Fukushima Fallout Four years after the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami leading to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, hundreds of square miles remain off-limits for habitation due to radioactivity. Japan is currently undertaking the most ambitious radiation clean up operation in history in an unprecedented attempt to make Fukushima liveable again. 105 cities, towns and villages affected by the accident are undergoing decontamination work, mainly consisting of scraping off a top layer of soil, removing grass and fallen leaves, and washing roofs and walls with water or wiping them down with cloth. There are currently around 10,000 people who work 6 days a week to meet the projected completion date of 2017, pushed back 3 years after initial progress proved slower than expected. Throughout the Fukushima prefecture huge bags - 5.5 million and counting - filled with contaminated soil and other debris can be seen piled up at hundreds of temporary storage sites. By the time work is completed that number could rise to 22 million. The biggest challenge, however, is not the gathering of the radioactive materials but its long-term storage. The national government still needs to negotiate with more than 2,000 landowners to acquire 16 sq kms of land to build storage facilities. Within three decades the waste is supposed to be moved to the final disposal sites the government plans to create outside Fukushima. However, the locations of these final sites have yet to be found and many residents worry that the temporary storage sites will become permanent. The operation also faces a simple, yet worrying logistical challenge. A standard 10-tonne truck can be loaded with seven large sacks at a time. Even if final storage facilities were in place, it could take decades to move the vast quantities of contaminated matter from temporary sites around the region. And if bags were to disintegrate before they could be moved, the materials would need to be re-bagged, costing yet more time. In the long term, the goal is to reduce radiation in decontaminated areas to less than 1 milliSievert per year on top of normal background levels. Even if the clean up is successful, however, some parts of the surrounding prefectures may never see the level of human settlement and activity as they had before the disaster. And some areas may remain deserted forever.