An area in the no-entry zone of Futaba, a town that co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, became the first government-designated “rebuilding hub” after the 3/11 disaster.
The designation on Sept. 15 means decontamination will speed up and infrastructure restored so the evacuation order in the town center can be lifted by spring 2022.
Most of Futaba is currently located in a difficult-to-return zone because of high radiation levels. Rebuilding efforts have not started there yet, even six-and-a-half years since the nuclear accident unfolded.
The rebuilding hub covers about 560 hectares of land around Futaba Station, accounting for about 10 percent of the town’s total area. It is almost the same size as an interim storage facility for contaminated soil and other waste that will be built within the town.
The central government will start full-scale decontamination efforts in the hub zone, and plans to initially lift the evacuation order for the area around the station by the end of fiscal 2019 to allow an open thoroughfare and short stays by members of the public.
By spring 2022, the government plans to lift the evacuation order for the entire hub zone. It hopes to bring back 1,400 former residents to the zone by 2027, and also provide homes for about 600 people from outside the town, such as workers at the Fukushima plant.
The difficult-to-return zones have been excluded from the government’s rebuilding efforts. But a related law was amended in May, and the government is now responsible for rebuilding areas that could be made habitable in the near future after decontamination, meaning a radiation reading of 20 millisieverts per year or less.
In late August, Futaba applied to the government to host a designated rebuilding hub. Other municipalities with difficult-to-return zones are now preparing applications for the program.