With all the 10,000 residents of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, still evacuated from the March 2011 nuclear accident, many of the elderly are hoping to live their final years in their hometown.
In response, Okuma has set up a project team during the current fiscal year to construct apartment buildings within two years for elderly residents wanting to return home.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that caused the accident, also plans to construct dormitories for its employees in Okuma, which co-hosts the crippled plant, along with the neighboring town of Futaba.
These housing projects demonstrate that attempts to restore people’s lives in the town have begun, according to Okuma officials and TEPCO.
The central government is aiming to lift the evacuation order for no-residence zones, including the Ogawara district, by March 2017. By that time, Okuma officials plan to have completed the construction of the apartment buildings for elderly residents.
“Judging from the feedback we received in repeated meetings with residents, about 100 people will move into the apartment buildings,” a high-ranking town government official said.
TEPCO’s dormitories will also be constructed in the Ogawara district. Almost all of the land owners for the buildings have already given permission for the use of their properties. As the dormitories will be completed in 2016 at the earliest, TEPCO employees who will live in them will become the first people to reside in Okuma since all the residents evacuated in March 2011.
Though the evacuation orders are still in effect for the entire town through 2016, TEPCO employees will be allowed to live in the dormitories under special permission granted to those engaged in the decommissioning of the nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, in Naraha and some other municipalities, where evacuation orders have already been lifted, efforts to return residents have made little progress.