government will strive hard so people will be able to return home and rebuild their lives as soon as possible,” he said.

About the announcement of the cold shutdown of the reactors Friday, a source said the government initially considered making the declaration “by the end of November.”

The government apparently felt it was desirable to make the declaration as soon as possible to expedite work to have residents return to their hometowns.

The date of the declaration was put off after radioactive xenon was detected in November. Officials suspected a resumption of a chain reaction known as criticality had occurred in the No. 2 reactor.

At present, a 20-kilometer radius from the nuclear plant is designated as a no-entry zone, and places surrounding this zone where radiation levels are feared to reach 20 millisieverts a year are designated as expanded evacuation zones.

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