13 Years On: Fukushima Governor Urges State to Clarify Soil Policy

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori

Fukushima (Jiji Press)—Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori wants the Japanese government to clarify its policy on transferring soil from decontamination work following the March 2011 nuclear accident to final disposal sites outside the northeastern Japan prefecture.

“We’ll seize every opportunity to strongly call on the state to present a specific policy and a road map swiftly, in order not to create a blank period,” he has said in a recent interview.

Fukushima has decided to host interim storage facilities for the soil on the premise that the soil is stored at final disposal sites to be created outside the prefecture, Uchibori noted. This is the central government’s “legally prescribed responsibility,” he said.

A considerable amount of time will be needed to realize the soil transfer because there are a host of issues, including the selection of final disposal sites, but the remaining time is limited, Uchibori said.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s operations to release into the ocean treated water containing tritium, a radioactive substance, from its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station have so far been carried out as planned, Uchibori noted, adding that no abnormal radiation levels have been detected in seawater sampled near the plant.

The operations started in late August 2023. An unprecedented triple meltdown occurred at the nuclear plant, heavily damaged in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, which mainly struck the Tohoku northeastern Japan region.

“We hope the central government and TEPCO will continue to take all possible measures (to ensure the safety of the water release operations) and provide accurate information in an easy-to-understand way,” the governor said.

“The impact of the water release is an issue for Japan as a whole,” he also said, indicating that he plans to urge the state to take necessary steps flexibly, including additional measures and a review of its existing support programs.

Specified residence areas have been newly set up within so-called difficult-to-return zones in Fukushima to promote early returns of locals who have evacuated in the wake of the nuclear accident.

Uchibori said that the establishment of the new areas resulted from thorough discussions between the central government and related local municipalities in Fukushima while the situation differs from municipality to municipality.

He urged the national government to “work responsibly” to lift the evacuation orders related to the nuclear accident for all difficult-to-return zones and accomplish postdisaster reconstruction.

On Jan. 1 this year, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan. The quake occurred near Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika nuclear power station.

“Fukushima strongly hopes that a severe nuclear accident like the one experienced by the prefecture must never happen again,” Uchibori said.

“I’d like to reiterate that (the central government) should base its nuclear policy on lessons learned from the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident and give top priority to ensuring the safety and security of people,” he added.