The March 11, 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami tore through coastal towns in northern Japan and set off meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, which sits partly in Okuma. Japan has since allocated more than $15 billion to an unprecedented project to lower radiation in towns around the plant, such as Okuma. Every day across Fukushima prefecture, teams of workers blast roads with water, scrub down houses, cut branches and scrape contaminated soil off farmland. That irradiated trash now sits in blue and black plastic sacks across Fukushima, piled up in abandoned rice paddies, parking lots and even residents’ backyards. Japan plans to build a more permanent storage facility over the coming years in Okuma and Futaba, another now-abandoned town close to the Fukushima nuclear plant – over the opposition of some local residents.
“This land has our blood and sweat running through it and I can’t just let go of it like that,” said Koji Monma, 60, an Okuma resident who heads a local landowners’ group. Fukushima’s governor agreed to take the waste facility after Tokyo said it would provide $2.5 billion in subsidies, and promised to take the waste out of the prefecture after 30 years. Mayors of Futaba and Okuma have since agreed to host the 16 square km (6.2 square mile) facility – about five times the size of New York’s Central Park – which will wrap around the Fukushima plant and house multiple incinerators.
Some 2,300 residents who own plots of land in Futaba and Okuma which the government needs for the waste plant face what many describe as an impossible choice...Distrust of government promises runs deep among residents here. …
The ministry has hired around 140 real estate representatives to negotiate land sales with individual owners.
Excerpts from BY MARI SAITO, Fukushima residents torn over nuclear waste storage plan, Reuters, Mar. 9, 2014