Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will officially ban the entry of residents in the 20-kilometer (12-mile) danger zone of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Kan is expected to make the announcement on Thursday when he visits Fukushima Prefecture.
Tokyo has issued an evacuation order within the 20-km zone right after the March 11 earthquake and advised residents within the 30-km (18-mile) zone to stay indoors. The official ban seeks to strengthen government control over the area because of reports that some residents insisted on returning temporarily to retrieve their belongings and check on their farms and businesses.
Aside from residents, animal rescue organization also went into to zone to retrieve pets left behind on behalf of the animal owners. Journalists have also entered to document the site.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the stricter measure seeks to protect the health of former residents and visitors because of the high level of radiation in the vicinity as operators of the damaged Fukushima facility struggle to stabilize the plant. Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of Fukushima Daiichi, estimated it would take the company six to nine months to stabilize the nuclear facility.
It would only be after this period that the national government would decide if it would be safe for Fukushima residents to return.
Before the nuclear crisis, the area had about 78,000 residents.
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