Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said Thursday that decontamination of areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will most likely be completed by the end of March 2017, rather than the initial deadline of March 2014 set by the previous government.
Ishihara told a news conference that the government had to revise the schedule because it was not realistically possible to complete the decontamination work by March 31, 2014, TBS reported.
Decontamination work in 11 locations has been delayed due to the government's inability find suitable sites to store waste such as contaminated soil.
Earlier this month, Ishiara and Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto met with the mayors of three towns in Fukushima Prefecture -- Futaba, Okuma and Naraha -- to seek their support for the government’s plan to build storage facilities for thousands of tons of soil contaminated with radiation and other nuclear waste from the Fukushima disaster.
The plan calls for the government to spend 100 billion yen on the project, which involves buying about 16 square kilometers of land in Futaba and Okuma towns, which lie in the no-go zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and about three square kilometers of land near the idle Fukushima Daini plant in Naraha. Decontamination work is expected to be completed at that site by 2015, which is when the government wants all three storage facilities ready for operation.
The decontamination work is part of a monumental task: a costly and uncertain effort by Japan to try to make radiation-contaminated communities inhabitable again. Some contractors are experimenting with chemicals; others stick with shovels and high-pressure water. One government expert says it's mostly trial and error.
Experts leading the government-funded project cannot guarantee success. They say there's no prior model for what they're trying to do. Even if they succeed, they're creating another problem they don't yet know how to solve: where to dump all the radioactive soil and debris they haul away.
Radiation accumulates in soil, plants and exterior building walls. Workers start cleaning a property by washing or chopping off tree branches and raking up fallen leaves. Then they clean out building gutters and hose down the roof with high-pressure water. Next come the walls and windows. Finally, they replace the topsoil with fresh earth.© Japan Today/AP