Japan to rethink candidate sites for nuclear waste disposal


The Environment Ministry said Monday that it will restart the process to select candidate final storage sites for radioactive waste from the triple-meltdown disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, because residents living near the current chosen locations are up in arms.

Last September, the ministry selected state-owned forests near the communities of Yaita, Tochigi Prefecture, and Takahagi, Ibaraki Prefecture, as candidate sites for final disposal facilities of radioactive waste, mainly that from fallout from the nuclear catastrophe in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture that was triggered by the March 11, 2011, megaquake-tsunami disaster.

But the two towns demanded those candidate sites be dropped, claiming the explanation provided last fall by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government that was in power at the time was insufficient.

This prompted the ministry to examine the correctness of its site selection process, and to start again from square one.

“There was a lack of communication between the ministry and local authorities on how we select candidate sites and share the results with them,” Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue told reporters.

The ministry, now under the Liberal Democratic Party-led administration that came to power after the December election, said it will pick new candidate sites through consultations with all municipal governments.

The ministry plans to set up a new forum for detailed discussions with both prefectural governors and municipal leaders to try to find radioactive waste-disposal sites, amid strong public opposition to having any such toxic substances stored anywhere near where people live or frequent.

The ministry will also form a panel of experts next month for the evaluation of safety at any sites that are chosen.

After visiting the Tochigi Prefectural Government and Yaita Municipal Government on Monday afternoon to explain its latest decision, Inoue will pay similar calls Tuesday and later in Ibaraki, as well as visit the prefectures of Miyagi, Gunma and Chiba, where final storage facilities for radioactive waste from the nuclear calamity are also planned to be built.

Inoue meanwhile indicated it will be difficult to achieve the government’s target of securing sites for all planned final storage facilities by March 2015.