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Over the past quarter century, Osaka has been responsible for generating the largest percentage of nuclear waste of any prefecture in the nation, a new study has revealed.

Green Action, a Kyoto-based environmental group led by noted activist Aileen Smith, announced March 10 the results of a nationwide study on the buildup of waste from nuclear reactors generating electricity. The survey was carried out by Smith and 50 other groups across the nation, including the YMCA, the National Christian Coalition and environmental bodies.

According to the report, between 1970 and 1996, nuclear plants owned by Kansai Electric Power and providing electricity to Osaka Prefecture were responsible for generating 12.44 percent of the nation’s nuclear waste, the largest percentage of any prefecture.

The 23 wards of Tokyo were responsible for 11.96 percent of the waste, and Kanagawa Prefecture 8.18 percent, the report said.

Although Osaka tops the list of prefectures, the Kanto plain is first when measuring waste generation by region.

“When you take into account the amount of nuclear waste generated by region, the Kanto area is responsible for about 39 percent of the total, and the Kansai area about 30 percent,” Smith said.

Green Action based its survey on figures obtained from the Japanese Electric Association. The association says that as of January 1997, the nation’s nuclear plants had generated 12,000 canisters of vitrified waste.

“One canister of waste contains the equivalent of over 40 times the radioactive fallout of the Hiroshima bomb, and each week Japanese nuclear power plants produce between two and three canisters worth of waste,” Smith said.

Nuclear power is supplied to Tokyo by Tokyo Electric Power. Osaka is served by Kansai Electric Power. Much of the spent fuel from nuclear reactors owned by these two utilities is sent to France for reprocessing and then sent back to Japan. The latest shipment arrived off Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, on March 10.

The Green Action-sponsored survey was carried out amid growing public concerns over nuclear waste that has been piling up at nuclear plants around the country.

The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (PNC) estimates that more than 5,000 tons of spent uranium-based fuel is being stored at 16 nuclear plants around the country that have been identified by the utility as being nearly full.

Japan has the capacity to store only 9,500 tons of nuclear waste domestically, and at the current rate of electrical consumption, which generates between 900 and 1,300 tons per year, that limit will probably be reached within the next five years.

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