Resettlement to their radiation-contaminated hometown could be an option for people displaced at the time of a nuclear disaster; however, little information is available on the safety implications of these resettlement programs. Kawauchi village, located 12-30 km southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was one of the 11 municipalities where mandatory evacuation was ordered by the central government. This village was also the first municipality to organize the return of the villagers. To assess the validity of the Kawauchi villagers resettlement program, the levels of internal Cesium (Cs) exposures were comparatively measured in returnees, commuters, and non-returnees among the Kawauchi villagers using a whole body counter. Of 149 individuals, 5 villagers had traceable levels of Cs exposure; the median detected level was 333 Bq/body (range, 309-1050 Bq/kg), and 5.3 Bq/kg (range, 5.1-18.2 Bq/kg). Median annual effective doses of villagers with traceable Cs were 1.1 x 10(-2) mSv/y (range, 1.0 x 10(-2)-4.1 x 10(-2) mSv/y). Although returnees had higher chances of consuming locally produced vegetables, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test showed that their level of internal radiation exposure was not significantly higher than that in the other 2 groups (p=0.643). The present findings in Kawauchi village imply that it is possible to maintain internal radiation exposure at very low levels even in a highly radiation-contaminated region at the time of a nuclear disaster. Moreover, the risks for internal radiation exposure could be limited with a strict food control intervention after resettlement to the radiation-contaminated village. It is crucial to establish an adequate number of radio-contaminated testing sites within the village, to provide immediate test result feedback to the villagers, and to provide education regarding the importance of re-testing in reducing the risk of high internal radiation exposure.
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