Gov't scales down evacuation zones around damaged nuclear plant

The government on Tuesday scaled down areas in Fukushima Prefecture subject to evacuation orders since the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As of midnight, the government lifted its evacuation order for part of the Miyakoji district in the city of Tamura -- the first case of an evacuation order being lifted on an area within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima plant.

Radiation cleanup activities have been carried out to enable evacuees to return to their homes, but it remains to be seen how many of the 355 residents of 116 households in the area actually opt to move back amid concerns over whether the radiation level is low enough.

Besides Tamura, a total of 10 cities, towns and villages are still subject to evacuation orders. They are located either within a 20-km radius of the plant or in some areas beyond.

The areas have been classified into three categories based on their radiation levels -- a zone where evacuation orders are ready to be lifted, a zone where habitation is restricted and a zone where residents are unlikely to be allowed to return for a long time.

The Miyakoji district was designated as a no-go zone about a month after the nuclear crisis began, but it was categorized as an area ready to be freed from the evacuation order in April 2012.

Evacuees had been allowed to stay overnight at their homes since August last year, but registration was required.