Decontamination work begins in 'difficult-to-return' zone in Namie, Fukushima

The Japanese government has begun decontamination work in some areas in a town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in a massive quake and tsunami disaster 13 years ago.

Some 175 square kilometers of the town of Namie, or about 80 percent of the municipality, have been designated as "difficult-to-return zones," where entry is strictly restricted, following a triple meltdown at the nuclear plant in the disaster.

The Japanese government and the town have designated 7.1 square kilometers, or 4 percent of such zones, as areas where residents who wish to return can live after their living areas are decontaminated.

On Thursday, workers using heavy machinery began removing soil from farmland and cutting grass around residences in the Hatsuke area of the mountainous Tsushima district in the western part of Namie.

The government plans to decontaminate 52 hectares and demolish 71 houses and buildings in such areas by the end of next March.

A senior official at the environment ministry, Nakamura Sho, said it's more difficult to decontaminate mountainous areas, but the ministry intends to proceed with the cleaning work carefully and swiftly so that residents can return as soon as possible.