The NY Times reports today that the Japanese government is about to declare a significant area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant as uninhabitable for the foreseeable future. It's not going to buy the properties in the no-go zone, however. The Japanese government will rent them instead. That's a good way of putting off the day of reckoning, which would cost a pretty penny. (I'm likely off with all of these numbers but the scale is what is important here.) If we use a price of $200,000 per home, every 5,000 homes condemned would cost about $1 billion to buy. That's not much compared to Japan's GDP, but renting would only cost about $90 million per year if the monthly rent is $1500. That adds up quickly, of course, but in 11 or 13 years, when the rental costs surpass the cost of outright purchase plus interest, none of the politicians in charge will be around.
I think what is likely to happen in somewhat cramped Japan is that the worst affected areas will be bought in 5 or 10 years, partially cleaned, and then converted into large industrial districts. The population of Japan is already declining, so the housing units won't be missed that much (from an economic perspective). In the meantime, tens of thousands of people will be left in limbo, not able to sell and move on, or go home. And so the crisis will continue for years, even after the reactors are brought under control.