29 Mars 2016
March 25, 2016
There are lingering questions over the future of the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and where to store highly radioactive waste from the facility.
The Japanese government and the plant's operator plan to start removing molten fuels from the plant's damaged reactors in 2021. But there's been no decision yet on where to store it, and local people are concerned.
In an interview with NHK, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will take time to decide on where to store damaged nuclear fuels. But he said the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant is a likely possibility.
"I think there's no other way but to store them in the current site for a long time, under stable conditions," Shunichi Tanaka said. "We need to convince people in order to proceed."
Tanaka also stressed they will help improve the living environment near the plant before evacuation orders are lifted.
Part of that is assessing the radiation. Last December and February, the regulators conducted radiation surveys in Tomioka, not far from the nuclear plant. Access to the area is still prohibited for most people.
It was the first detailed survey of its kind. Officials measured radiation levels every 2 meters.
Their findings are represented on this map. The bright-yellow spots are areas with high levels, but elsewhere they found the levels were below the government's standard.
Tanaka said they will conduct a larger scale survey within a year to provide data for more locals.
"With decontamination work, I think we create the right conditions for the residents to return," Tanaka said.
Some residents say they need to know more about the future risks before returning.
Reiko Hachisuka evacuated from her home in the town of Okuma after the accident. She recently took part in a meeting hosted by the nuclear regulators.
"We need more explanation to be convinced that we will never be ordered to evacuate again," she said at the event.
Tanaka said he is aware of the people's concerns.
"It will take time for the people to return even after the evacuation orders are lifted. We will make the utmost efforts to support them," he said.
Officials face the challenge of convincing former residents, even as they speed up preparations to lift most of the evacuation orders by March of next year.
They say they will carefully explain the situation and try to address residents' concerns.