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The energy agency is planning a sharp increase in subsidies for local governments willing to host a storage site for highly radioactive nuclear waste, government sources said Saturday.

The measure, planned to kick in next April 1, comes after attempts to select a permanent storage site faltered when municipalities neighboring the targeted towns lodged opposition out of concern over long-term safety.

The measure would entitle a local government to a maximum subsidy of more than 1 billion yen per year, up from the current 210 million yen, if it accepts document research that involves only screening of academic papers or archived documents to see if a site is fit for waste storage.

It would translate into several billion yen over the multiple years such research typically takes, the sources at the Natural Resources and Energy Agency said.

“If the subsidy is expanded at the stage of the survey of documents, it will give added impetus” to site selection, said an official of the Nuclear Management Organization of Japan, which is tasked with disposing of high-level radioactive waste.

The organization has been looking for a host city since late 2002.

A critic questioned the administrative plan.

“If implemented, a huge sum of money will be handed out (to local governments) without them doing anything,” said Baku Nishio, a joint chief of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. “It just shows the difficulties the central government is facing” in finding a host.

A number of local governments have shown strong interest in hosting a disposal site, but none has officially applied because they have incurred opposition from neighboring municipalities and prefectural governments.

The central government would like to get a disposal site up and running within 10 years of 2028.

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