Monday 17 February 2014

Interim Storage

Photo from TV programme 'Interim Storage Facilities Go Off Course'
(TV Asahi, 11 February 2014)
There’s been some progress recently on the issue of the ‘interim storage facilities’ which will take the contaminated soil currently piled up at schools, parks and gardens all over the prefecture and store it for 30 years. ‘Progress’ might not be the right word. A programme shown on TV Asahi on 11 February had the title ‘Interim Storage Facilities Go Off Course’ (Meiso suru Chukan Chozo Shisetsu 迷走する中間貯蔵施設).

We first heard about this plan in August 2011 from the then Prime Minister, Naoto Kan. This cumbersome new phrase has become part of the vernacular, shortened to ‘interim storage’ (chukan chozo) and even ‘interim‘ (chukan). Everyone knows what it means, everyone knows they’re key to getting back to normal - but no one of course wants one in their back yard. The facilities will take an estimated 35 million tons of soil, foliage etc. from decontamination work in Fukushima prefecture. (The more toxic waste from the reactors themselves, from decommissioning, will be stored at the plant.)  

Last year the Environment Ministry proposed sites in three towns and carried out geological tests. The sites are in: Okuma and Futaba next to Fukushima Daiichi in the exclusion zone, and Naraha further south near Fukushima Daini where radiation levels are relatively low. 
Map of towns which will host proposed storage sites:
 Futaba and Okuma in the north around Fukushima Daiichi
and Naraha in the south near Fukushima Daini
From the start it seemed cruel to have a storage facility in Naraha just when it was announced that preparations were to be started to lift the ban and people were beginning to think about returning. A new mayor was elected on the basis of his opposition but he’s had to backtrack. In December the Environment Minister announced that a total of 19 of land in the three towns would be purchased (nationalised) for the facilities. In January the Mayor of Naraha told the governor that they would only accept low level waste, nothing over 100,000 bq/kg. Governor Sato seems to have done a deal which he is trying to negotiate with central government. Okuma and Futaba will take the waste over 100,000 bq/kg but there is to be no increase in the size of the sites there. In order to reduce the volume, wood trimmings etc. with levels of 8,000 to 100,000 bq/kg. would be incinerated and the ash stored in Naraha. It’s a tortuous process, all about negotiating conditions.
The 'temporary sites' (kariokiba) in use now
Plan for the 'interim storage facility in Naraha.
Bottom right is Fukushima Daini nuclear plant.
The other point of course is that these sites are supposed to be ‘interim’ - with a life of 30 years. After which time the stuff is supposed to be moved elsewhere. The Environment Minister has said he will try and get this made into law but who knows what will happen in 30 years time? The local people are right to be sceptical.

The government hopes to have the first trucks arriving in January next year. There's a lot of negotiating to do before that can happen.
Photos from TV programme, 'Interim Storage Facilities Go off Course' (Meiso suru Chukan Chozo Shisetsu 迷走する中間貯蔵施設TV Asahi, 11 Feb. 2014 

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