” A huge backlog of radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster that unfolded in 2011 has piled up as the government faces public resistance to the effects of disposal regulations introduced after the meltdown.
A total of 166,000 tons of contaminated waste, including incinerated ash and rice straws, has accumulated at temporary storage sites in 12 prefectures.
While the central government has made plans to construct disposal facilities for the waste in Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures, strong opposition from local residents has stalled progress.
In Kami, Miyagi Prefecture, where construction of one of the plants is planned, residents have forcibly blocked Environment Ministry officials’ entry to the mooted construction site.
“The site is located in the middle of landslide-prone areas and it should not qualify as a location for such a facility,” one local resident said. “We demand the government calls off the project.”
Another said, “What is causing our anxiety is that it remains unclear who will take ultimate responsibility in solving this problem and how.”
The Environment Ministry has given up conducting inspections at the construction site in a mountainous area this year after failing to gain access to it several times since last year.
Ministry officials have insisted to residents that it is essential to promptly open the facility because the current temporary storage sites around the prefecture were chosen as an emergency measure.
A typhoon, flood and other natural disasters could cause the drift and spill of contaminated waste at any time, the officials say.
After the triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011 spewed massive radioactive fallout, the government categorized substances with radioactivity levels of more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram as “designated waste.”
The government plans in principle to eventually make each of the affected prefectures to dispose of contaminated waste locally.
At one of the temporary storage sites in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, 194 tons of contaminated rice straws are stored in polyvinyl houses.
Shigetaro Chiba, a 73-year-old farmer who rents the storage site’s land to the city office, expressed confusion over the prolonged use of his land, located next to his rice paddies, as a contaminated waste storage site.
“I was made to agree to extend the lease after the initial two-year period promised by the government expired. The new contract no longer specifies a deadline,” he said. ”