Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Council at the prime minister’s office on March 29.

April 17, 2022

The area devastated by the Fukushima nuclear accident will host an international research and education institute in April next year, which would significantly boost the population around the crippled nuclear power plant.

Hundreds of researchers are expected to work on five areas, including energy, robotics for reactor decommissioning, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The government’s Reconstruction Promotion Council, presided over by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, decided on the outline of the organization on March 29.

The institute will be located in the eastern part of Fukushima Prefecture known as Hamadori as part of the reconstruction efforts from the 2011 nuclear accident.

The government will finalize the site by September after consulting with local officials and residents, but the facility will likely be built around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources said.

The project cost, however, remains unclear.

The institute will have dozens of employees when it opens.

The organization will provide investments and technical assistance to startups and other enterprises to create local jobs, while it will work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to nurture human resources.

An estimate presented by the Reconstruction Agency at an expert meeting in May 2020 shows the local population will increase 30 to 40 percent due to the migration of some 5,000 people in connection with the institute.

Some have questioned whether the institute is needed, given that many existing national research and development centers are already studying similar topics.

In response, researchers working on selected subjects, such as radioactive materials, at the prefectural offices of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology and the National Institute for Environmental Studies will be redeployed to the new center together with related research equipment and facilities.

Discussions will also begin over consolidation of another robot research facility set up by the industry ministry and the prefecture into the institute.