Residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Dec. 21 protest the Environment Ministry’s plan to reuse soil from Fukushima Prefecture at a site in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

March 2, 2023

Local opposition has forced the Environment Ministry to delay the start of a trial on reusing soil that had been contaminated with radioactive fallout from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, sources said.

The ministry wanted to begin the trial within this fiscal year, which ends at the end of this month.

Under the plan, soil collected in Fukushima Prefecture during decontamination work following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant would be distributed to three sites in the Kanto region.

The government’s policy is to reuse the soil if its radioactivity level clears the safety threshold of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to reduce the mountains of soil that will undergo final disposal.

As of the end of January, around 13.41 million cubic meters of soil had been transported to interim storage facilities in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture after decontamination work.

A law dictates that the soil must undergo final disposal outside Fukushima Prefecture by 2045.

Sites for the final disposal have not been decided.

The ministry decided to conduct the trial of reusing such soil on the premises of ministry-related facilities in Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture.

However, local residents expressed strong opposition to the plan at the ministry’s explanatory meetings in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and Saitama Prefecture’s Tokorozawa in December.

In Tokorozawa, a neighborhood association consisting of residents living near the site of the trial adopted a resolution to oppose the plan.

The Tokorozawa mayor has also shown reluctance to accept the plan.

Asked if the ministry would go ahead with the trial despite the local opposition, an official at the ministry’s environmental restoration and resources circulation bureau said: “We will continue explaining the project by, for example, answering questions from local residents.

“We don’t plan to go through a process to gain an agreement with local residents about the project, so the ministry will make the final decision.”

Sources said the ministry has already decided to postpone the trial. It will continue holding explanatory meetings for residents in the three areas.