FUKUSHIMA--Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and reconstruction minister Takumi Nemoto on Dec. 14 asked the Fukushima governor and mayors of three towns in the prefecture to accept facilities to temporarily store soil and other materials contaminated with radioactive substances.
The government hopes to buy a total of 19 square kilometers of land in Futaba, Okuma and Naraha for the construction of the intermediate storage facilities and start hauling the materials there from January 2015. However, the effort could face opposition from residents and local officials.
“I will judge whether to accept the construction of the intermediate storage facilities after examining the safety of those facilities and the local revitalization plans shown by the central government,” Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said.
Currently, radioactive soil and other materials produced by the decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture in the aftermath of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident are temporarily piled up in various locations. As it is difficult to find more places to take those soil and materials, decontamination work has made little progress in recent months.
If the intermediate storage facilities are constructed, decontamination efforts could resume unimpeded, leading to the acceleration of reconstruction activities.
In the three towns, however, some residents have strong anxieties that the construction of those facilities could adversely affect their plans to return to their hometowns and that the intermediate facilities will become permanent.
The government pledged in a Cabinet meeting that the contaminated soil and other materials will be sent to final disposal sites within 30 years after they have begun to be stored in the intermediate facilities.
To finalize the decision, Ishihara said for the first time on Dec. 14 that the government will enact a law for that purpose.
According to the government’s plan, it will buy five square kilometers of land in Futaba, 11 square kilometers in Okuma and three square kilometers in Naraha. On each site, the government plans to construct not only facilities to store soil and other materials, but also ones for sorting and burning to reduce the amount.
The total amount of soil and other materials that will be stored in the intermediate facilities will be about 28 million cubic meters, equivalent to the capacity of 23 Tokyo Dome stadiums.
The government considered not only buying the land but also renting it. However, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to buy the land and nationalize it to demonstrate that the government is actively engaged in local decontamination efforts.
If those facilities are constructed on those lands, large trucks will frequently run in those areas. As a result, the environment impact on the surrounding areas could be worsened. In addition, buffer zones will be set up between facilities. Because of that, the total size of land subject to governmental purchase has been expanded to four times that initially planned.
The purchase prices of the land will be calculated based on the values at the times of the agreements and on the assumption that reconstruction will be achieved on those sites after evacuation orders are lifted in the future for residents living near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The purchase prices will not be influenced by the amount of compensation to the landowners from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled nuclear plant.
The number of landowners is expected to reach into the several thousands. In the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in April 2014, the government plans to earmark about 100 billion yen ($1 billion) for the construction of the intermediate storage facilities.
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