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Japan Govt wants town to bury radioactive residue in private landfill

Town asked to accept debris ash from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. -Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

Mon, Mar 19, 2012
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

The government has asked a town in Fukushima Prefecture to accept ash from incinerated debris contaminated by radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

According to sources, the central government called on the Tomioka town government to bury the ash at a privately run disposal site in the town.

The sources said the central government informed the town the density of radioactive cesium in the ash was "up to 100,000 becquerels per kilogram."

However, Tomioka Mayor Katsuya Endo said: "Nothing has been decided. It's not a good time to discuss it."

According to the town government, the proposal was presented during a meeting among the central, prefectural and eight municipal governments in Futaba County on March 10. The meeting was not open to the public.

Town government officials said the central government proposed that temporary incineration facilities would be built at two sites in the northern and southern parts of the county, and ash would be buried at the town's private waste disposal site.

The disposal site is a landfill for sludge and other types of waste that may pollute underground water. It is about 13 kilometres from the nuclear plant, within the no-entry zone.

The 960,000-cubic-meter site began operation in 2001, and 760,000 cubic meters is still available. Since the start of the nuclear crisis, the site has suspended operations.

The industrial waste disposal service company that owns the site has already been approached by the central government.

"We'll watch how the talks turn out among the prefectural, central and Futaba County governments," a company official said. "If we can cooperate in the reconstruction, we will."

An official of the Policy Planning Division of the Environment Ministry's Waste Management and Recycling Department said, "We'll proceed with the talks while trying to obtain the understanding of local authorities and residents."

Town wants to relocate

Members of the town assembly of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, plan to submit a motion calling for the town government's functions to be moved somewhere else in the prefecture.

The entire town is inside the no-entry zone, and the town government carries out its functions in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture.

The motion will be submitted to the assembly Monday, the final day of its regular session in March, together with another proposal to set up a special committee to determine what the residents want to do.

Both motions are expected to be approved, town assembly sources said.

In late March last year, the town government moved its functions to a former prefectural high school, Kisai High School, in Kazo, about 210 kilometres from the town.

Many of the town's residents evacuated to a building at the former high school.

The town government said the number of evacuees in the school building had fallen to 398 as of March 12 this year, compared to more than 1,400 in early April last year.

Of the town's residents, 3,545 evacuated outside Fukushima Prefecture, while 3,467 still live in the prefecture.

Many residents have asked that the town government's functions be returned to Fukushima Prefecture. During the town assembly's session, many members expressed the same sentiment.

"We'll make a decision after the start of the fiscal year, but first we will listen to what the residents have to say," Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa said.

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