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TOKYO (Reuters) - Nearly six months after the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan faces the task of cleaning up a sprawling area of radioactivity that could cost tens of billions of dollars, and thousands may not be able to return home for years, if ever.

Fuel core meltdowns at the facility in March, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami, released radioactive material into the air which mixed with rain and snow and covered dozens of towns as well as farmland and woods, mainly along the northeast coast of Honshu.

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