Japan declares nuclear exclusion zone
apanese residents displaced from the 20-kilometre area around a nuclear plant that is leaking radiation are expressing anger that the region will become off limits.
Japan said Thursday an order will go into effect at midnight local time making people who go into the area subject to fines of up 100,000 yen, roughly $1,150 Cdn, or up to 30 days in detention.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's cooling system was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Since then, the plant has been leaking radiation.
About 80,000 people live in the 20-kilometre exclusion, and most of them left when they were told last month to evacuate the region. Since then, some people have been returning to the area to check on their homes, and police have not had the legal power to stop them.
After the exclusion zone was announced, residents scrambled to get to the homes and places of work.
"This is our last chance, but we aren't going to stay long," said Kiyoshi Kitajima, who is an X-ray technician at a hospital in Futaba, next to the nuclear plant. "We are just getting what we need and getting out."
Officials say the exclusion zone is meant to limit the amount of radiation exposure people receive, and to prevent theft.
Kazuko Suzuki, 49, from Futaba, left with only her bank card when she was initially told to evacuate the region in the wake of the disaster. She thought she would only be out of her home for a few days.
"I really want to go back. I want to check if our house is still there," said Suzuki, who left with her teenage son and daughter. "My patience has run out. I just want to go home."
The operator of the damaged nuclear plant recently laid out a plan that could require six to nine months to conduct a safe shutdown of the reactors.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said visits will be arranged for residents to visit their homes once the exclusion zone goes into effect. However, he said those visits will be limited to one person per household and for a maximum of two hours.
"It's outrageous. I can do very little within two hours. The government does not understand our needs and concerns," Suzuki said.
Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said an area within three kilometres of the nuclear will be completely off-limits.