Fukushima, March 2 (Jiji Press)–Japan is set to complete by March 31 its work to transfer radioactive soil collected through work to decontaminate areas polluted by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture to an interim storage facility.
The facility, straddling the Fukushima towns of Futaba and Okuma, surrounds Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the triple meltdown that followed a massive earthquake and tsunami 11 years ago.
Under the law, the collected soil will be transferred to a permanent disposal site outside the northeastern prefecture by 2045. The final site has not been picked yet, however.
Since the total amount of the soil is huge, the Environment Ministry aims to reduce the amount by using part of the soil for public works and other projects across the country.
“We’ll reach a major juncture” by completing the transfer, a senior ministry official said. “From now on, we’d like to foster people’s understanding on the reuse (of the soil).”
The 1,600-hectare interim storage site, about the same size as Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, is slated to hold about 14 million cubic meters of soil collected through decontamination work.
Since 2015, such soil collected from around Fukushima has been taken to the site after being stored at temporary storage sites.
Over 1,800 local landowners, including residents of the towns, cooperated with the central government to secure land to establish the storage facility, mainly by selling their properties to the state.
Many landowners “made tough decisions to give up their properties for the sake of reconstruction,” Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida recalled.
“Many were my acquaintances, including friends from school, the person who arranged my marriage and workers at the town office,” Yoshida said.
The ministry plans to use collected soil with relatively low levels of radioactive concentrations for public works, farmland elevation and other purposes. It hopes that three-fourths of the total soil will be reused.
A demonstration project to grow flowers and vegetables on farmland elevated with collected soil has already started in the Nagadoro district in the Fukushima village of Iitate.
Meanwhile, projects to utilize such soil for road construction have been scrapped due to opposition from local residents of the cities of Nihonmatsu and Minamisoma, both in Fukushima.
Similar plans to utilize such soil may meet backlashes from residents.
In May last year, the ministry started events to discuss the recycling of such soil with the general public to win wider understanding. Such events took place in Tokyo and the central Japan city of Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.
The next session is scheduled to be held in the southwestern city of Fukuoka this month.
Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa stressed that electricity generated by the Fukushima No. 1 plant had been consumed in the greater Tokyo area.
Reuse of soil collected through decontamination work “will not proceed unless people who benefited (from the Fukushima plant) understand that fact,” Izawa went on.
“It is difficult for people living far from Fukushima to empathize” with those battling tainted soil in the prefecture, said Hiroshi Kainuma, associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies.
Kainuma said the government should proceed while checking constantly whether its communication with the public on the issue is appropriate.