21 Juin 2013
June 21, 2013
The government will stand by its plans to dispose of "designated waste" contaminated with radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear disaster within the individual prefecture where the waste originated, deputy environment minister Shinji Inoue announced on June 20.
Some municipalities that are being asked to build disposal sites have argued that the radiation-tainted waste should be gathered together in Fukushima Prefecture, which houses the site of the disaster -- the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. However, the Fukushima Prefectural Government has informed the Environment Ministry that it will not accept waste from outside the prefecture.
The ministry plans to build facilities to store designated waste such as sludge and ash with a radiation level of over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram in Tochigi, Miyagi, Gunma, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. In May, it unveiled a draft of the process to select disposal sites, and has been explaining it at meetings of municipal government heads in each prefecture.
The ministry had planned to advance the selection process after receiving approval from officials, but municipalities in prefectures including Tochigi have refused the idea of burying waste in their own prefectures. It is likely that the large gap in perception between the ministry and local bodies will create further difficulties in deciding where to build the disposal sites.
In a news conference, Inoue said the Fukushima Prefectural Government had told the ministry, "There is not even a clear outlook for disposal of waste that originated within our prefecture. The government should dispose of waste according to its basic outline."
"Even if the discussion (on the pros and cons of disposing the contaminated waste within the prefecture) continues, there won't be any progress," Inoue commented, saying that this won't happen since Fukushima Prefecture is refusing to collect all contaminated waste.
"Temporary storage continues, and residents ar feeling uneasy," Inoue added. "I trust the city, town and village heads will make a sensible decision on this issue."
The central government decided in November 2011 to dispose of waste in individual prefectures. In September 2012, it selected the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita and the Ibaraki Prefecture city of Takahagi to host disposal sites. Locals opposed the plans, however, saying they hadn't received a sufficient explanation in advance. The government responded by drafting selection procedures that placed an emphasis on the opinions of local bodies.