Japan won’t be able to complete the clean-up of municipalities worst hit by the Fukushima disaster as originally planned.
Japan’s Environment Ministry is revising the timetable for six of 11 municipalities in the exclusion zone from where residents were moved after the power plant went into meltdown following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Nobody has been allowed to return to the area yet, although the government has permitted day visits to homes and businesses in some places after initial decontamination, said an Environment Ministry spokesman.
"We will have to extend the clean-up process, by one year, two years or three years, we haven't exactly decided yet," he said.
Lack of space for the waste from the decontamination work has been named as the major reason behind the delay as some residents have opposed dumping the waste in their neighbourhoods.
According to a local newspaper, the government is planning to extent the clean-up to up to three years in areas such as Iitate, a village north west of the plant where a highly radioactive plume spread in the first few days of the crisis.
However an International Atomic Energy Agency mission that visited the Fukushima area last week highlighted the progress Japan has made in the two years since the team's previous visit.
"The main conclusion of the mission is that Japan has achieved important progress," team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo said.
In a preliminary report the team noted good progress in the return of farmland in some areas, and monitoring that has shown the land can produce food with levels of radioactivity below the permissible level.
The team of 16 international experts and IAEA staff visited Kawauchi, a village that has been partially opened to residents again with about 40 per cent of its population of 3,000 returning the area.