The decontamination of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may very well finish by the end of March 2017 instead of the original estimated date of March 2014. This is according to Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara during a press conference on Thursday.
He said they have to revise the deadline because March 31, 2014, the deadline set by the previous government, is unrealistic, given the numerous delays and problems encountered in the decontamination process in 11 locations. One of the main sources of delays is the fact that the government has been unable to find places to store the contaminated waste from the plant, like the soil and the water. Ishihara earlier this month met with Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto and the mayors of the three towns in Fukushima most affected by the nuclear meltdown: Futaba, Okuma and Naraha.
He wanted to seek the support of the mayors in the government’s plan to build storage facilities for all the contaminated soil from Fukushima, estimated to be at thousands of tons. The government intends to spend 100 billion yen (approx. US$954 million) in the storage plan, which includes buying 16 square kilometers of land in the no-go zone in Futaba and Okuma, and 3 square kilometers of land in Naraha, which is near the nuclear plant. They were looking at the decontamination work at the plant to end by 2015 and the storage facilities have to be ready by then.
This process aims to make the radiation-contaminated communities around the plant inhabitable again, but a government expert says that this is mostly trial and error. Even the experts who are leading this project say that they cannot guarantee that the residents will be able to live in these places again, without danger of radiation. But even if they succeed with the decontamination, the even bigger problem is where to dump all that waste that they take away from the plant.