March 12, 2022

Seven years have passed since the operation of the interim storage facilities that surround TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began. The delivery of contaminated soil from the decontamination of the nuclear accident is expected to be almost completed by the end of this month, except for that from the difficult-to-return zone. Although Fukushima Prefecture has legislated that the contaminated soil must be removed from the prefecture by 2045, the destination of the soil has yet to be decided.

After the nuclear accident, more than 17 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and waste from decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture have been generated. Because it is unrealistic to dispose of such a large amount of waste, the government hopes to reuse the contaminated soil, which has a relatively low concentration of radioactive materials, as a “resource” for public works projects and agricultural land. The target is soil with a level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram or less, which currently accounts for three-fourths of the total. Furthermore, it is estimated that up to 97% of the material will be reusable by the year 45 due to natural attenuation and other factors.

 However, at this point, only a little less than 1 million cubic meters will be used for a demonstration project in Iitate Village, Iitate Prefecture, to demonstrate the use of agricultural land. It would be nice if it could be used for large-scale public works projects such as port reclamation, but in this day and age, there is no need,” said a Ministry of the Environment official.

Eleven years after the earthquake, there is not even a clear destination for the contaminated soil. Residents are expected to protest if attempts are made to reuse the soil, and zero governors have responded that they would be willing to accept it. In municipalities that do not have interim storage facilities, the contaminated soil is “stored on-site” and can be found in residential areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Survey of 46 prefectural governors: Zero governors responded that they were “willing to accept” the waste.

 It is not easy to gain the understanding of residents. In 2006, the Japanese government planned to use the contaminated soil for a demonstration project to widen an expressway in Minamisoma City. However, local residents protested one after another, saying that it was the same as final disposal and that their crops would be damaged by harmful rumors, and in March of last year, the government informed the residents of its decision to abandon the project.

 The residents of the area were not happy with the decision.