Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Sunday that the government will officially ask prefectures to store and dispose of some of the 22 million tons of debris generated by the quake and tsunami last year.
The announcement is based on a special debris disposal law enacted in November that obliges the central government to promote efforts to incinerate, bury or otherwise get rid of the waste.
At a news conference on the first anniversary of the March 11 disasters and nuclear crisis, Noda said he would convene a Cabinet meeting on the issue and approach companies that can recycle incinerator ash for use in cement and paper.
“The world praised the Japanese people’s noble spirit of helping each other out during the disaster and I believe the Japanese people’s national character is being put to the test once again,” Noda said.
“The acceptance of debris is a symbolic issue,” he said.
Japan’s worst calamity since the war has left the northeast jammed with mountains of waste that are interfering with efforts to rebuild the region.
Most towns, municipalities and other local governments are unwilling to take debris from the Tohoku area because many residents are afraid it may be tainted with nuclear fallout from Fukushima.
The central government claims the debris it is trying to move comes only from Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, and that any contamination is minimal and poses no threat to human health.