Japan faces challenge nuclear waste disposal site selection

Featured - September 21st, 2012
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Japan’s plan to select disposal sites for its nuclear waste fueled agitation among prefectural candidates, Asahi Shimbun reports.

The central government is obligated to dispose fallout from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, such as ash from incinerators, sewage sludge and other radioactive substances. The swelling opposition was heightened by the short notice that often caught city officials unaware of the logistics, such as the case in Tochigi Prefecture. According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s Environment Ministry announced the state-owned forest in Yaita as a dump site for radioactive-contaminated waste only an hour before.

Yaita Mayor Tadashi Endo was displeased, saying, “It was a bolt from the blue. We should have been consulted beforehand”. Senior vice minister of the Environment Ministry visited the city soon after for a briefing, but Mr. Endo refused to meet him.

Japan still has to secure disposal sites for about 43,000 tons of “designated” radioactive waste amid an energy policy gridlock. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced a new energy strategy in a move to become “nuclear-free”. In a turnabout, the cabinet did not pass the policy as planned but said it would take the goal into ‘consideration’. The shift was opposed by Japan’s nuclear allies as the it would cause the country to abandon a reprocessed nuclear waste project with France and Britain.