1 year after Great East Japan Earthquake, state asks 3 towns -- Futaba, Okuma, Naraha -- to temporarily accommodate contaminated debris; State pledges legislation for final storage outside prefecture; Tomioka eyed for storage site for disaster debris

The central government on March 10 unveiled a plan to build temporary storage sites for soil and debris contaminated with radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in three towns in Fukushima Prefecture, while requesting their cooperation. The three towns are Okuma, Futaba and Naraha, which host the two nuclear power plants in the prefecture -- the tsunami and quake-damaged Daiichi power complex and the Daini power plant located south of Daiichi. The request was made at a consultation meeting of officials from the central government, eight municipalities of Futaba county and the prefecture, held in Koriyama city. The town of Tomioka, which hosts the Daini plant, was asked to host a site for accommodating debris generated in the March 11, 2011, earthquake-tsunami disaster in coastal regions. The central government expressed support for reconstruction efforts in Futaba county through establishment of centers to research ways to reduce debris and other relevant issues, as well as through subsidy disbursements. The government also pledged legislation for final disposal of radiation-contaminated soil and debris outside the prefecture. Temporary facilities are intended for the storage of soil and debris tainted with radioactive cesium of more than 100,000 becquerels per kilogram. Envisaged locations are believed to include the Ottozawa and Koirino areas in the town of Okuma -- to the south of the Daiichi plant. In Futaba, the Hosoya and Koriyama districts to the north of the plant are considered for storage locations, while in Naraha, the Namikura and Shimoshigeoka areas to the south of the Daini plant are thought to be likely hosts. Initially, the central government had presented to the prefecture and relevant municipalities a plan to build storage at one location within the prefecture. The government later came to a conclusion that it would be difficult to secure a vast tract of land of an estimated 3-5 square kilometers in one location, given the terrains and geological conditions in the region. It has thus switched to an option to set up storage facilities in three different towns. The government plans to acquire the land in fiscal 2013 that starts April 1 and to start accommodating contaminated soil and debris in fiscal 2015 in blocks made ready for storage in sequence. The government plans to buy the land and to shoulder relocation costs for those to be affected. Compensation is to be paid to owners of affected properties, timber, shops and farmland. The government is also ready to provide subsidies to the town governments and support their finances by disbursing subsidies under measures for communities hosting power utilities. The central government also pledged legislation for the eventual transfer of contaminated soil and debris from temporary facilities to final storage outside the prefecture within 30 years. Research centers will be established in a coastal area including Futaba county. To decommission the Daicihi plant, an envisaged center would be dedicated to undertaking analyses of nuclear materials and developing technology for reducing the volume of contaminated soil produced in the process of decontamination. Also considered is a base for conducting experiments for a floating offshore wind farm. The government is planning to dispose of disaster debris by the end of fiscal 2013 by establishing temporary incinerators at two locations in the south and north of Futaba county. It intends to deliver ash from the incinerators and disaster debris with radioactive cesium of 100,000 becquerels per kilogram or less to a disposal site managed by the private sector in Tomioka. Among the participants in the consultation were Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who is in charge of the nuclear disaster, State Minister Tatsuo Hirano, in charge of post-disaster reconstruction, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and the mayors of eight municipalities in Futaba county.