Photo/IllutrationThe rebuilt JR Futaba Station in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 18 (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

The government for the first time will lift evacuation orders for parts of Futaba, a town that co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in early March, sources said.

Futaba is the only municipality whose entire area remains under evacuation orders because of high radiation levels caused by the nuclear disaster in 2011.

That off-limits designation will be removed in March for Futaba Station on the JR Joban Line and the area in front of the station, as well as for the Hamano and Morotake districts in northeastern parts of Futaba, the sources said.

Those areas span about 200 hectares in total, accounting for roughly 4 percent of the entire town.

The central government wants to rebuild the areas as part of the resuscitation of the town, but residents who were forced to flee Futaba might have to wait until 2022 before they can return permanently to their homes.

The Futaba Station location, which is in a designated “difficult-to-return” zone, is considered a priority area for decontamination work, construction of infrastructure and rebuilding.

Full services on the JR Joban Line connecting Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture are expected to resume on March 14 next year.

The central government has conducted decontamination work around the station and in the Hamano and Morotake districts, which are both designated as “zones in preparation for lifting the evacuation order.”

The Futaba municipal government confirmed radiation levels have decreased in those areas and has held briefing sessions with residents.

The town will consult with the central and Fukushima prefectural governments before a decision is reached by Dec. 26 on the specific date when the evacuation orders will be lifted.

Work is under way to develop industrial complexes and farmland in the Hamano and Morotake districts. The municipal government hopes the lifting of the evacuation orders will encourage businesses to resume operations there.

The Futaba government plans to allow residents to start living in the town again in spring 2022, after infrastructure needed for daily lives, such as water supply, is restored.

The central government is also expected to lift evacuation orders for areas around and including Ono Station in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, and Yonomori Station in Tomioka in the prefecture, in early March to coincide with the resumption of full services on the Joban Line.

Evacuation orders were issued to 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The government started lifting those orders in April 2014, but the orders remain in seven municipalities, including all of Futaba.