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Distrustful residents

January 9, 2013

Fukushima residents show distrust over lack of explanation about interim storage facility




AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- The Ministry of the Environment held a briefing session here for residents of a Fukushima Prefecture town hosting a candidate site for an interim storage facility for radiation-contaminated soil, sparking voices of distrust from them over a lack of explanation over the controversial construction plan.

The meeting on Jan. 8 -- the first of its kind held by the ministry -- was attended by some 150 residents from the prefectural town of Okuma who evacuated to Aizuwakamatsu following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster. Two other prefectural towns have also been listed as candidate sites for the planned facility.

While the residents, all from a district hosting the candidate site, raised questions about reparations for the construction site and surrounding areas and the method to treat radioactive soil, the Environment Ministry officials stopped short of presenting concrete plans and conditions, only saying, "We don't know until we survey the area."

"They're probably going to conduct the survey without explaining anything and force through construction," said a distrustful resident during the meeting.

Regarding the ministry officials' explanation that the tainted soil will be transferred to a final disposal site outside Fukushima Prefecture within 30 years, one skeptical resident said, "No one would take it, as is the case with U.S. military bases in Okinawa. The promise should be legislated so that we can be at ease."

The Environment Ministry is poised to start on-site surveys on candidate sites as early as this month and is planning to hold five more briefing sessions for Okuma residents through Jan. 10 at three locations in the prefecture.

Meanwhile, the Naraha town government notified the ministry on Jan. 8 that a briefing session about an interim storage facility survey for the town's ward mayors would be postponed from Jan. 10, following recent revelations of shoddy decontamination work on radioactive materials in the town and other parts of the prefecture.

"It is an outrageous situation that could destroy the entire plan for our residents' return to the town in two years," said Naraha Town Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto.


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