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Fukushima cleanup to take three extra years

Kyodo

Decontamination work stemming from the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will take up to three years longer than originally planned, government officials say.

The Environment Ministry will shortly release a new schedule for radiation cleanup work at the plant, which was scheduled to be completed by March 31 under the initial plan, the officials said Sunday.

Instead, the government will try to complete the work by fiscal 2017, when areas around the crippled plant, currently divided into three zones based on radiation levels, are reorganized.

Of the 11 municipalities undergoing cleanup in Fukushima Prefecture, work has only been completed in the city of Tamura. Three other areas are heading for completion by March 31, which marks the end of the current fiscal year.

The ministry believes that a three-year extension would be enough to complete the decontamination work in most of the municipalities.

An exception is Futaba, one of the towns hosting the crippled plant, where many of the areas are classified as “difficult to return to for a long time,” the officials said.

On Dec. 14, the government announced plans to acquire 19 sq. km of land, chiefly around the Fukushima No. 1 plant, to build facilities for the long-term storage of radioactive and other waste piling up in the decontamination process.

The government aims to start using the planned facilities in January 2015.

The ministry has earmarked a total of ¥1.5 trillion for radioactive decontamination through fiscal 2013, ending next March, and has asked plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay back ¥40 billion of the funds it has so far used. But the utility has only returned ¥6.7 billion, citing delays in clerical work and tough business conditions.