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Many people uneasy about soil disposal plan(Yomiuri)

FUKUSHIMA–A plan to dispose of soil and other waste contaminated with radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has been greeted with uneasiness by many residents of Fukushima Prefecture.

Volunteers decontaminate soil in a residential area in Fukushima on Saturday.

The government announced Saturday that contaminated soil and waste would be moved to an interim storage facility in Fukushima Prefecture in around three years and final disposal would be carried out outside the prefecture 30 years after that. The government has not indicated a specific location or size of the interim facility.

Some local people have expressed relief that decontamination will continue, while others are adamantly opposed to having a storage facility built in their hometown. Many are bewildered as to why contaminated soil and waste must be stored for as long as 30 years in the prefecture.

“I’m not so worried now that the government has said the interim facility should be in use in three years,” said Harumi Onuki, a 42-year-old caregiver in the Onami district of Fukushima city. A temporary storage site has been set up between 200 and 300 meters from her house.

Onuki has two children–a primary and a high school student–and she feels uneasy about having contaminated soil and grass containing relatively high levels of radiation near her house.

“I’ve always wanted the stuff to be moved as quickly as possible. My anxiety has eased a little,” she said.

Nihonmatsu Mayor Keiichi Miho expects the government’s decision will speed up decontamination.

“Until the interim facility is available, decontamination will not make any headway. I think we’re at the starting position at last,” the mayor said.

There are many areas where decontamination has not been carried out smoothly due to the difficulty of finding temporary sites for storing contaminated soil and waste. This is because local people oppose the construction of a storage sites near them due to radiation fears.

However, some observers say setting up temporary storage sites will speed up now that the government has promised to remove contaminated soil and waste to an interim facility in only three years.

However, some people are concerned because the government did not indicate where the interim site would be located.

“I think three years is acceptable,” said Haruo Sato, 65, a farmer in Date, Fukushima Prefecture. “I won’t tolerate anything longer. I’m worried that the period might be extended to four years, five years….”

Decontamination work by the Date municipal government began Wednesday.


Explanatory meeting

In a visit to the Fukushima prefectural government office on Saturday afternoon, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono bowed his head and said, “I’m sorry for asking the people in Fukushima Prefecture to put up with an interim facility in the prefecture for as long as 30 years, but I hope you understand.”

Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, to whom Hosono handed a time schedule for decontamination, said he would examine its contents closely.

Sato called on the central government to deal with the situation responsibly to alleviate the anxieties of people living near temporary storage sites in the prefecture.

Afterward, Hosono and Environment Ministry officials held an explanatory meeting for leaders of municipalities. The meeting lasted about two hours, more than double the scheduled time.

The municipal leaders asked questions in such forceful language it was clearly audible in the corridor outside.

“According to the schedule, it says the storage period at a temporary storage site is ‘around three years,’ but I hope it will be revised as ‘within three years,'” one said.

Another said, “If the storage period at the interim facility continues for as long as 30 years, I fear it might turn out to be the last disposal site.”

Reactions to the government’s plan among municipalities where the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located have been complex.

In Okumamachi, residents met with Hosono on Oct. 24 and asked him to have the government prepare an alternative place for the town’s residents to settle if the interim facility is located in the town.

Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe, who listened to the explanation by Hosono and others on Saturday, said, “I think it’s necessary to prepare to accept the facility but not on the premise that it will be the last disposal site.”

On the other hand, Katsutaka Idogawa, mayor of Futabamachi, a neighboring town, said forcefully: “I can’t agree to have the interim facility built in my town. I don’t want the residents to stop returning to the town.”

Filed under: 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident