Photo/IllutrationThe Environment Ministry demonstrates an experiment on recycling contaminated soil, shown in black in the center, in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 17. (Masatoshi Toda)

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--In an apparent attempt to quell fears, the Environment Ministry on May 17 showed how it will recycle radioactive soil in construction projects to reduce the growing piles of widely abhorred contaminated debris.

In the demonstration to media representatives here, the ministry measured radioactivity levels of bags of soil collected in decontamination work around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and sorted the earth from other garbage.

Using soil with readings up to 3,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, the ministry plans to create a 5-meter-tall mound measuring 20 meters by 80 meters. Such mounds could be used, for example, as foundations for seawalls and roads in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere.

Testing of the methods started on April 24.

After confirming the safety, the ministry wants to promote the use of the recycled soil.

Radioactive debris from the cleanup around the nuclear plant will be stored at interim facilities to be built in Futaba and Okuma, the two towns that host the nuclear plant. The government seeks to move the contaminated debris outside the prefecture for final disposal by 2045.

The government had a difficult time finding municipalities willing to take in the radioactive soil on an interim basis. And safety concerns have already been raised about the ministry’s plan to recycle the radioactive soil.

The cleanup has already collected about 16 million cubic meters of contaminated soil.