METI changes tactics after search for nuclear waste host proves futile


The government will select potential areas to host nuclear dump sites instead of waiting for communities to volunteer, according to the revised policy on permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste that was adopted by the Cabinet on Friday.

The revision, the first in seven years, was prompted after towns, villages and cities throughout Japan snubbed requests to host nuclear waste dumps. The government has been soliciting offers since 2002.

The move is seen as a sign that the government wants to address the matter as it proceeds with its pursuit of reactor restarts. All commercial units have largely sat idle since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011.

It remains unclear when a final depository could be built, because the policy mentions no time frame. The government also plans to expand its storage capacity for spent fuel by building new interim facilities as a short-term fix.

“We will steadily proceed with the process as (resolving the problem is) the current generation’s responsibility,” minister of economy, trade and industry Yoichi Miyazawa told reporters, adding there will be “quite a few” candidate sites.

They will be chosen on scientific grounds, the policy says.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is seeking to revive atomic power, although the majority of the public remains opposed in light of the Fukushima disaster, which left tens of thousands homeless. Critics have attacked the government for promoting atomic power without resolving where all the waste will end up.

Permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste requires that a depository be built more than 300 meters underground, where the materials must lie for up to 100,000 years until radiation levels fall to the point where there is no harm to humans or the environment.

About 17,000 tons of spent fuel is stored on the premises of nuclear plants and elsewhere in Japan, but some would run out of space in three years if all the reactors got back online.

Under the revision, the government said it will allow future generations to retrieve high-level waste from such facilities should policy changes or new technologies emerge.

Worldwide, only Finland and Sweden have been able to pick final depository sites. Finland is building the world’s first permanent disposal site for high-level waste in Olkiluoto, aiming to put it into operation around 2020.

But many other countries with nuclear plants are struggling to find a site for such a facility. In the United States, President Barack Obama decided in 2009 to call off a plan to build a disposal site in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain due to local opposition.

  • jcbinok

    Seeing how easily the Fukushima reactors melted down after only a two day interruption in electric power to cooling pools makes me very pessimistic that similar things won’t happen again in the future somewhere, sometime.

    • 151E

      Your scepticism is well warranted, and one should always plan for all possible contingencies; however, it really depends on the design of the reactors. It would be virtually impossible to have such a disaster with a candu design reactor.

      • prothopectore

        “virtually impossible” eh? too bad we don’t live in a virtual world…

    • prothopectore

      those containments can’t handle a magnitude 9 earthquake. too much mass gets moving every which way. all it takes is a hairline fracture in a containment vessel to destroy it’s integrity. you know…

      • Shallel

        Yes, I believe it was the earthquake that triggered the meltdowns, at least a units 1& 2.. The tsunami took out not only the diesel generators, but the intake pumps at the water line.
        The lack of a plan to keep 300,000 tons of nuke waste generated so far by humans out of the environment is an ELE.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Japan is seismically active and is not ideal for many of its existing nuclear power plants and probably not so appropriate for a permanent nuclear waste site either.

  • Steve van Dresser

    A way to dispose of nuclear waste should have been decided before starting the construction of the first nuclear power plant. The “solution” has always been to kick the can down the road and hope that someone, someday, would come up with appropriate magic. Now we are well down the road, and we have run out of both space for temporary storage and time.for finding a reasonable solution. Nice planning guys.

    • kyushuphil

      These are criminals, the corporate ilk who push the nukes.

      They know — they have always known — that there is no “away.” Nowhere on Earth safely to throw these poisons away.

      They lie — they have always lied — with the help of lawyers and public officials easily boughten, because they represent an even larger set of lies — that mass materialism is all we need to be human.

      That’s why they and their corporate predator ilk are systematically assaulting the schools now, too. They can’t afford to have people question their happy-happy-land of shopping malls, cars, sprawl land use, neon rows of franchise food, celebrity advertising, and Big Pharma anesthetizing all.

      So in America the schools get turned over to the standardized testers (getting mega rich off their victims). And in Japan the schools keep honed to group activities, group regimentation, and infantile textbooks — with no essay writing allowed for anyone — so all remain helpless into “adulthood.”

      None of this happens by accident. The idolatry of consumerism cannot be sustained, and the nuke wastes cannot ever be put “away.” But the predator rich require masses of people who can never question the lies their consumerism relies on, and can never question anything in schools that aim to turn out only the regimented, robotic, living dead.

  • Rick Carufel

    Make the Tepco executives and stockholders eat it.