Japan eases Fukushima exclusion zone

Workers check radiation levels inside the primary containment vessel at Fukushima, 28 March 2012 Radiation levels in the areas around the Fukushima Daiichi have fallen

Japan is allowing some of the 80,000 people forced to move following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster to visit their homes again.

Around 16,000 people who lived close to or just inside the exclusion zone will be able to re-enter the area.

Parts of Tamura, Minamisoma and Kawauchi will remain out of bounds because of higher radiation levels.

But it is thought most residents will wait until conditions in the towns improves further before visiting.

Decontamination work and rebuilding of infrastructure in the prefectures around the plant is still taking place.

The tsunami killed 15,853 people and injured another 6,000. More than 3,000 people are still missing.

Depending on radiation levels residents will be able to visit their homes during the day, and return permanently once decontamination is complete, Reuters news agency says.

In December the government said the Fukushima Daiichi plant was in a cold shutdown condition, nine months after the massive tsunami triggered the worst nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl disaster.

But relatively few people are expected to return next month when the restrictions are eased.

Most are likely to wait for more decontamination work to be done, and for more infrastructure to be re-built.

The announcement was made following a meeting of the government's disaster task force.

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