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Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

Nuke evacuees' homecoming picks up steam


FUKUSHIMA — Steps are gradually being taken to let evacuees return to radiation-tainted parts of Fukushima Prefecture six months after reorganization of the hot zones began.

Although it is unclear when people will be allowed to go back to their homes, more than 40 businesses have opened their doors in redesignated areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following attempted decontamination work.

Of the 11 municipalities that fell within the original evacuation zones, including the 20-km exclusion zone around the power plant, five have acquiesced to the central government's decision to regroup areas into three zones based on radiation level.

The reclassification was applied to the cities of Tamura, Kawauchi and Minamisoma in April, the village of Iitate in July and the town of Naraha in August.

Since then, some firms have been allowed to resume business, with about 42 reopening so far, the municipalities said.

In Naraha, six businesses linked to decontamination and reconstruction are up and running and 10 contractors are set to return shortly, according to Kaoru Saito, director general of the town's chamber of commerce and industry.

But since it is unclear when residents will be able to return permanently, "there are no prospects" for restaurants and retailers reopening anytime soon, Saito said.

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