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Contaminated soil piles up in vast Fukushima cleanup project

March 18, 2022

More than a decade of decontamination efforts around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has allowed thousands of evacuees to return home. But there are still some areas off limits due to the radiation levels. And as contaminated soil piles up, former residents are wondering when, or if, they will go back.

The cleanup work started soon after the nuclear accident in March 2011. The nuclear disaster discharged radioactive particles across Fukushima and neighboring prefectures. More than 70 percent of Fukushima’s municipalities were registering radiation levels above the national safety standard. Decontamination was key to making the region safe again and reviving local industries.

Workers have been removing radioactive topsoil, grass, trees, and building materials. The scale and expense of the project is vast. The Japanese government has already spent more than $43 billion on decontamination efforts.

Decontamination work started soon after the nuclear accident.

Storage facility worries residents

The contaminated soil and waste was piling up in residential areas and hindering reconstruction efforts, so the government decided to build temporary storage facilities on land stretching across the towns of Futaba and Okuma which host the nuclear plant. It occupies a 1,600-hectare site—nearly five times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Large amounts of contaminated soil and waste are brought in daily to the interim storage facility.

Since 2015, about 1,000 trucks have been arriving daily and dumping around 7,000 bags of soil. The Environment Ministry says workers have moved almost 13 million cubic meters of it so far.

The government introduced a law requiring the soil to be moved out of Fukushima Prefecture by 2045. But the people of Fukushima, especially those who used to live near the site, are worried it will become a permanent fixture.

“There is concern that this will become a final disposal site, but I understand that it’s inevitable that people will have to accept it,” says an 84-year-old man who once lived on the site. “I don’t think I will be alive in 30 years, but I want them to put my land back the way it was.”

Promising research

In a bid to reduce the overall amount of waste, crews are sorting the material at the facility to separate what can be burned. It is hoped that some of the soil can be reused.

Technology is being developed to allow the re-use of contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry is looking at whether it can use the soil to grow vegetables or build roads. Research on food cultivation in the area has found radiation levels below official standards.

So far, the research has been limited to one district of Fukushima. The Environment Ministry is planning to commission further studies aim to help people understand what’s possible and, most importantly, what’s safe.

A final disposal site

The biggest challenge for the national government is to find suitable land outside of Fukushima for final disposal. Officials have been running a public awareness campaign to try to find support for a location. So far, no municipality has volunteered to be the host.

Despite the lack of progress, the government is adamant it remains committed to its deadline.

“We have promised the local government we will dispose of the waste outside the prefecture by March 2045,” says Environment Ministry official Hattori Hiroshi. “Since it is required by law, we will fulfill the promise. Of course, we are fully aware of the voices of concern from local people.”

High radiation zones remain

Officials say the project to transfer contaminated soil to an interim storage site will be largely completed by the end of this month, but in parts of Fukushima—including the towns of Futaba and Okuma—the radiation levels are relatively high and full-scale decontamination work has not yet begun. And more than 30,000 people still are not able to return their homes.

Barricades are set up around a “difficult-to-return” zone.

Not one of the former residents of Futaba has returned to live there full-time. Local officials are hoping to allow some back in June for the first time. But an official survey found that more than 60 percent of the former residents have no intention of returning. Only about one in ten said they want to return. Almost a quarter of respondents say they haven’t made their minds up yet.

Many of the evacuees have already restarted their lives elsewhere. The central and local governments are hoping they can attract new residents to the area and are offering $17,000 to anyone who makes the move.

But for those former residents undecided about returning, safety concerns are paramount. They want to know if the decontamination work will be completed and the soil will be moved. They also want more clarity about the decommissioning work at the crippled plant. The government has promised that will be completed by 2051 at the latest, but details are scant.

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March 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan to finish radioactive soil transfer to interim storage site

“Finished” is only government propaganda, reality differs!
With radioactive waste being kept “temporarily” at 830 locations in six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, stuck in limbo with no early prospect of being shipped to interim storage facilities ahead of a government-set deadline. The volume of contaminated soil and other radioactive materials awaiting shipment totals 8,460 cubic meters.

