A total of 13 out of the nation’s 47 prefectures say they would refuse to host a final disposal site for highly radioactive nuclear waste, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.
In the survey conducted between late October and early November, 13 local governments said they would “never accept” such a facility, eight sounded negative, while 24 declined to clarify their position and two said they will “carefully consider the possibility.” None showed a positive stance toward hosting the site.
In May, the government introduced a plan in which it will choose candidate sites for burying high-level radioactive waste based on scientific analysis, rather than waiting for municipalities to express a willingness to host a final depository.
The change of policy reflects the lack of progress made in the process of soliciting candidate sites that began in 2002 due to safety concerns.
For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored in a final depository more than 300 meters underground for up to 100,000 years until radiation levels fall and it no longer poses a threat to humans and the environment.
Among the 13 prefectures opposed to accommodating a disposal site, four host nuclear power plants.
Fukui Prefecture, where the largest number of nuclear plants are located, said, “We have accepted (nuclear) power generation, but do not have a duty to take nuclear waste.” Ishikawa Prefecture said municipalities that consume large amounts of electricity should be given a priority as candidate sites.
Kochi Prefecture, whose municipality applied in 2007 for research to be conducted into whether it can host a final nuclear waste disposal site in exchange for government subsidies, said it “cannot afford” a depository. The Kochi town of Toyo canceled its application later that year due to protests from local residents.
One of the eight prefectures that expressed a negative stance toward hosting a disposal site, Aomori Prefecture, which currently hosts a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, said the central government has promised that the facility will not be transformed into a final depository.
In a multiple-choice question on current concerns, 10 prefectures expressed worry that the state could “force municipalities into accepting” a final disposal site, while 20 were alarmed about the safety of the facility and potential reputational damage, and 17 cited the risk of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that could affect the operation of a depository.
Earlier this month, Finland became the world’s first country to give a green light to construction of a final nuclear waste disposal site, with the aim of having it begin operations in the 2020s.