Japan imposed a 20-kilometer (12 mile) no-entry zone around the crippled Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima in the interests of public health, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.
“Entry into the zone will be banned except for authorized persons for emergencies and for temporary visits,” Edano said at a press conference today in Tokyo. The order will go into effect at midnight tonight, he said.
About 80,000 people lived in the area before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami slammed into the plant, causing the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. While the residents were evacuated, some have returned against the advice of officials. About 40 people are living in the area, said Yusuke Matsumura, a spokesman at Japan’s atomic safety agency.
One person per household will be allowed to return to their homes for a two-hour period to retrieve belongings, Edano said today. Residents whose homes were within three kilometers of the plant, though, won’t be permitted to make a temporary visit, he said.
“There has been a strong desire from evacuees who left without anything to go back,” Edano said. Groups will be transported by bus and required to wear protective gear, he said.
The tsunami wrecked the plant’s cooling systems, causing partial meltdowns and releasing radiation into the air, ground and sea, contaminating food and water supplies. Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the facility, laid out a plan this week to end the crisis within the next six to nine months.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited the area today and met with Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato.