The Japanese government announced on Thursday that it will legally enforce a no-entry zone within 20 km of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from midnight (1500 GMT). People entering the banned area without government permission could be subject to fines.
Unveiling the plan at a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “The plant has not been stable, and the ban is aimed at protecting the health and safety of the local people. We seek the understanding of residents.”
The top government spokesman also said one person per household will be allowed to temporarily return to their homes in the off-limits zone on a limited basis to collect necessary belongings. All visitors to the no-go area will be screened for radiation exposure after trip.”However, the government will not allow residents within a 3-km radius of the plant to visit homes, as the radiation risk is deemed too high,” said Edano.
The government on March 12 issued an evacuation advisory for residents in the 20-kilometer zone to evacuate, and some 80,000 residents were forced to abandon their homes empty-handed. But until now, many evacuees have continued to return briefly home to pick up belongings without sufficient radiation safety measures.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday it will take six to nine months to bring the troubled reactors under control.
The magnitude 9.0-quake and subsequent tsunami on March 11 hit the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi plant, 230 km north of Tokyo, knocking out its vital cooling systems.
It resulted in explosions, fires and radiation leaks. While radiation leakage has already declined, the cumulative effect has had a growing impact on nearby areas.
On April 12, the government raised the severity level of the crisis from level 5 to the maximum level 7 on an international scale, the same category as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.