Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture--An area of a no-entry zone in a town that co-hosts the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was designated a “rebuilding hub,” part of the government’s plan to lift the evacuation order in spring 2022.

The 860-hectare area in downtown Okuma is around JR Ono Station and located about 4 kilometers southwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Now empty, the area used to be home to the town’s government office and shopping centers.

It accounts for 18 percent of the “difficult-to-return zone” in Okuma.

The central government’s designation on Nov. 10, its second around the nuclear plant, means that full-scale work will soon start on decontamination, water maintenance and infrastructure rebuilding in the Okuma hub using public funds.

One specific area targeted in the cleanup will be around JR Ono Station on the JR Joban Line. Operations of the line in the area are scheduled to resume by the end of fiscal 2019.

The government plans to lift the evacuation order for the entire hub by spring 2022.

An estimated 1,500 residents are expected to return to their homes in the area after the order is lifted.

More than 1,000 workers involved in decommissioning the nuclear plant also plan to move to the hub, according to the government.

The government estimates 2,600 people will reside in the hub five years after the evacuation order is lifted.

Rice paddies and vegetable fields in the hub will be maintained, and 130 residents are expected to resume farming in the area.

In September, the government designated as a rebuilding hub part of Futaba town, the other co-host of the nuclear plant.

It was the first such designation since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear disaster in March 2011.