IT IS FAR FROM OVER. Fukushima remains an ever present threat strangely forgotten by mainstream media.
It’s been eight years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Operations to remove radioactive material were mostly completed back in 2018. But a new problem has emerged: how to dispose of contaminated soil.
This is a “transitional storage facility” in Fukushima Prefecture. As the name indicates, it’s a temporary storage space.
The government plans to finish moving all contaminated soil in Fukushima to transitional storage facilities by the end of March 2022, and to remove it from the prefecture by 2045.
But so far, only about 2.4 million square meters of soil—17 percent of the total planned volume—have been transferred to the temporary storage units. The delay is down to problems with land acquisition.
The lack of progress setting up transitional facilities has led to the contaminated soil being stored on-site instead. There are currently 105,000 on-site storage locations throughout the prefecture. They are conspicuous objects covered by green sheets, found in parking lots and in front of houses.
To avoid increasing radioactivity around these on-site locations, the contaminated soil is buried and then surrounded by sandbags, which authorities say keeps it safe. But residents remain uneasy.
“We feel uncomfortable having the contaminated soil around our homes,” said one.
“When we see these containers of contaminated matter, covered in green sheets, it reminds us of what happened eight years ago,” said another. “We hate looking at them and avoid going near them.”
The Ministry of the Environment has begun to push the idea of “recycling” the contaminated soil. It plans to transfer soil containing less than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to be used under roads and in building levees not only in Fukushima but all over Japan.
The Ministry is testing its recycling method at a facility in Minami-soma City. Last December, the Ministry announced that the process would allow up to 99 percent of the contaminated soil to be reused. This means that only 1 percent of the current volume of contaminated soil will have to be permanently disposed of.
“The goal is to complete final disposal, but we have to anticipate difficulties in obtaining land and putting the facilities in place,” says Akira Nitta, a Ministry official. “The idea is to make final disposal easier by using the less severely contaminated soil for public works, thereby reducing the amount that needs final disposal.”
The Ministry has announced its interest in implementing this policy both inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture.
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