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Some allowed to return to towns near Fukushima's damaged nuke plant

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

TOKYO — For the first time since Japan's nuclear disaster three years ago, authorities are allowing residents to return to live in their homes within a tiny part of a 12-mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima plant.

The decision, which took effect on Tuesday, applies to 357 people in 117 households from a corner of Tamura city after the government determined that radiation levels are low enough for habitation.

Many of those evacuees are undecided about going back because of fears about radiation, especially its effect on children.

More than 100,000 people were displaced by the March 11, 2011, nuclear disaster, when a huge earthquake and ensuing tsunami damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, causing meltdowns in three reactors. Many of the displaced people live in temporary housing or with relatives, and some started over elsewhere.

“Many of our friends and neighbors won't come back,” said Kimiko Koyama, 69, speaking on her return to the large farmhouse she had occupied for 50 years, while her husband, Toshio, 72, tried to fix a television antenna on the roof. “There are no jobs. It's inconvenient and young people are scared of radiation. My daughter won't bring our grandsons here because of the radiation.”

Areas within the evacuation zone have become ghost towns, overgrown with weeds.

Temporary visits inside the zone had been allowed, and about 90 people were staying with special permission, according to Tamura city hall.

New stores and public schools are planned to accommodate those who move back.

Much of Tamura lies outside the evacuation zone. The city has a population of 38,000, including evacuees living in temporary housing.

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