Japan seeks final resting place for highly radioactive nuclear waste — Deutsche Welle

” With communities refusing to come forward to host the by-product of Japan’s nuclear energy industry, the Japanese government is drawing up a map of the most suitable locations for underground repositories.

The Japanese government is putting the finishing touches to a map of the country identifying what its experts consider to be the safest location for a repository for 18,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years. The map is expected to be released next month and will coincide with the government holding a series of symposiums across the country designed to explain why the repository is needed and to win support for the project.

Given that the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March 2011 is still fresh in the memory of the Japanese public, the government’s plan is not expected to win much understanding or support.

The original proposal for a repository for the waste from the nation’s nuclear energy sector was first put forward in 2002, but even then there were few communities that were willing to be associated with the dump. Fifteen years later, and with a number of Japan’s nuclear reactors closed down for good in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the need for a permanent storage site is more pressing than ever.

Radioactivity release

The disaster, in which a 13-meter tsunami triggered by an off-shore earthquake crippled four reactors at the plant and caused massive amounts of radioactivity to escape into the atmosphere, also underlined just how seismically unstable the Japanese archipelago is and the need for the repository to be completely safe for 100,000 years.

Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan, does not believe the government can deliver that guarantee.

“You only have to look at what happened in 2011 to realize that nowhere in Japan is safe from this sort of natural disaster and it is crazy to think otherwise,” she told DW.

Given the degree of public hostility, Mioko-Smith believes that the government will fall back on the tried-and-trusted tactic of offering ever-increasing amounts of money until a community gives in.

Government funds

“They have been trying to get this plan of the ground for years and one thing they tried was to offer money to any town or village that agreed to even undergo a survey to see if their location was suitable,” she said.

“There were a number of mayors who accepted the proposal because they wanted the money – even though they had no intention of ever agreeing to host the storage site – but the backlash from their constituents was fast and it was furious,” Smith added.

“In every case, those mayors reversed their decisions and the government has got nowhere,” she said. “But I fear that means that sooner or later they are just going to make a decision on a site and order the community to accept it.”

The security requirements of the facility will be exacting, the government has stated, and the site will need to be at least 300 meters beneath the surface in a part of the country that is not subject to seismic activity from active faults or volcanoes. It must also be safe from the effects of erosion and away from oil and coal fields. Another consideration is access and sites within 20 km of the coast are preferred.

High-level waste

The facility will need to be able to hold 25,000 canisters of vitrified high-level waste, while more waste will be produced as the nation’s nuclear reactors are slowly brought back online after being mothballed since 2011 for extensive assessments of their safety and ability to withstand a natural disaster on the same scale as the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck Fukushima.

Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University, agrees that the government will have to pay to convince any community to host the facility.

“They will probably peddle it as subsidies for rural revitalization, which is a tactic that all governments use, but there are going to be some significant protests because Fukushima has created a nuclear allergy in most people in Japan,” he said.

“I expect that the government would also very much like to be able to phase out nuclear energy, but that is simply not realistic at the moment,” he said.

When it is released, the government’s list is likely to include places in Tohoku and Hokkaido as among the most suitable sites, because both are relatively less populated than central areas of the country and are in need of revitalization efforts. Parts of Tohoku close to the Fukushima plant may eventually be chosen because they are still heavily contaminated with radiation from the accident. ”

by Deutsche Welle



Fukushima agrees to accept ‘low-level’ nuclear waste from 2011 disaster — The Japan Times

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa Friday that his prefecture will accept relatively ‘low-level’ radioactive waste that resulted from the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

Fukushima is the first to give consent among six prefectures where final disposal of such waste is planned by the central government.

It follows a meeting that also included Koichi Miyamoto, mayor of the town of Tomioka, which hosts the existing facility where the waste will be disposed, and Yukiei Matsumoto, mayor of the town of Naraha, which accommodates a transportation route to the facility.

Marukawa said the government will make the utmost effort to deal with waste disposal while securing safety and implementing measures to rebuild the region.

On Thursday, both mayors accepted the national government’s plan during talks with the governor, on condition that the government take measures to prevent the project from hindering reconstruction in the municipalities. They found it necessary to expedite disposal of so-called designated radioactive waste as the government is moving to lift evacuation orders still in place in the prefecture.

In talks with Miyamoto and Matsumoto, the governor said the prefecture made the difficult decision, believing that the facility was necessary to recover the prefecture’s environment.

But the governor said the facility should only accept waste from Fukushima, and urged the government to maintain its policy of disposing of waste in the prefecture in which it originates.

Currently, the nation’s designated radioactive waste totals some 166,000 tons across 12 prefectures. Although local opposition remains strong, the government hopes Fukushima’s decision will encourage other prefectures to follow suit.

Subject to the final disposal at the facility will be designated waste that contains up to 100,000 becquerels of radioactive substances per kilogram, such as rice straw and debris at districts evacuated after the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The facility is expected to handle some 650,000 cubic meters of such waste.

In December 2013, the national government presented the final disposal plan to the local governments and urged them to accept it. Taking into account requests from local communities, the government showed in November this year regional economic promotion measures, such as the creation of an industrial complex, and additional safety measures.

On Wednesday, the prefecture showed the two towns its plan to extend subsidies worth ¥10 billion for such measures as dealing with rumors and urged them to agree to the disposal plan. ”