The interim storage site for radioactive waste and the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

Mar 13, 2022

Fukushima – The government is set to complete by March 31 work on transferring radioactive soil collected from areas polluted by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture to an interim storage facility as part of the decontamination effort.

The facility, straddling the Fukushima towns of Futaba and Okuma, surrounds Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the triple meltdown that followed a massive earthquake and tsunami 11 years ago.

Under the law, such soil will be transferred to a permanent disposal site outside the prefecture by 2045. The final site has yet to be decided, however.

Since the amount of soil is massive, the Environment Ministry is planning to use some of it for public works and other projects across the country.

“We’ll reach a major juncture” by completing the transfer, a senior ministry official said. “From now on, we’d like to foster people’s understanding on the reuse (of the soil).”

The 1,600-hectare interim storage site, about the same size as Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, is slated to hold about 14 million cubic meters of soil collected through decontamination work.

Since 2015, such soil collected from around Fukushima has been taken to the site after being stored at temporary storage facilities.

Over 1,800 local landowners, including residents of the towns, cooperated with the central government to secure land to establish the storage facility, mainly by selling their properties to the state.

Many landowners “made tough decisions to give up their properties for the sake of reconstruction,” Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida said. “Many were my acquaintances, including friends from school, the person who arranged my marriage and workers at the town office,” Yoshida added.

The ministry plans to use only soil with relatively low levels of radioactive concentrations for public works, farmland and other purposes. It hopes that three-fourths of the total will be reused.

A demonstration project to grow flowers and vegetables on farmland using such soil has already started in the Nagadoro district in the Fukushima village of Iitate.

Meanwhile, projects to utilize the soil for road construction have been scrapped due to opposition from local residents in the cities of Nihonmatsu and Minamisoma, both in Fukushima Prefecture.

In May last year, the ministry started holding meetings to discuss the recycling of such soil with the general public to win wider understanding. Such events took place in Tokyo and the city of Nagoya.

The next session is scheduled to be held in the city of Fukuoka this month.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa stressed that electricity generated by the Fukushima No. 1 plant had been consumed in the greater Tokyo area. Reuse of soil collected through decontamination work “will not proceed unless people who benefited (from the Fukushima plant) understand that fact,” he said.

“It is difficult for people living far from Fukushima to empathize” with those having to deal with tainted soil, said Hiroshi Kainuma, associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies.

Kainuma said the government should proceed while checking constantly whether its communication with the public on the issue is appropriate.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/03/13/national/japan-finish-radioactive-soil-transfer-interim-storage-site/

March 14, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

The status of the interim storage facility for storing waste from decontamination is disclosed

February 22, 2022

On the 22nd, the progress of the interim storage facility for the waste from the decontamination of Fukushima Prefecture was shown to the press.
The delivery of waste from areas other than the difficult-to-return areas will be almost finished next month.

The Ministry of the Environment is storing decontamination waste from Fukushima Prefecture in an interim storage facility located in Okuma and Futaba towns, and the site was opened to the press on the 22nd.
One of the storage sites for soil from the decontamination process is 15 meters high and 900,000 cubic meters of soil is being piled up.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, 92% of the 1,400 cubic meters of decontamination waste generated in areas other than the difficult-to-return areas had been brought in as of November last year, and the Ministry expects to finish bringing in almost all of it by the end of next month.

In addition, waste generated in the areas where decontamination is being carried out in preparation for the lifting of evacuation orders will continue to be delivered.

It has been decided that the final disposal of the waste will be outside of Fukushima Prefecture by 2045, and the Ministry of the Environment hopes to reuse the soil from the decontamination for public projects.

Mr. Masanori Shoko, deputy director of the Fukushima Regional Environment Office, said, “It is important to gain nationwide understanding for the reuse of the soil, and we have been holding dialogue meetings, but we feel that the understanding of the younger generation is an issue. We would like to continue our efforts so that they will be interested in the final disposal outside of the prefecture.
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February 28, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

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.

Hamadori:

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

Nakadori:

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:

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)

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/161520?fbclid=IwAR1b5iup-QLbj1zzR66bQ14Ln_Y4_vF2_WsYNbe38CFPf5lAraXEuByZ2QQ

February 21, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Interim storage facility completed by March, no prospects for final disposal

January 3, 2022

At the interim storage facility for the waste from the decontamination of Fukushima Prefecture, about 90% of the planned amount of waste has been delivered, and the Ministry of the Environment has said that it will be mostly completed by March of this year.
On the other hand, there is no prospect for the final disposal of the waste, which is required by law to be done outside Fukushima Prefecture by 2045.

