A temporary storage facility in Fukushima Prefecture will begin accepting radioactive soil and waste in phases in January 2015 from temporary yards set up in municipalities, although the location of the site will be a political hot potato.
Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Oct. 29 the facility will store contaminated soil and waste piling up through decontamination efforts for up to 30 years until a final disposal site is built outside the prefecture.
In a meeting in Fukushima, Hosono asked for cooperation from Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, saying the government did its best to begin accepting radioactive soil and waste at the temporary storage facility as early as possible.
However, Sato remained noncommittal, saying only he wants to carefully study the government's road map on decontamination.
The road map also showed that radioactive soil and waste will be kept at temporary yards for about three years.
The temporary storage facility will be set up on a 3- to 5-square kilometer site. It will keep up to 28 million cubic meters of soil, fallen leaves and incineration ash from sewage sludge with radiation levels of 100,000 becquerels per kilogram or more.
The government was under pressure to present the outline of the temporary storage facility. Residents were concerned that municipalities might be stuck with contaminated soil and waste for many years if the facility remains up in the air.
Most of the 59 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have not been able to decide where temporary yards are to be set up.
Fukushima prefectural officials warned that radioactive waste would be dumped illegally unless the government makes clear plans for the temporary storage facility.
Opposition parties criticized the government for failing to take the initiative on the issue.
The government had to release the road map on decontamination even though details of the temporary storage facility are still undecided.
According to the road map, the government plans to pick the location in fiscal 2012 and begin construction in fiscal 2014. But there are no prospective candidate sites.
The location of the final disposal site also remains unclear.
In a meeting with Hosono at the Fukushima prefectural government office on Oct. 29, some mayors in Fukushima Prefecture welcomed government plans to limit the life of temporary yards to about three years.
But mayors were generally wary about the possibility of hosting the temporary storage facility.
"To be honest, we cannot accept it," said Katsuya Endo, mayor of Tomioka, where the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant is located. "It will cause serious damage to our regional development."
Keiichi Miho, mayor of Nihonmatsu, said he is not happy with the temporary storage facility being set up in Fukushima Prefecture.
"Everyone is worried that the temporary storage facility might turn out to be a final disposal site," Miho said.
A senior official of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan said the temporary storage facility could follow the fate of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which remains in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, despite a Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate it to Nago in the prefecture.
A DPJ lawmaker from Fukushima Prefecture said it will have to be located where residents will not be able to return for a long period due to high levels of radiation.
Environment Ministry officials said it will be difficult to set up the temporary storage site in the Fukushima No. 1 plant because of continuing work at the plant.
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