Move may circumvent opposition to land sale

Officials shift course on tainted soil storage


In its quest to find a temporary home for soil tainted by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Abe administration said it will set a policy where temporary storage facilities will be built on land used but not owned by the government.

By using the so-called superficies rights to the land, the administration is hoping to head off concerns of residents at candidate sites for the temporary facilities in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, both in Fukushima Prefecture, that oppose land acquisition by the central government.

The administration will allow landowners to decide whether to sell their land or set superficies rights. It also proposed allowing landowners to maintain their residence registries even after they sell land to the government.

In a meeting in Tokyo, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and reconstruction minister Takumi Nemoto proposed the policy to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe and Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa.

The government plans to build the temporary storage facilities for soil collected during decontamination work in areas tainted with radioactive substances released from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after it was wrecked in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Initially, the government planned to buy land for the facilities to ensure stable management. Local opposition to selling the land, however, forced the government to shift course.

Local communities were opposed to selling the land because of attachment to ancestral lands and fears that temporary facilities would ultimately become final disposal sites for the tainted soil.

The administration said in the meeting that it will propose revising the laws and take necessary measures, within 30 years of the start of the temporary storage program, for completing the final disposal of the soil outside the prefecture.

Delivery of the contaminated soil will start after these laws are enacted, the administration officials added.

Sato said the central government had taken local opinion into account when making the proposal but demanded it present clearer picture of subsidies the prefecture would receive for reviving local economies. The government had failed to detail a specific amount.

The government could begin storing tainted soil at the facilities as early as next January.