• Jiji, Kyodo

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The village of Kamoenai in Hokkaido is considering hosting a final disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste, it was learned Friday.

The village is looking at applying for a literature survey, the first of three stages in the research process to select the location of a final disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

Kamoenai is the second municipality in the nation to be contemplating the process since the government published details of areas it considered suitable for nuclear waste disposal in its Nationwide Map of Scientific Features for Geological Disposal in 2017. The town of Suttsu, also in Hokkaido, was the first municipality to do so.

According to the Kamoenai village assembly, the local chamber of commerce submitted a petition Tuesday calling for progress in measures aimed at moving toward a literature survey. The assembly is expected to discuss the petition at its regular September session, set to be held from Tuesday to Thursday.

“The population is declining and industry deteriorating,” said Michihiro Ueda, a village assembly member and head of the local chamber of commerce. “We have made the action for the sake of the local community. We want to invite the disposal facility to create more jobs.”

Kamoenai Mayor Masayuki Takahashi said at a news conference Friday that he would refrain from making any comments because it could affect the discussions in the assembly. “I recognize this is an important issue,” he said.

The village, which is located in western Hokkaido and had a population of 823 as of the end of August, faces the Sea of Japan and neighbors the village of Tomari, which hosts a nuclear power plant run by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. The plant is currently offline.

According to the government map, almost all of Kamoenai except for some southern areas is unsuitable for waste disposal.

Procedures to select a host for a final disposal site are conducted in three stages, comprising the “literary” survey, a “preliminary” investigation and a “detailed” investigation. A municipality undergoing a literature survey can receive subsidies of up to ¥2 billion from the central government.

Meanwhile, many residents of Suttsu, Hokkaido, another municipality that is considering applying for a literature survey, voiced opposition to the plan Thursday at a briefing session organized by the municipal government.

The meeting was the fourth of its kind for Suttsu residents. The first such session was held on Monday.

At Thursday’s meeting, which was opened to the press, Suttsu Mayor Haruo Kataoka explained the reasons for considering applying for a literature survey.

Some 260 residents attended the session, which lasted for over three hours from 6:30 p.m.

Participating residents voiced concerns that the move would lead to harmful rumors about the town, and that if the town received subsidies from the government as a result of applying for the literature survey, it would have no choice but to become a final disposal site. Some said that detailed discussions should be held after the mayoral election in the town next year.

“The novel coronavirus epidemic has had a big impact on the economy of our region,” Kataoka said. “As the biggest economic downturn in the postwar period is looming, it will be too late if we do not act right now.”

In talks with reporters after the meeting, Kataoka rejected the idea of holding a local referendum on the matter, saying, “It will divide the town residents.”

According to the town, the first briefing session on Monday was cut short due to technical issues, such as not having reserved enough time for questions from residents. Therefore, the town government plans to hold an additional session within this month for participants that attended the Monday meeting.

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