Fukushima nuclear plant radioactive water tanks
Water tanks storing radiation contaminated water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool/Reuters

Japan stepped up plans to authorise the return of people evacuated from their homes after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, while postponing a key stage of the plant's clean-up.

The government led by Shinzo Abe approved a second revision of the decommissioning works blueprint, which as with previous versions sets the goal for full decontamination to 30 to 40 years.

According to the new roadmap, evacuation orders for most of the residents that were forced to leave the area after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami will be revoked within two years.

Thousands are still living in temporary accommodation and the government hopes the new deadline will serve to cut compensation payouts and speed up reconstruction, Reuters reported.

At the same time Tokyo has decided to delay for up to three years the removal of hazardous spent uranium fuel rods from the station.

Removing the rods located in storage pools at the three reactors that melted in the tsunami is necessary to proceed in decommissioning works as it is a prerequisite for equipment to go down into the containment chambers and extract the fuel from inside the reactors.