FUKUSHIMA – Disposal began Friday of low-level radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than six years after the crisis was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
A disposal site in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, accepted the first shipment of the waste, which contains radioactive cesium ranging from 8,000 to 100,000 becquerels per kilogram, and includes rice straw, sludge and ash from waste incineration.
The Environment Ministry is in charge of the country’s nuclear waste disposal, which totaled 200,000 tons from 11 prefectures as of the end of September. The majority of the waste, 170,000 tons, originates from the prefecture hosting the crippled nuclear power plant.
“I would like to ask the central government to move this project forward while taking adequate safety steps in mind,” a Tomioka official said. “Building mutual trust with local residents is also important.”
Under the ministry’s policy, each prefecture’s waste is to be disposed of. However, Fukushima is the only prefecture where disposal has started, whereas other prefectures have met with opposition from local residents.
In Fukushima, it will take six years to complete moving the stored waste to the disposal site, the ministry said.
The government “will continue giving first priority to securing safety and properly carry out the disposal with our best efforts to win local confidence,” Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa said at a news conference.
The government proposed in December 2013 that Fukushima Prefecture dispose of the waste at the then-privately owned site. The request was accepted by the prefectural government two years later.
To help alleviate local concerns over the disposal, the government nationalized the site and reinforced it to prevent the entry of rainwater.