” KAMI, Miyagi — Local residents here blocked an attempt by Environment Ministry officials on Aug. 28 to inspect a candidate site for the disposal of waste contaminated with radioactive substances that have leaked from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The ministry was unable to begin surveys on three candidate sites in the Miyagi Prefecture municipalities of Kami, Kurihara and Taiwa as of 1 p.m. because the Kurihara and Taiwa municipal governments had agreed to accept surveys on condition that the ministry simultaneously launch them in all three municipalities.
The ministry aims to complete its drilling surveys on the three sites before winter snowfalls, and hopes to select a site from among the three candidates by the end of the current fiscal year.
The Environment Ministry had notified the three municipalities on Aug. 27 that it would launch surveys at the three candidate sites.
In Kami, Mayor Hirofumi Inomata, municipal government officials, as well as about 200 people including members of an association of 50 groups opposing the construction of the disposal facility, gathered on a road leading to the site in the Tashirodake district of Kami at around 6 a.m., and blocked the street with a banner expressing opposition to the project.
At around 8 a.m., 16 Environment Ministry officials arrived at the scene to conduct a survey — the first since October 2014 — only to be met by protesters.
The ministry officials confronted the mayor as protesters raised their voices expressing stiff opposition to the construction plan.
“We’d like to go ahead with the survey as planned,” a ministry official said.
“This area doesn’t meet the requirements for a candidate site,” the mayor responded.
About 20 minutes later, ministry officials withdrew from the scene, but one of them said the ministry was determined to go ahead with the survey.
“We must ensure that specified waste is disposed of in a stable manner as early as possible,” the official said.
Fukutsugu Takahashi, leader of the anti-disposal site association, which includes a local agricultural cooperative, criticized the construction plan.
“It’s wrong to bring materials contaminated by the nuclear power plant to a beautiful mountain like this,” he said.
As of the end of June, some 3,404 metric tons of rice straw, sludge and other waste containing cesium with a level of radioactivity topping 8,000 becquerels per kilogram — designated under a special measures law as specified waste — is being stored at 39 locations in nine municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture, according to the ministry. A disposal facility that the ministry is planning to build would store such waste. ”