The government notified a town in Tochigi Prefecture on Wednesday that it has been picked as a candidate site for the final disposal of some of the radiation-tainted waste resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
More than 100 residents in the town, which is called Shioya, gathered in front of the municipal office to express their opposition to the government’s proposal.
Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata said the community “clearly” opposes the proposal, adding he had conveyed that message to Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue during a meeting in the town earlier on Wednesday.
But Mikata left open the possibility of accepting a detailed government survey of the candidate landfill site in the town, which is located about 150 km north of Tokyo, telling a news conference that “it does not mean we will refuse to hear the government’s explanation.”
The government has decided to have each affected prefecture dispose of waste tainted by radioactive cesium from the nuclear disaster within the prefecture’s own borders. The waste includes things like rice straw, sewage and ash from incinerators.
The government is supposed to build a landfill facility for final disposal in each of the five prefectures that lack the capacity to dispose of such waste at existing facilities, such as Tochigi, Miyagi and Chiba.
In 2012, the Tochigi city of Yaita, which borders Shioya, was selected as a candidate site for final waste disposal. But the government was later forced to reconsider the selection due to fierce local opposition.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government intends to “steadily deal with the issue so the disposal of designated waste will proceed smoothly.”
Last year, the Environment Ministry finalized a new process of selecting a final disposal site in Tochigi after taking local leaders’ opinions into account. The government then selected state-owned land in Shioya, taking into account its distance from communities and water sources.
Designated waste contains more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. At the end of June, 146,000 tons of such waste was slated for disposal in 12 prefectures including Tokyo.
In January, the government proposed a candidate site in Miyagi Prefecture, the first such action under the government’s plan to build waste disposal facilities in the five prefectures. But a local leader has opposed the plan as inappropriate, leaving the matter up in the air.