Radiation-Hit Town In Japan Bans Residents' Return For 5 Years

The Okuma town Assembly in Japan's Fukushima prefecture has voted to stop residents from returning to the town for at least five years until it was decontaminated of radioactive materials.

Okuma was declared a no-entry zone after last year's accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant which sent radioactive materials into the ocean and atmosphere, contaminated the food and water supply, and forced the evacuation of 160,000 residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the tsunami-wrecked plant of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

The policy decided at Friday's voting is part of Okuma town's reconstruction plan drafted by a panel that included residents.

The reconstruction plan says 95 percent of the town's residential areas are likely to be reclassified by the central government as unsuitable to live for a long time. The remaining area can be decontaminated, but it would still be difficult for the residents to return soon, Japanese media reported.

Okuma is the first township designated as a no-entry zone that has adopted a no-return policy spanning several years. Okuma is now expected to set up a town office, schools and other public institutions outside the area.

Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe told reporters that his goal was to quickly return to the town, but he had to make a painful decision due to high radiation levels. He said he would work hard over the next five years to restore Okuma's living environment.

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