The planned site for an intermediate storage facility of radiation-contaminated waste spans the towns of Futaba and Okuma and surround the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
The Environment Ministry on Nov. 15 started building a facility in Fukushima Prefecture that will store radiation-contaminated debris for up to 30 years, despite obtaining permission for only 11 percent of the site.
The 16-square-kilometer storage facility is expected to hold up to 22 million cubic meters of materials contaminated by radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
“I hope that you take pride in this project and cooperate to construct the facility,” Tadahiko Ito, a vice environment minister, told workers.
The facility, which will span the towns of Futaba and Okuma, is expected to start accepting, sorting and storing the debris in autumn 2017 at the earliest, more than two-and-a-half years later than the initial schedule of January 2015.
The project has been delayed because the ministry has faced difficulties buying or borrowing land for the project.
In fact, only 445 of the 2,360 landowners of plots at the site have agreed to sell or lend their properties to the ministry for the storage facility as of the end of October.
Many of the reluctant landowners, who possess 89 percent of the land, fear the contaminated waste will remain at the facility well beyond 30 years.
The government has worked out a bill stipulating that contaminated materials kept in the intermediate storage facility will be moved out of Fukushima Prefecture in 2045. However, the government has yet to decide on the location of the final disposal site.
A huge cleanup operation after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant collected tons of radioactive soil and debris.
In March 2015, the ministry borrowed land and created a “temporary storage place” within a 16-square-km site on an experimental basis.
However, only about 70,000 cubic meters of the waste has been taken to the temporary storage site as of the end of October. The remaining waste, exceeding 10 million cubic meters, is being tentatively stored at about 150,000 locations in the prefecture.
“If the transportation of contaminated materials to the intermediate storage facility proceeds, the waste currently stored in residential areas and at company compounds will be transported there,” said an official of the Fukushima prefectural government’s section in charge of decontamination.
Work begins on Fukushima nuclear waste site
Construction work has begun in Fukushima Prefecture on intermediate storage facilities for contaminated soil and waste materials from the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in the towns of Futaba and Okuma on Tuesday.
Two facilities will be built in a 16-square-kilometer area that straddles in the towns. One will be used to sort nuclear waste by size and level of contamination, and the other will store the sorted soil.
State Minister for the Environment Tadahiko Ito encouraged workers, saying they should be proud to be working for the region’s revival.
In the first day of work on Tuesday, workers removed contaminated soil from the surface of the site. Full-fledged construction work is to begin in January.
Waste from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and soil that has been removed in decontamination operations will be stored at the intermediate storage site before it is ultimately disposed of.
The contaminated soil and waste have been kept at temporary sites throughout Fukushima Prefecture longer than the 3 years the government had initially promised local communities. This is because construction of the intermediate storage site was delayed due to a lack of progress in acquiring the land.
The Environment Ministry plans to begin operating the intermediate storage facilities in about a year. It plans to enlarge the site after acquiring more land.