The Environment Ministry will subsidize tours of disaster-hit Iwate and Miyagi prefectures to encourage residents of other parts of the nation to accept debris from the prefectures, according to ministry sources.
The ministry hopes the tours will help lead to the implementation of its plan to dispose of debris by alleviating concerns among citizens about radioactive contamination of the material, the sources said.
It will subsidize such costs as bus rental fees, lodging expenses, rental fees for venues to hold explanatory meetings and lecture fees.
In principle, it will pay all the actual expenses. But the ministry will compare actual accommodation fees against those stipulated in the law on travel expenses for national public officials and pay whichever is cheaper to the local governments.
Under the law, the daily maximum for accommodation fees for officials is 19,100 yen.
“We’re not sure how many [local governments] will take advantage of this opportunity, but we’d like to provide a reasonable amount of subsidies,” an official from the ministry said.
While an increasing number of local governments have officially decided to accept debris or to consider doing so, many have been seeking central government support to reassure their residents about the safety of the debris.
The ministry decided to provide the subsidies after learning that an inspection tour of the disaster-hit areas organized by the Shimada municipal government in Shizuoka Prefecture led to its decision to accept debris from the towns of Yamada and Otsuchi in Iwate Prefecture.
“Residents who first opposed [accepting debris] were won over after seeing the disaster-hit areas,” Shimada Mayor Katsuro Sakurai said.
The Shizuoka municipal government, which plans a two-night inspection bus tour of Yamada and Otsuchi on Tuesday, has received applications from more than 20 people, which exceeds the number of positions available, it said.
The Kiryu municipal government in Gunma Prefecture, which holds explanatory meetings for residents about accepting debris, is encouraged by the ministry’s plan.
“As the central government will support us, we’d like to hold an inspection tour,” said an official of the municipal government.
The Yurihonjo municipal government in Akita Prefecture, which plans to incinerate debris on a trial basis, said some residents want to consider whether to take debris after seeing the local situation.
“We’d like to plan the tour after seeing the result of a trial incineration,” an official of the municipal government said.
A total of 20.45 million tons of debris has been generated in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
Of that, the central government hopes to arrange for the disposal of about 4 million tons, although there is no prospect that all of it will be accepted by other local governments.
The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to accept 500,000 tons of debris by 2014.
The central government has asked eight prefectures and eight cities designated by government ordinance as major cities to accept a total of 910,000 tons of debris.
Aichi Prefecture plans to accept 1 million tons of debris.