TOPJapanese gov’t to take charge of radioactive waste disposal

Japanese gov’t to take charge of radioactive waste disposal

By Alec Jordan

Japan’s central government will take matters into its own hands in finding locations to store radioactive waste, saying the initial step would be to identify scientifically suitable disposal sites.

After waiting in vain for offers from local governments, the central government has decided to step in and choose a final repository for high-level radioactive waste from reprocessing of spent fuel dating back to the 1970s.

“The government will play an active role in choosing a permanent place,” Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters following a gathering of ministers involved in the handling of high-level radioactive waste.

The meeting’s goal is to finalize a mid- to long-term national energy plan based on a draft compiled Friday. According to the proposal, which will take effect in April, the government will nominate suitable locations for permanent storage based on scientific data such as geological and seismological concerns.

The draft also calls on the government to play a more proactive role to get the stalled process up and moving by actively trying to obtain local consent.

Japan has 17,000 metric tons of domestically spent nuclear fuel, most of which are stored in a facility in Rokkasho, a small village in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan.

The prefecture only allowed the facility to be established after the government vowed the fuel would be moved elsewhere 30 to 50 years later.

Following the Fukushima disaster, the urgency for disposal sites of nuclear waste increased. But fierce opposition from local residents marred the process.

“We don’t plan to take long, as we learned our lesson from the fact that there has been no progress in about a decade,” radioactive waste management director Masao Ito said at a separate news conference.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: IAEA Imagebank/Flickr