Since August, two local governments on the western shore of Hokkaido have said they will apply to the central government for a survey that could eventually lead to their municipalities hosting a permanent underground repository for high-level radioactive waste. The fact that these two localities made their announcements about a month apart and are situated not far from each other was enough to attract more than the usual media attention, which revealed not only the straitened financial situations of the two areas, but also the muddled official policy regarding waste produced by the country's nuclear power plants.
The respective populations of the two municipalities reacted differently. The town of Suttsu made its announcement in August, or, at least, its 71-year-old mayor did, apparently without first gaining the understanding of his constituents, who, according to various media, are opposed to the plan. An Oct. 8 Tokyo Broadcasting System Television news report said that someone threw a molotov cocktail in the vicinity of the mayor's house the previous evening, and an Oct. 13 Tokyo Shimbun article said the mayor's announcement came after he received a petition demanding the town not apply for the survey.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the village of Kamoenai says he also wants to apply for the study after the local chamber of commerce urged the village assembly to do so in early September. TBS asked residents about the matter and they seemed genuinely in favor of the study because of the village's fiscal situation. Traditionally, the area gets by on fishing — namely, herring and salmon — which has been in decline for years. A local government whose application for the survey is approved will receive up to ¥2 billion in subsidies from the central government. This money was probably the reason for the Suttsu mayor's interest, too, but, according to Tokyo Shimbun, the population of Suttsu is generally younger and they may be afraid of what a survey for the purpose of building a nuclear waste repository would mean for their future. Kamoenai, on the other hand, is already receiving subsidies for nuclear-related matters. The village is 10 kilometers from the Tomari nuclear power plant, where some residents of Kamoenai work. In exchange for allowing the construction of the plant, the village now receives about ¥80 million a year, a sum that accounts for 15 percent of its budget. According to TBS, Kamoenai increasingly relies on that money as time goes by, since its population has declined by more than half over the past 40 years.