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Japanese gov't asks Fukushima to store contaminated waste, but region eyes nuke-free future

12-29-2011 09:02 BJT

TOKYO, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Environment Minister Goshi Hosono on Wednesday asked local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture, home to a crippled nuclear power plant, to consider hosting a temporary storage facility for contaminated waste resulting from the March nuclear disaster.

Hosono held meetings with prefectural officials including Provincial Governor Yuhei Sato and made a formal request to them for the temporary facility to be built in the Futaba District of Fukuhima Prefecture, according to local media reports.

Hosono indicated that the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which are in the direct vicinity of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, have been earmarked as potential sites for the interim facility, the reports said.

"Areas where annual radiation doses are expected to exceed 100 millisieverts are concentrated in the county, and it is difficult to lower the radiation levels there through normal decontamination efforts," Hosono was quoted as saying to local Fukushima officials at one of the meetings.

"I hope the land will be provided to host an interim storage facility through land purchases or long-term leasing by the state, " the environment minister said.

But Hosono's request was met with skepticism by the local leaders who said the implications of the government's request were far-reaching and local officials may reject the plan as being somewhat coercive and not in the region's best interests.

Sato said the request "is extremely harsh for the county and the prefectural government would take a grave view of it," adding that the views and opinions of those in the regions likely to be affected by the facility would be taken into serious consideration.

Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe was also somewhat skeptical about the plans following talks with Hosono, local media reports said.

"We now face a big challenge. We will consider the request carefully," Watanabe said.

Japan's central government said it is mulling the idea purchasing land contaminated from the nuclear disaster from local citizens who have yet and may for many years never be able to return to their homes safely.

The final decision for the location of the storage facility has been slated to be made by the end of March 2013, with waste collection and storage beginning from the beginning of January 2015, according to government officials.

The government's nuclear safety agency said that the contaminated waste could be stored on the site for up to 30 years, but on Wednesday governmental officials in Fukushima announced their own plans for a nuclear-free future and put forward a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal, including the scrapping of all 10 of the region's reactors in favor of renewable energy sources.

The Fukushima government panel urged the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crippled nuclear plant, central to the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, to decommission all 10 of its nuclear reactors in the prefecture.

TEPCO and the government said recently that despite the reactors being in a so-called controlled state of "cold shutdown" it may take as long as 40 years for the decommissioning of the reactors to be fully completed.

But according to Sato, the prefecture's reconstruction plans are not near-sighted and propose massive, ongoing decontamination operations in the region, the promotion and utilization of alternative and renewable energy sources and collaboration with scientists and medical professionals on the development of essential anti-radiation medicine.

Sato said he hopes that the reconstruction plan would eventually attract a new generation of young people back to the region as many younger people fled following the nuclear disaster with no plans to return.

"The reconstruction plan is the compass for rebuilding our homeland. Its steady development will encourage those who have evacuated from the prefecture, particularly young people, to return home," Sato said.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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