22 Juillet 2016
July 22, 2016
Japan's Environment Ministry plans to lift the designation of radioactive waste for some ash and sludge tainted by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
The ministry says the radioactivity of the waste in Chiba City near Tokyo has dropped below the government-set level 5 years after the crisis.
The case is the first among municipalities storing radioactive waste from the accident's fallout.
Many municipalities, mostly in eastern Japan, store waste with radioactivity levels above the government-set level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. The waste includes ash from incineration plants, rice straw and sewage sludge.
More than 5 years after the crisis, the government decided to allow waste with radioactivity levels below the threshold to be dumped as ordinary waste.
At the end of June, Chiba City applied for the lifting of the designation for some 7 tons of waste in the city.
State Minister of the Environment Shinji Inoue is to meet Chiba City Mayor Toshihito Kumagai on Friday to formally announce the change.
The Environment Ministry will lift the designation of 7.7 metric tons of waste stored in the city of Chiba that is contaminated with radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as "specified waste," allowing it to be disposed of as regular trash, ministry officials said.
The decision, which is to be executed on July 23, comes after the level of radioactive cesium in the waste dropped below the government's standard of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. It will be the first time for the ministry to lift the "specified waste" designation from waste tainted with radioactive substances from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Though the move will enable waste to be disposed of as ordinary trash, the Chiba Municipal Government is likely to store the waste, as it fears that disposal would cause anxiety to local residents and disposal businesses.
State Minister of the Environment Shinji Inoue met with Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai on July 22 to notify him of the decision.
The Chiba Municipal Government retains 3.5 tons of zeolite and 4.2 tons of incinerated ash at a waste disposal facility in the city's Mihama Ward. The amount of radioactive cesium contained in the waste was above the government-set standard as of March 2014. However, measurements conducted by the municipal government in June show that the radioactive cesium levels in the zeolite and ash had fallen to 6,100 becquerels and 4,020 becquerels per kilogram, respectively.
The Environment Ministry worked out rules this past April under which the designation of radioactively contaminated waste is lifted based on the level of radioactive cesium in the waste. The city of Chiba asked the ministry to lift the designation in June.
The ministry intends to build a specified waste disposal facility in each prefecture, and the city of Chiba hosts one candidate site for Chiba Prefecture. The municipal government urged the lifting of the designation, partly to make it easier for the city to refuse to host such a facility, as it would be without the designated waste in the city.