• Kyodo

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The Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute received a court order Tuesday to remove uranium-contaminated soil it abandoned in the prefecture about 40 years ago.

A residents’ association in the town of Togo filed a suit with the Tottori District Court in 2000, demanding that the government-affiliated institute remove the radioactive soil it left in the Katamo district.

Tottori Prefecture and Togo have assumed the judicial costs and are backing the suit.

In 1988, it was revealed soil the institute had mined for uranium from 1958 to 1963 around the Ningyo Toge pass near the border between Tottori and Okayama prefectures was left in the district.

According to the appeal, the residents’ association agreed in 1990 with the predecessor of the institute, the now-disbanded Power Reactor & Nuclear Fuel Development Corp., that the corporation would remove about 3,000 cu. meters of high-level radioactive soil out of a total of about 16,000 cu. meters abandoned in the area. The soil to be removed emitting five times the annual allowable level of radioactivity.

The institute had planned to take the soil to its research facility in Okayama Prefecture. But when the prefecture strongly opposed the plan, the issue became deadlocked.

The residents’ association and the institute were mainly disputing the wording that was used in the letter of agreement, which said, “The removal will be carried out with the cooperation of concerned municipalities.”

The association claimed that the wording failed to take into consideration the agreement of local municipalities accepting the soil, while the institute argued that the agreement of Okayama Prefecture and other concerned local municipalities was a precondition for the removal.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Koji Naito termed the institute’s administration of the removal insufficient, given that more than 10 years have passed since the agreement was concluded.

“At the time of the agreement, it was not assumed that the removal would be postponed for a number of years,” Naito said.

The court was packed with local residents and supporters of the association, prompting the judge to take the unusual move of letting some people stand to listen to the ruling.

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