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Monday, 11 August 2014

Fukushima to make decision on soil storage this month

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Central and local government officials met in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Friday to discuss the government’s offer of a total of ¥301 billion in financial assistance to the prefecture and two towns there that are candidates for interim facilities to store soil contaminated with radioactive substances released from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

At the meeting, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Takumi Nemoto, state minister for reconstruction, presented the national government’s financial support plan to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, Okuma Mayor Toshitsune Watanabe and Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa.

Sato, Watanabe and Izawa responded favorably to the offer. The Fukushima prefectural government will decide by the end of this month whether to green-light construction of the facilities to store tainted soil collected during decontamination work.

“I’m determined to properly carry out the program of restoration from the nuclear disaster and support the self-reliance of local communities,” Ishihara said at the meeting.

In response, Sato said Ishihara’s comment reflects the wishes of the local communities. “We’d like to carefully examine the size of the financial assistance and the scope of our discretion in using it, discussing these issues with the two towns,” Sato said.
Nemoto and Watanabe also said progress was made at the meeting.

After receiving approval from the local governments regarding the assistance measure by the end of this month, the central government will hold an official briefing for local landowners as early as September to swiftly purchase 16 square kilometers of land for the interim facilities.

The government will also consider a plan to transport large amounts of soil contaminated with radioactive substances to the interim facilities. The tainted soil is currently stored at several places in the prefecture as a temporary measure.

Main features of the government’s financial assistance include the creation of new allowance programs for municipalities hosting interim storage facilities for radioactively contaminated soil and for the rehabilitation of Fukushima Prefecture from damage caused by the nuclear disaster.
The assistance also includes a measure to increase the existing government allowances for municipalities hosting electric power plants. The amount is to be increased from the current ¥6.7 billion to ¥8.4 billion annually.

The allowance for interim storage facilities is expected to be used for programs to maintain connections between former neighbors in the two towns who have fled their homes and must live apart from each other. Part of the grant is for communication expenses and transportation fees for such people, to maintain ties among them.

A lump-sum grant of ¥150 billion is planned to be provided mainly to the two towns. The government initially set the amount at ¥100 billion, but decided to increase it by incorporating a separate budget for infrastructure improvements.

The grant for restoring Fukushima Prefecture from damage caused by the nuclear disaster is planned to be used to construct bases for rehabilitation of the devastated areas, and to take measures to correct public misperceptions about radiation and improve medical systems.
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