Sapporo – The mayor of Suttsu in Hokkaido, which is considering applying for a survey to host a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste, said Friday that it might be difficult to make the decision by September as planned.
"It is difficult to make the decision after listening to many voices," Suttsu Mayor Haruo Kataoka told reporters after meeting with the nine members of the town's assembly. "It would not be appropriate to rush the decision by our own judgment. Our plan to decide in September might be postponed."
Kataoka's remarks came a day after the mayors of three municipalities neighboring Suttsu said Thursday they will urge the town to make a careful decision.
The mayors of the three municipalities unveiled the plan at a meeting with Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki.
Of the three, Rankoshi Mayor Hideyuki Kon and Kuromatsunai Mayor Mitsuru Kamada expressed opposition to Suttsu's move, which involves applying for a literary survey, the first stage of the process for choosing a disposal site.
Kon, Kamada and Shimamaki Mayor Masaru Fujisawa told Suzuki that they will ask Suttsu as early as this month to make a careful decision on the application.
In response, Suzuki said the prefectural government will closely work with related municipalities on the matter.
The law on final disposal of radioactive waste stipulates that opinions of governors and mayors be respected for second- and third-stage surveys. But it has no provision about whether a governor's opinion needs to be sought over a literary survey.
Suttsu plans to hold talks with municipal assembly members and industry officials on Wednesday and with residents on Sept. 10. The town is expected to decide whether to apply for the literary survey as early as September.
Seven other municipalities, including the town of Niseko, an internationally known ski resort, are planning to oppose the plan, sources said Friday.
Also on Friday, members of the association of fisheries cooperatives made up of nine co-ops around Suttsu, submitted to Kataoka a protest letter expressing strong opposition to the town's plan.
Referring to the fact that the fisheries industry suffered harmful rumors following the 2011 triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, the letter said: "It is utterly unacceptable for those in the fisheries industry. It will have an immeasurable adverse impact not only on the region but also on the fisheries industry as a whole."
Katsuo Hamano, head of the association, criticized the mayor for making an announcement on the plan even before obtaining the municipal assembly's approval.
"It goes against the rules of parliamentary democracy," Hamano told reporters.
Kataoka told Kyodo News earlier this month that the town is considering applying for the survey because its population is declining and its finances are deteriorating. The town's population, which stood at 2,893 as of the end of March, has been decreasing by 40 to 50 every year and is projected to drop below 2,000 in 2040.
The central government offers up to ¥2 billion in subsidies to any municipality that undergoes the literary survey.