20 Novembre 2013
November 20, 2013
The government should pick candidate sites nationwide that are suitable for building a high-level radioactive waste disposal facility and present them to an unwilling public, instead of waiting for a local government to step forward, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency proposed Wednesday.
The proposal was unveiled at a meeting of a panel that is reviewing the nation’s stalled efforts to find an underground repository site for the massive amounts of waste created as a result of operating nuclear power plants.
The idea to change the site selection process, which has found no volunteer locations, is expected to be included in the new medium- to long-term energy plan that is being reconsidered in light of the Fukushima No. 1 reactor meltdown catastrophe that started in 2011.
The current selection process starts with a local government offering or accepting a government request to conduct a preliminary study of records and documentation related to the suitability of a specific locale.
But the agency realized local governments bear a heavy responsibility in that process, because of strong public opposition nationwide to hosting long-term nuclear waste facilities, due to safety fears.
An organization funded by contributions from utilities started seeking applications from local governments in 2002, but to no avail.
Under the newly proposed plan, the government would present areas that reportedly would not pose major concerns regarding radioactive leaks due to the movement of faults or groundwater flow, based on scientific findings.
The government will also set up a scheme to provide explanations to the public about any disposal facility before a documentation survey of the candidate site commences, while any government that agrees to host such a facility will receive subsidies.
The government plans to abandon its ineffective policy of waiting for municipalities to volunteer to host a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste, an industry ministry panel said Nov. 20.
According to the plan, the government will instead try to accelerate the selection process by listing candidate disposal sites for the waste generated from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and considering support measures for potential host communities.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering publishing a map as early as next year showing more than 100 locations that are at least scientifically suitable for hosting the disposal site, according to sources. The requirements include the absence of active fault lines and volcanic activity.
“The government must take a leading role in setting up a framework to form a consensus among residents and in formulating measures to support areas (that host the facility),” said Hiroya Masuda, a former internal affairs minister who serves as chairman of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy’s radioactive waste working group.
The committee is an advisory panel to the industry minister.
The policy will be incorporated in a new basic energy plan to be compiled by the end of the year.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, established by electric power companies and other organizations, has been seeking candidate sites since 2002.
However, no municipality has requested a study of whether they are suitable disposal sites due to opposition from local residents.
Although the central government can ask municipalities to conduct the studies, no such request has ever been made.
A document submitted during the working group’s meeting Nov. 20 said it is necessary to scientifically show more qualified areas for the radioactive waste facility, a deep underground repository.
The document also showed that the government will consider comprehensive support measures that contribute to sustainable development for the areas that consider hosting the facility.
The government plans to solicit opinions not only from local government leaders but also residents. It is also considering how best to provide residents with necessary information before their local governments agree to the feasibility studies.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has cited the lack of a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste in his repeated calls to immediately abolish all nuclear power facilities in Japan.