Sapporo – The town of Suttsu in Hokkaido is considering accepting the conducting of preliminary research as part of the process to select a municipality to host a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, it was learned Thursday.
The research is the first of three stages of examination in the selection process.
"We're receiving inquiries from several municipalities" about the survey, industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters Thursday.
If Suttsu applies for the survey, it will become the first municipality to do so since the central government released in 2017 a map showing that some 30 percent of the country's land, covering about 900 municipalities, is deemed suitable to host final disposal sites.
But it is uncertain whether Suttsu will actually make such an application, as local residents are expected to oppose the move due to safety concerns.
The Hokkaido government says in an ordinance that radioactive waste is unacceptable in the prefecture. Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said in a statement Thursday that he thinks the ordinance must be observed.
The central government offers up to ¥2 billion in subsidies to any municipality that undergoes the literature survey.
"We're considering (applying for the survey) as a way to secure financial resources," an official from the Suttsu town government said, noting that Suttsu is facing financial difficulties and that its population is declining.
Municipal government officials will discuss the plan with local assembly members on Aug. 26 while taking into account the opinions of local residents and nearby municipalities.
Suttsu, in western Hokkaido and facing the Sea of Japan, is included in areas deemed suitable to host a radioactive waste final disposal site on a map created by the central government.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, or NUMO, which takes charge of construction work for nuclear waste disposal facilities, has been seeking municipalities to host such facilities since 2002.
So far, only the town of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, has offered to become a host. But it withdrew its application in 2007.
The second-stage examination in the host municipality selection process is called preliminary investigation, and the second stage is called detailed investigation.
The whole examination process, from the first to the third stage, aimed at finding out whether geographical layers in candidate sites are stable enough, takes about 20 years, according to NUMO.
For final disposal, high-level radioactive waste, or liquids containing highly radioactive substances, generated in the process of extracting uranium and plutonium from spent fuel from nuclear power plants, is buried more than 300 meters underground after being vitrified and put into metal containers.