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Japanese gov't asks Fukushima to store contaminated waste, but region eyes nuke-free future

(Xinhua)

09:38, December 29, 2011

TOKYO, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Environment Minister Goshi Hosono on Wednesday asked local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture, home to a crippled nuclear power plant, to consider hosting a temporary storage facility for contaminated waste resulting from the March nuclear disaster.

Hosono held meetings with prefectural officials including Provincial Governor Yuhei Sato and made a formal request to them for the temporary facility to be built in the Futaba District of Fukuhima Prefecture, according to local media reports.

Hosono indicated that the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which are in the direct vicinity of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, have been earmarked as potential sites for the interim facility, the reports said.

"Areas where annual radiation doses are expected to exceed 100 millisieverts are concentrated in the county, and it is difficult to lower the radiation levels there through normal decontamination efforts," Hosono was quoted as saying to local Fukushima officials at one of the meetings.

"I hope the land will be provided to host an interim storage facility through land purchases or long-term leasing by the state, " the environment minister said.

But Hosono's request was met with skepticism by the local leaders who said the implications of the government's request were far-reaching and local officials may reject the plan as being somewhat coercive and not in the region's best interests.

Sato said the request "is extremely harsh for the county and the prefectural government would take a grave view of it," adding that the views and opinions of those in the regions likely to be affected by the facility would be taken into serious consideration.

Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe was also somewhat skeptical about the plans following talks with Hosono, local media reports said.

"We now face a big challenge. We will consider the request carefully," Watanabe said.

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