A town and a village in Hokkaido said Thursday they will launch preliminary research into the suitability of hosting a disposal site for high-level radioactive nuclear waste.

Masayuki Takahashi, mayor of Kamoenai village, and Haruo Kataoka, mayor of Suttsu town, announced their decisions at respective news conferences, despite opposition from Hokkaido leaders, local residents and fishermen.

If either of the two municipalities undertakes the research — the first of a three-stage process to select a disposal site — it will be the first time local authorities have taken such action.