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Return on hold for Japan’s evacuees

Associated Press / August 23, 2011

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TOKYO - Some residents evacuated from around Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant may not to be able to return to their homes for a long time because high radiation levels are projected to linger, a top government official said yesterday.

The government is considering providing additional support for the evacuees, including long-term housing rather than prefabricated temporary homes that the government is building, Cabinet members said over the weekend.

The comments follow a report from the education and science ministry projecting that radiation accumulated over one year at 22 monitoring sites within roughly 12 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant would climb above 100 millisieverts, five times higher than the international safety standard.

The plant was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that knocked out its vital cooling systems, causing meltdowns in three reactor cores that spewed radiation into the air. Some 80,000 people within a 12-mile radius of the plant have been evacuated.

“We cannot deny a possibility that some of the residents may not be able to return to their homes for a long time in some areas despite our decontamination efforts,’’ Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “We are very sorry.’’

The government’s plan to bring the troubled plant to a cold, stable shutdown by January had boosted hopes among evacuees that they might be able to return to their homes soon after that.

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