At the interim storage facility being built around the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, about 14 million cubic meters of waste, including soil, plants and trees from decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture, is planned to be brought in.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, 12.45 million cubic meters, or 89% of the planned amount, had been brought in by December 23, and the ministry plans to complete the delivery of the remaining 1.55 million cubic meters by March of this year.

On the other hand, these wastes are required by law to be disposed of outside of Fukushima Prefecture by March 2045, and the Ministry of the Environment has said that it will present options for the structure and area of the final disposal site by fiscal 2024, but there is no prospect for the location or method.

In addition, in order to reduce the amount of final disposal, a demonstration project is underway to recycle soil from the decontamination process for use in public works nationwide, but there has been no significant movement outside of Fukushima Prefecture.

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January 4, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Proposed storage of spent nuclear fuel sparks resistance in Aomori Pref. City

Recyclable Fuel Storage Co interim storage facility mutsu, Aomori Prefecture.jpg
The Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co. interim storage facility is seen fenced off in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, on March 6, 2018
March 22, 2018
The selection of a site to house an interim storage facility for spent fuel from nuclear power plants operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) has run into rough waters. In January, the Aomori Prefecture city of Mutsu surfaced as a candidate, but resistance quickly emerged from locals.
 
With KEPCO’s nuclear power plants being concentrated in Fukui Prefecture, the prefectural government has set a basic premise of storing spent nuclear fuel outside the prefecture. The utility aims to announce a candidate site this year, but there remains fierce opposition to accepting nuclear fuel from other prefectures, and because of this, its prospects of settling on a site are unclear.
 
After a 20-minute drive along a national route from central Mutsu during a visit by the Mainichi Shimbun in early March, an imposing fence could be seen along a snowy field. Beyond the fence was a square building — an interim storage facility that is being built by Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co. (RFS), a company founded by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. The facility’s storage capacity is around 3,000 tons of spent fuel. There are plans to build a second building in the future.
 
In January, this facility gained nationwide attention. As the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) came to the final stage of its screening of the facility, news organizations reported that KEPCO was considering transporting spent nuclear fuel from its plants to the facility.
 
Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita immediately held a news conference, saying he had heard no such thing from the central government, KEPCO, or RFS. “The feelings of the region are being completely ignored,” he said.
 
In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on March 6, Miyashita suggested it was unlikely KEPCO would bring its nuclear fuel into the facility as things stand. “Operations at the site haven’t started yet. Without the facility having cleared the NRA’s screening, it’s unthinkable that they could change the status quo,” he said.
 
The Shimokita Peninsula in northern Aomori Prefecture, where the city of Mutsu is located, not only houses the interim storage building, but has a collection of other nuclear facilities including the Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Higashidori, the Oma Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Oma and the reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel in the village of Rokkasho. But since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, construction of nuclear facilities has been suspended or delayed.
 
“We had expected our nonresident population to increase in line with nuclear power plant construction and inspections. But taxi companies are going out of business, and the economic chill is severe,” Miyashita said.
 
Alongside concerns about the storage of nuclear fuel, there are also deeply rooted aspirations regarding the operation of nuclear power plants in the region. Katsura Sonoda, head of the Mutsu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, commented, “In local economic circles, there is little resistance to reactivating nuclear power plants, and we want the interim storage facility to go into operation quickly. Fixed property taxes and subsidies will also increase.
 
A figure in the energy industry commented, “The mayor is up for election for a second term in June. It’s not the case that he lacks understanding of nuclear power-related projects; I guess it’s just that he had to be sensitive toward antinuclear public sentiment in the wake of the nuclear disaster (in Fukushima).”
 
In late January, KEPCO announced that it would set up an office in Aomori in June to handle payment-related issues, employing about 70 people. A public relations representative for the company maintained that this had nothing to do with the interim storage facility, but this has not swept away the view that the company is entering Aomori Prefecture to warm the region to the idea of hosting the facility.
 

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment