Disposal of low-level radioactive waste from Fukushima crisis begins — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – Disposal began Friday of low-level radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than six years after the crisis was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

A disposal site in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, accepted the first shipment of the waste, which contains radioactive cesium ranging from 8,000 to 100,000 becquerels per kilogram, and includes rice straw, sludge and ash from waste incineration.

The Environment Ministry is in charge of the country’s nuclear waste disposal, which totaled 200,000 tons from 11 prefectures as of the end of September. The majority of the waste, 170,000 tons, originates from the prefecture hosting the crippled nuclear power plant.

“I would like to ask the central government to move this project forward while taking adequate safety steps in mind,” a Tomioka official said. “Building mutual trust with local residents is also important.”

Under the ministry’s policy, each prefecture’s waste is to be disposed of. However, Fukushima is the only prefecture where disposal has started, whereas other prefectures have met with opposition from local residents.

In Fukushima, it will take six years to complete moving the stored waste to the disposal site, the ministry said.

The government “will continue giving first priority to securing safety and properly carry out the disposal with our best efforts to win local confidence,” Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa said at a news conference.

The government proposed in December 2013 that Fukushima Prefecture dispose of the waste at the then-privately owned site. The request was accepted by the prefectural government two years later.

To help alleviate local concerns over the disposal, the government nationalized the site and reinforced it to prevent the entry of rainwater. ”

by The Japan Times

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Japan to allow removal of ‘designated waste’ label from Fukushima crisis — Chicago Tribune

” TOKYO – The Environment Ministry plans to issue rules about what must be done to remove materials tainted with radioactive substances produced by the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant from the list of “designated waste,” according to ministry sources.

As nearly five years have passed since the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, radiation levels of the designated waste are believed to have declined. According to an estimate, the amount of designated waste whose radiation levels have fallen below criteria for the designation stands at more than 3,000 tons.

When contaminated with radioactive materials and its concentration level of radioactive cesium exceeds 8,000 bequerels per kilogram, waste is defined as designated waste. Most of it is incinerated ash, sludge and rice straw. Following the designation by the environment minister under the Law on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Radioactive Pollution, the central government becomes responsible for its disposal.

When such entities as local governments apply for the removal of the designation to the central government, and the waste stored in their areas is recognized as fulfilling the requirements for removal of the designation, the material in question can be delisted. After that, the waste can be disposed of in accordance with rules applied to regular waste. This will likely lead to a reduction in the total amount of designated waste currently stored at temporary sites across the nation.

Though the designation standards are stipulated in the Law on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Radioactive Pollution, which came into force in August 2011, there are no rules concerning the removal of the designation. Therefore the ministry plans to revise the ministerial ordinances under the law to deal with the matter.

As of the end of September, the designated waste stored in Tokyo, Tochigi, Chiba, Miyagi, Fukushima and seven other prefectures totaled about 166,329 tons. Fukushima Prefecture stored the greatest amount at 138,000 tons.

Except for Fukushima Prefecture, which said it will accept a central government plan to set up a landfill site, local governments remain unsure about the final disposal of the waste in their areas.

Among types of radioactive cesium that are used as evaluation standards for the radiation concentration level, cesium-134 is said to have a half-life of about two years. The total amount of designated waste whose concentration levels have already gone below the standards was estimated to be 3,172 tons as of the end of June, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the total waste currently stored in Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures – the five prefectures with which the central government is struggling to settle talks about where to construct the final disposal facilities to store the radioactive waste for the long term.

The ministry determined how the designated waste should be handled following the 2011 disaster, but without anticipating that the nation would struggle hard to find disposal sites and that radiation levels would decline during the struggle.

It plans to allow the removal of the designation when local governments and others apply to do so and required conditions are met, such as 1) radiation concentration levels are confirmed to have declined enough in reexaminations and 2) a final disposal facility to accept the waste is decided.

The central government will decide the details of disposal measures by taking the local governments’ wishes into consideration. It is also considering shouldering some disposal costs even after the removal of the designation.

But one likely factor in local governments’ decisions about making the application is that they will become responsible for the waste once the designation is removed. ”

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