TOKYO — Some areas close to Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will likely remain no-go zones for "several decades", a media report citing an unnamed government official said Monday.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to visit the region as early as Saturday to apologize to people who had to flee their homes as a result of the nuclear accident more than five months ago.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily, citing an unnamed government source, said areas within about three kilometers (1.8 miles) of the plant will likely be kept off-limits "for an extended period — possibly for several decades".
The government may buy up some of the land from residents to use as temporary storage sites for radioactive waste, including debris and sludge left from decontaminated water at the plant, the Yomiuri said.
Kan said he may visit the region as early as Saturday, after media reported that he would make the visit to apologize to local community leaders.
The top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, said: "I can't deny the possibility that it may be difficult for residents from some areas to return home for a long time. I deeply apologize for that."
Japan declared a 20-kilometre (12 mile) radius around the plant an evacuation area and then a legal no-go zone after the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
A recent government survey showed that some areas within the 20-km zone are contaminated with radiation equivalent to more than 500 millisieverts (mSv) per year — 25 times more than the government's annual limit.
The science and technology ministry survey found that 15 out of 50 monitoring spots within the 20-km zone were contaminated at levels equivalent to more than 100 mSv per year.
The highest reading was 508 mSv per year, compared to the 20 mSv maximum safety limit declared by the government.
The ministry estimated cumulative radiation exposure for one year from the accident based on the assumption that a resident would be outdoors for eight hours a day and inside a wooden home for 16 hours a day.
The government and operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) have said radiation leaking from the plant has fallen dramatically five months after the accident, and they are planning to launch soil decontamination in nearby areas.