FUKUSHIMA – The government on Wednesday proposed lifting by around mid-August the evacuation order for one of the towns in Fukushima Prefecture that has stood empty since the nuclear crisis began in 2011.
Most of the town of Naraha sits within 20 km of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but radiation cleanup efforts have been under way in a bid to return around 7,500 residents to their homes.
Naraha is one of 10 remaining municipalities still subject to evacuation orders. The government estimated as of last October that about 79,000 people were unable to return to their homes.
The proposal for Nahara came after the government decided recently to lift all evacuation orders by March 2017 except for areas radiation levels are expected to remain high.
The government told the Naraha Municipal Assembly on Wednesday that it hopes to lift the evacuation order by the mid-August Bon holidays. Yosuke Takagi, senior vice industry minister who is dealing with nuclear disaster issues added that the government does not intend to “force” residents to return home.
“Whether to return is up to each person. . . . Even if we lift the order, we want to continue working substantially on measures to rebuild Nahara,” he said.
A local assembly member said the plan to lift the order by Bon was “abrupt,” while another member pointed out that the town has not recovered to a point where people can return without worrying about food safety or their homes.
As part of preparations, residents have already been allowed to enter the town and stay there for short periods, officials said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has only covered 2 percent of the ¥76.1 billion that municipalities have spent on decontamination work since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began in 2011, according to Environment Ministry officials.
Tepco, operator of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, has effectively refused to cover the costs of removing tainted soil and other debris gathered by the fallout-hit governments, saying it is confirming whether such payments are required by law.
The central government has paid for the cleanup work on Tepco’s behalf, but if the utility continues to balk, more taxpayer money will be needed to cover the interest payments.
Tepco has so far basically paid for decontamination work conducted directly by the central government in areas close to the nuclear plant, but it has treated decontamination work carried out by local governments in other areas in a different manner.
Under the current scheme, municipal governments are authorized to conduct decontamination in designated areas. The central government pays them first and has Tepco reimburse it for the expenses later.
A law enacted in August 2011 stipulates that Tepco bears the responsibility of paying for the decontamination work. The central government had earmarked ¥1.4 trillion for this effort, including around ¥630 billion for work done by municipal governments, by the end of fiscal 2014.
The Environment Ministry has requested that Tepco pay back ¥76.1 billion by the end of February to cover work for which costs have been finalized. Tepco has only paid ¥1.5 billion.
“It takes time for us to confirm if they were decontamination operations for which we are obliged to pay the costs,” a Tepco official said.
In response, an Environment Ministry official said Sunday that “all of our requests to Tokyo Electric Power have been made based on the law and we will continue to urge the company to pay back all the money.”
Tepco posted its first pretax profit in three years in the business year ended in March 2014 after plunging into financial difficulties following the triple core meltdowns in March 2011.
The utility is projecting a group pretax profit of ¥227 billion for the business year ending Tuesday.
FUTABA, Fukushima — The transfer of radioactively contaminated soil from a temporary holding area to a mid-term storage site began here on March 25.
Similar work has been underway in neighboring Okuma since March 13, but Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa had asked for the work in his town to be put off until after a traditional period for visiting family graves, which ended on March 24.
“Although I feel that progress has been made towards improving the prefecture’s environment and recovery from the disaster, I have mixed feelings when I think about the heavy burden shouldered by the area accepting the waste,” Izawa stated in a news release.
Under current waste management plans, soil contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster will be held at mid-term sites for up to 30 years.
On March 25, 12 of 800 bags containing a cubic meter of soil each were moved via two 10-ton trucks to a temporary holding area at the site of the planned mid-term storage facility, which has yet to be built. The site is around 3.2 kilometers from the temporary holding area.
Over the coming year, the Ministry of the Environment plans to clear 43,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil from temporary storage sites in 43 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities.
link to original article: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=485
The Environment Ministry began on March 14 transferring radioactive soil and other contaminated waste to an interim storage site in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, as part of a 30-year project to store waste generated from decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. About 12 cubic meters of radioactive waste was transferred from a temporary site in Okuma’s Minamidaira district on the first day. The transshipment marks the long-awaited launch of interim storage work that is considered essential for the reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture, more than three and a half years since the government requested local authorities in August 2011 to permit installation of waste storage facilities.
Meanwhile, the ministry officially announced the same day it will start similar transportation on March 25 to an interim site in Futaba from a temporary place elsewhere in the town. This sort of transshipment over the next year will be conducted as a pilot project to identify problems such as safety. The project calls for the transfer of around 43,000 cubic meters of contaminated waste – about 1,000 cubic meters from each of 43 municipalities in the prefecture with decontamination plans – in the first year.
However, due to slow progress in negotiations with landowners, an area of only about 3 hectares of the interim storage site has so far been set aside for use, of which just 1 hectare is ready for receiving waste container bags on a temporary basis pending completion of interim storage facilities.
link to original article: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=479
The Reconstruction Agency’s latest survey has found the proportion of evacuees from Iitate village, Fukushima Prefecture, desiring to return to their hometown increased 8.1 percentage points to 29.4 percent from the previous survey in November 2013. The results of the fiscal 2014 survey for the village were released by the agency on March 6.
Iitate was the last among the prefecture’s municipalities to see the outcome of a round of surveys taken during the current fiscal year through March 31 concerning evacuees’ intention to return to their hometowns. Among the seven towns and villages for which each survey asked about residents’ desire to return, the proportion of people thinking of going back grew in five municipalities.
An official of the Reconstruction Agency said the increase was probably because “decontamination work has progressed and more residents are thinking more positively about returning.” Another factor that is believed to have led to more people expressing their desire to go back is the addition to the survey’s response choices of a note saying “includes a desire to return in the future.” Of the respondents from Iitate, 32.5 percent said they have not yet decided, down 3.6 points from the previous survey, and 26.5 percent said they have decided not to return, down 4.3 points.