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Where to in 2045? Contaminated Soil from the Nuclear Power Plant Accident: Current Status of Interim Storage Facilities in Fukushima

February 21, 2022
 Contaminated soil and other materials generated by decontamination following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are being temporarily stored at an interim storage facility adjacent to the plant. The decontamination of areas outside the difficult-to-return areas has largely been completed, and the decontamination of areas inside the difficult-to-return areas in the designated reconstruction and revitalization base areas (reconstruction bases), where evacuation orders are expected to be lifted after this spring, is also proceeding. However, no concrete measures have been taken for decontamination of the difficult-to-return areas outside the reconstruction centers, and no progress has been made in discussing the transport of contaminated soil out of Fukushima Prefecture. Eleven years after the accident, there is still no way to solve the problem of radioactive waste. (Kenta Onozawa, Shinichi Ogawa)

12.67 million bags from 52 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture
 Radioactive materials released from the nuclear power plant in the accident contaminated land and buildings in Fukushima Prefecture and other large areas. Each municipality has made progress in decontamination, and the soil and other waste from the decontamination process has been collected in flexible container bags (sandbags, one bag is one cubic meter), and delivery to the interim storage facility built around Fukushima Daiichi began in FY2015. As of February 10, 2022, the total amount of waste will amount to about 12.67 million cubic meters from 52 of the 59 municipalities in Fukushima. (*The graph below can also be viewed by region: Hamadori, Nakadori, and Aizu)

How much contaminated soil has been transported to the interim storage facility?
February 10, 2022

All areas:

Fukushima Prefecture has a population of 1,810,286 (as of 1 May 2021) and has a geographic area of 13,783 square kilometres (5,322 sq mi). Fukushima is the capital and Iwaki is the largest city of Fukushima Prefecture, with other major cities including Kōriyama, Aizuwakamatsu, and Sukagawa. Fukushima Prefecture is located on Japan’s eastern Pacific coast at the southernmost part of the Tōhoku region, and is home to Lake Inawashiro, the fourth-largest lake in Japan. Fukushima Prefecture is the third-largest prefecture of Japan (after Hokkaido and Iwate Prefecture) and divided by mountain ranges into the three regions of Aizu, Nakadōri, and Hamadōri.


Hamadōri (浜通り) is the easternmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture. Hamadōri is bordered by the Abukuma Highlands to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The principal city of the area is Iwaki.

Area: 2,969.11 km2 (1,146.38 sq mi)

Population: (2017) 452,588


Nakadōri (中通り, Nakadōri) is a region comprising the middle third of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. It is sandwiched between the regions of Aizu to the west and Hamadōri to the east. The principal cities of the area are Kōriyama and the prefecture’s capital, Fukushima.

Area : 5,392.95 km2 (2,082.23 sq mi)

Population: ( 2017) 1,159,245


Aizu (会津) is the westernmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture. The principal city of the area is Aizuwakamatsu.

Area: 5,420.69 km2 (2,092.94 sq mi)

Population: (2017) 270,648

Source: Interim Storage Facility Information Website

The total amount of contaminated garbage is not foreseeable.
 According to the Ministry of the Environment, the amount of contaminated soil generated from the decontamination of areas other than the difficult-to-return areas is estimated to be 14 million cubic meters, a huge amount equivalent to 11 fillings of Tokyo Dome. The soil is scheduled to be delivered to the interim storage facility by March 2010. In the remaining difficult-to-return areas in seven cities, towns, and villages in Fukushima Prefecture, six cities, towns, and villages (excluding Minamisoma City) have been designated as “Designated Reconstruction and Revitalization Centers (Reconstruction Centers)” where decontamination will be carried out ahead of time. It is estimated that 1.6 to 2 million cubic meters of contaminated soil will be released from the decontamination of the reconstruction centers.
 In addition to this, in August 2009, the government decided to lift the evacuation order for those who wish to return to their homes in the difficult-to-return areas outside the reconstruction centers. The Ministry of the Environment said, “We will proceed with the acquisition of land and the construction of storage facilities while monitoring the status of delivery. We do not know the maximum amount that can be brought in.

Uncertainty about transporting the materials out of Fukushima Prefecture
 As the name implies, the storage at the interim storage facility is supposed to be “temporary” before the final disposal. The government has promised that the contaminated soil will be transported to a final disposal site outside Fukushima Prefecture in 2045, 30 years after the storage began in 2015. However, it is not clear if there are any municipalities that will accept the waste contaminated by the nuclear accident, and the candidate site has not yet been decided.
 At present, three quarters of the total amount of contaminated soil stored at the site contains less than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. The government plans to reuse the contaminated soil with a concentration of 8,000 becquerels or less for road construction and other public works. The government plans to reuse soil contaminated with less than 8,000 becquerels for road construction and other public works. However, opposition to the use of contaminated soil from local residents is strong, and efforts to put the technology to practical use are running into difficulties. The Ministry of the Environment says, “We will continue to develop technology and work to gain the understanding of the people concerned.

The interim storage facilities are located around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and cover an area of 1,600 hectares. Of the privately owned land, which accounts for about 80%, 93% has been acquired by the government. The delivery of contaminated soil generated outside the difficult-to-return area is expected to be completed in March 2022.

An interim storage facility for temporarily storing contaminated soil surrounds the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture (Photo by Ryo Ito taken from the Oozuru helicopter on January 25, 2022)


February 21, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , ,

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