Newly appointed Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said Friday he will further efforts to build trust with people in Fukushima Prefecture to facilitate a stalled project to build a temporary nuclear storage facility.
The 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has contaminated a large part of the prefecture while massive amounts of radioactive waste have been generated by decontamination work.
The government is planning to construct a huge temporary storage site near the Fukushima plant, but needs more than 2,300 landowners to agree to use their property for the project. So far it has only secured about 4.9 percent of the 1,600 hectares of land needed, owned by 234 people.
Although the government says it plans to store the waste for 30 years, no other areas have volunteered to host a final disposal site, leading many local residents to fear that the Fukushima site will end up being permanent.
“I’m aware that getting landowners’ consent is a very tough issue,” said Yamamoto, 68, a veteran Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, during a media interview.
Yamamoto has learned from ministry officials that the situation is improving, and hopes to accelerate the momentum.
Storing contaminated waste at the site is crucial for Fukushima’s reconstruction work, which is currently stalled due to large amounts of waste piling up around the prefecture.
Meanwhile, some landowners are reportedly questioning the government’s commitment on this matter, as environment ministers have already changed four times since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012.
But Yamamoto said the ministers have handled affairs properly. “This administration has been led by the LDP, so of course we have continuity and even (if) the minister changes (often), we share the same thoughts,” said Yamamoto.
He said 99 percent of the handover information he received from his predecessor, Tamayo Marukawa, was about Fukushima-related issues. “I have to make efforts to go to Fukushima often to make stronger connections than Marukawa did,” he said. Yamamoto plans to visit the temporary storage facility on Tuesday.
The government hopes to begin construction of the temporary storage site in October, the ministry said.