Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant is delaying radiation cleanup in several surrounding cities. Residents in some towns may be forced to stay away for years, due to contamination. Japanese officials said the cleanup schedule is delayed for at least six towns surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
According to the original plan, cleanup was to be completed by March 2014. Officials have extended the previous deadline for up to three years in some municipalities. The exclusion zone underwent initial decontamination measures, but the areas remain dangerous for inhabitation.
Japan's government has allowed some residents and business owners to enter the zone briefly. However, they are not allowed to move back in until nuclear plant officials deem the regions free of contamination.
As reported by ABC News, the cleaning crews have experienced numerous setbacks in decontamination efforts. One of the major issues involves disposal of items contaminated with radiation. Residents are concerned that contaminated waste in their neighborhoods will lead to ongoing problems in the future.
The International Atomic Energy Agency performed an assessment of the clean-up efforts last week. During a news conference, team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo said "Japan has achieved important progress" in efforts to clean up after the Fukushima disaster.
While numerous cities remain closed to residents, great strides have been made in specific communities.The village of Kawauchi has made significant progress in decontamination efforts, allowing 40 percent of residents to return to their homes.
In addition to cleaning up local villages, nuclear plant officials are tasked with ensuring produce is safe for consumers. Officials have concentrated efforts on revitalizing hundreds of acres of farmland. The IAEA team announced that many farms are now growing produce that is safe for human consumption.
The IAEA also praised local leaders' efforts to gain the trust and cooperation of members of the community. The organization stressed that communication between area residents and local leaders is vital in the clean-up effort.
While the IAEA acknowledges numerous improvements, Greenpeace says Japan's nuclear plant is not doing enough. As reported by Japan Daily Press, radiation levels in a 12 miles zone around the plant remain at dangerous levels.
Radiation protection adviser, Jan Vande Putte, said tens of thousands of residents were displaced following the disaster. Although some have been allowed to return to their homes, Putte said the danger of radiation illness remains.
Putte said Japanese officials have a responsibility to inform residents of the actual risks. He also urged government officials to extend financial aid to displaced residents, even if they decide against returning to their homes.
Japan's nuclear plant disaster has been a constant concern throughout the last two years. The Fukushima meltdown is considered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
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