Japan said on Monday it would lift an evacuation order on an area around the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant for the first time since it was hit by a tsunami and earthquake in 2011, allowing some residents to return home despite radiation concerns.

The government was expected to announce the order on April 1. About 300 residents in Tamura city will be allowed to return to their homes about 20 kilometres west of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but city officials were not sure how many of them would.

“Lifting the evacuation order on April 1 is desirable,” Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomitsuka said earlier this month.

More than 130,000 residents were forced to leave their homes since the country’s worst nuclear disaster, according to local officials, and many are not willing to return to live in the area.

Tokyo established a no-go zone within a 20-kilometre radius soon after the plant suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011.

Despite decontamination efforts, levels of radiation have not changed much because of radioactive contamination in mountains and forests in the region, local activist Setsuko Kuroda said.

“From the beginning, the central and local governments wanted to make evacuees go back to areas where levels of radiation are high,” Mr. Kuroda said.

The government is expected to allow up to 30,000 residents to return to their homes in the current no-go zone over the next two years.

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