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Interim storage site for Fukushima contaminated soil to begin full operations

An interim storage site in Fukushima Prefecture for soil and waste generated when areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis were decontaminated will be put into full-scale operation on Oct. 28, Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa said.

Contaminated soil temporarily placed on the premises of the facility, which straddles the prefectural towns of Okuma and Futaba, will be brought into an underground storage site on the property.

The storage site will be the first one in the country to be put into full-scale operation to store contaminated soil and other waste.

"There are numerous challenges that must be overcome, but the start of operations at the facility is an important step toward the final disposal of contaminated soil," Nakagawa told a news conference on Oct. 24.

The Environment Ministry is constructing the interim storage site on an approximately 16-square-kilometer area around the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Operations at a section of the facility located in Okuma will begin on Oct. 28. After contaminated soil is measured for radiation, the soil will be stored separately at the facility depending on levels of radiation.

Waterproof work has been performed at the site to prevent stored soil from contaminating ground water.

At the site, a plant to incinerate weeds, trees and other flammable materials removed from contaminated soil and a facility to manage incinerated ash containing high levels of radioactive cesium will also be built.

The ministry estimates that the amount of soil and other waste removed from decontaminated sites in the prefecture could reach up to some 22 million cubic meters. Decontamination work is still going on in some areas affected by the nuclear disaster, which broke out in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Most of the soil removed from decontaminated areas was put into bags and temporarily stored at various locations in Fukushima Prefecture. Some of the bags have been brought onto the premises for the interim storage site since March 2015.

The central government intends to build a final disposal site outside the prefecture to complete the disposal of contaminated soil by 2045. However, the government has not worked out a specific plan on the final disposal site, such as its location and the timing of its construction.

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