FUKUSHIMA – The government on Friday offered to give ¥301 billion in subsidies to local authorities in Fukushima Prefecture if they agree to store soil tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster for the next 30 years.
After an unofficial proposal of around ¥100 billion was dismissed last month, the central government decided to triple down on its offer as it searches for places to store debris accumulating from decontamination operations for about 30 years.
Including existing subsidies, total assistance is expected to surpass ¥500 billion.
After meeting in Fukushima with Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato told reporters he will “scrutinize” the details of the offer. The mayors of Okuma and Futaba, the coastal towns tapped as storage candidates because they host the stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant, said they viewed the move as a step forward.
Negotiations have been stalled since Ishihara angered local residents in June by suggesting that money would ultimately settle the storage conundrum.
The facilities, envisioned for construction on about 16 sq. km of land in Okuma and Futaba, are expected to be big enough to store 30 million tons of soil and other radioactive waste, such as ash and sludge, collected during decontamination work in the prefecture.
The central government says the waste will eventually be moved out of Fukushima but has yet to find any permanent disposal sites.
It initially sought to purchase all of the land for the facilities so it could securely manage the radioactive debris, but dropped the plan after landowners warned that the sites might be made permanent by the ownership switch. The central government now plans to lease the land it needs from owners who cooperate.
Tokyo hopes to have the facilities up and running from next January, but that remains highly uncertain because negotiations with 2,000 or so landowners are not expected to go smoothly, even if local authorities accept the government’s tripled incentive offer.