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Shioya (Tochigi) citizens not happy

July 31, 2014

Shioya residents angry over proposed radioactive waste disposal site




SHIOYA, Tochigi -- Residents here gathered in front of the Shioya Town Hall on July 30 to protest the Environment Ministry's announcement the same day that the government was looking to make the town a final disposal site for radioactive waste.

The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store "designated waste" including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.

The ministry is apparently eyeing 3 hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site. The ministry says it picked the site because it had the highest score on a 5-point suitability scale in four categories -- including a lack of local active faults and distance from settlements and water sources.

Just 4 kilometers from the proposed site, however, is the source for Shojinzawa Yusui spring water, one of the "best 100" mineral waters as designated by the government in 1985 and the core of local economic revitalization efforts. Mayor Mikata, who is also opposed to the disposal site, snapped at Inoue during their July 30 meeting, "Haven't you even studied what we're doing to reinvigorate this town?" after the deputy minister asked the mayor to conduct a detailed study of the disposal plan.

Meanwhile, the 76-year-old chair of the town agricultural committee said, "The reputation of our produce will suffer, and the market for them will narrow." The head of the local promotion committee for a district downstream from the proposed site lamented, "We won't start to see any health effects (from the waste) for 20 or 30 years. I don't want our descendants to face that kind of worry, so I'm opposed to the disposal site."

The designated waste includes straw and incinerated ash with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels or more per kilogram. In 2012, the ministry named the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita as a prospective location to build a permanent storage site, but it did not provide explanations to the town in advance, which resulted in local opposition and ended up forcing the ministry to start planning again from scratch.

After his visit to Shioya, Inoue told reporters at a news conference, "Asking the town to do a study on the site doesn't mean that the site will definitely be built there," and added that he would carefully and patiently explain the disposal plan to local residents to win their understanding. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara is scheduled to visit the area on July 31.



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