The state plans to buy 15 sq. km of land around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to build facilities to store radioactive soil and other waste generated by decontamination operations, government sources said.
Construction of the interim waste storage sites is expected to accelerate the sluggish cleanup activities in Fukushima Prefecture, the sources said Friday.
But the move will affect thousands of landowners, while evacuated residents who before the 2011 nuclear crisis used to live in areas to be placed under state control may not be able to return home. A large part of the No. 1 plant’s vicinity has already been classified as a long-term zone that will remain off-limits.
Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara is expected to visit the prefecture in early December to seek official approval from Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and the mayors of four local towns.
The government hopes to start operating some of the storage facilities from January 2015. It anticipates spending ¥1 trillion on the project, including ¥200 billion the Environment Ministry wants to set aside in the fiscal 2014 budget for the land acquisition.
The waste storage sites will be built in an area in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the Fukushima No. 1 complex, as well as in a district of the town of Naraha, home to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, and in the town of Tomioka.
Several types of facilities will be built, including for the storage of tainted soil, for holding waste with radiation levels above 100,000 becquerels per kilogram, and for sorting the waste brought in.
The government is seeking to use part of this vast area of land as a buffer zone to try to allay the concerns of residents in surrounding areas about radioactive contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s wrecked reactors.
However, the government also believes the vicinity of the storage facilities will not be suitable for habitation because it will be traversed by dump trucks carrying contaminated waste.
The government plans to keep the waste at the storage facilities for up to 30 years and to dispose of it outside the prefecture.
More than two years since Fukushima No. 1 experienced the nation’s worst nuclear crisis, around 150,000 residents of the prefecture are still living as evacuees in temporary accommodations.