The environment minister said Monday that financial support will be given to any local government that accepts and disposes of debris from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures generated by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Monday that the government will not only pay all expenses incurred by the disposal work, but also conduct radiation tests to ease residents’ contamination fears.
The assistance will also help municipalities offset the cost of conducting their own tests to gauge radiation released by incinerating the waste or burying it, and provide future financial aid if expansion or construction of disposal facilities is necessary.
Many residents outside Tohoku are opposed to accepting debris from anywhere in Tohoku because they fear much of it is tainted by fallout ejected by the three reactor cores that melted at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant last March.
The central government and several local governments in Tohoku say the debris is not a hazard. They have published data they say shows the debris and ash contain little radioactive material and pose no threat to people.
But local politicians are finding it difficult to store the debris in their own backyards.
“I think this will largely resolve the concerns of the municipalities,” Hosono said. “We will continue to strongly seek everyone’s cooperation to overcome this situation.”
Hosono also stressed that none of the debris would come from Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear crisis unfolded, and that public concern about the fallout is groundless and could damage the region’s economy further.
The disposal effort has seen little progress. The Environment Ministry says that only 5 percent of the estimated 22.5 million tons of waste from Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures had been incinerated as of late February.
Iodine woes ignored
A survey said Sunday that 83 percent of local governments are anxious about distributing iodine pills to residents during a nuclear crisis, partly because they are unsure how use them.
Some said they have not decided how to distribute the pills, which are taken to protect the thyroid gland from radiation, while others said they are uncertain whether they can get appropriate instructions on using it.
After the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was crippled by the deadly earthquake and tsunami last March 11, its neighboring municipalities could not distribute their stockpiled iodine pills because the central government never told them on how to distribute or use them.
The survey was conducted on 1,517 prefectural and municipal governments in February.