The government plans to include 100 billion yen ($970 million) in the fiscal 2014 budget to buy land for intermediate facilities to store radioactive debris in Fukushima Prefecture, sources said Dec. 10.
The amount is seven times the figure earmarked for the current fiscal year.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was initially expected to cover all costs related to decontamination work in the prefecture.
But the Abe administration recently decided to use public money to cover part of the costs for decontamination work, including purchasing and developing sites for the intermediate storage facilities. Government officials said having financially struggling TEPCO bear all the expenses would further delay cleanup work around the nuclear plant and hamper recovery in disaster-ravaged areas.
Cleanup work has been behind schedule partly because no intermediate storage facilities have been constructed.
According to the Abe administration, the facilities would be used to store radioactive soil, leaves and other materials collected through decontamination work for up to 30 years before being transferred elsewhere.
The government plans to start storing the debris as early as 2015, but local municipalities have been reluctant to give their approval to host the facilities.
Experts have calculated that 3 to 5 square kilometers of land would be needed to store an estimated total of 15 million to 28 million cubic meters of radioactive debris.
Construction and operation costs for the storage facilities are estimated at about 1 trillion yen.
For this fiscal year, 14.6 billion yen was budgeted to examine ground conditions at candidate sites in the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Naraha, all in Fukushima Prefecture.
Next fiscal year’s budget will be used to purchase the candidate sites after obtaining their owners’ consent.
Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and reconstruction minister Takumi Nemoto are scheduled to visit the prefecture on Dec. 14 to ask the municipal governments to accept the intermediate storage facilities.
But Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, and the mayors of the three towns have yet to decide whether to accept the facilities.
Although the Abe administration has explained that the radioactive debris will be transferred out of the prefecture after 30 years, the local government leaders are worried the facilities may end up being permanent disposal sites for the contaminated materials.
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