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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Fukushima towns look set to bite on new offer of more money for storage facilities

The central government has offered to double the amount of grants to be paid if local municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture accept the construction of temporary storage facilities for radioactive debris produced by the 2011 nuclear accident.

In talks Aug. 8 with Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato and the mayors of Okuma and Futaba towns in the prefectural city of Koriyama, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto offered to double the grants to 301 billion yen ($3 billion) if they OK the storage facilities.

In previous closed-door negotiations, the government had pledged grants of 150 billion yen. With a new offer on the table, it would appear that the talks are entering the final stages.

“We want to examine the contents of the proposal in detail (before making a decision),” Sato said.
Earlier negotiations became entangled and triggered a public uproar after Ishihara implied that local residents could be easily bought.

“In the end, it will come down to money,” Ishihara said June 16, angering the local governments and sending the negotiations into a stall.

The triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami produced huge amounts of soil and debris contaminated with radioactive material.

Tons of debris collected during decontamination work is currently stored at makeshift sites across Fukushima Prefecture.

The government plans to store all the debris for 30 years in “intermediate storage facilities” that are planned to be constructed in Okuma and Futaba.

The 301 billion yen will be classified into three categories. The first (150 billion yen) category is for “grants for the intermediate storage facilities.” The second (100 billion yen) is for “grants for reconstruction of Fukushima,” and the third (51 billion yen) is an increase of conventional “grants for areas that host electricity sources.”

The grants in the first category will be mainly paid to the town governments of Okuma and Futaba, but funds will also be provided to the Fukushima prefectural government. The grants will be used for a variety of purposes to help residents rebuild their lives.

For example, grants will be used to cover the cost of visits to graves by residents who will lose their land due to the construction of the intermediate storage facilities.

Funds will also be provided to develop measures to alleviate concerns elsewhere in Japan that farm, forestry and fishery products in Fukushima Prefecture are contaminated with radioactive materials.

The grants of the second category will be used to construct key facilities in reconstruction projects. Funds will also be used by prefectural authorities for prefecture-wide measures to prevent malicious rumors about food safety from circulating.

As for the third category, grants have been given to localities that host nuclear power plants.
So far, 6.7 billion yen has been paid annually to local governments in Fukushima Prefecture.

The plan calls for increasing the annual amount by 1.7 billion yen to lessen the economic blow caused by decommissioning damaged nuclear reactors, and maintaining the yearly payments for 30 years, amounting to 51 billion yen.

The doubling of the total amount of grants signals that the central government is eager to begin the transportation of radioactive soil and debris to the intermediate storage facilities.

It is pushing to get the project under way by January 2015.

The decision to double the amount of grants suggests the negotiations are now starting to move forward.
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