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First-stage surveys began Tuesday in two municipalities in Hokkaido to see whether their locations are suited to hosting a final disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants in the nation.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, or NUMO, started the so-called literature surveys in the town of Suttsu and the village of Kamoenai in the northernmost main island, marking the first time such surveys have ever been conducted in the country. On the day, the industry ministry gave the necessary approval for the surveys to be conducted.

The town of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture had previously applied for a literature survey in 2007, but later canceled the application before the survey began.

The literature survey, which checks geological literature and data, is the first of three stages of examination in the selection process. Suttsu and Kamoenai will each receive up to ¥2 billion in state subsidies in exchange for underdoing the first-stage survey.

NUMO will spend about two years checking geographical layers and the strength of bedrock in the two municipalities, based on geological maps and academic papers. Based on the first-stage work, the institute will pick candidate locations for a second-stage survey, called a preliminary investigation, in which drilling work would be carried out to analyze geographical layers.

In line with the survey, NUMO plans to arrange meetings with local residents to report progress in the survey and exchange opinions on local revitalization. NUMO said that details, including when and how often such talks would be held, have yet to be decided.

In October, Suttsu and Kamoenai, which are both struggling with depopulation, decided to apply for the literature survey in the light of their financial needs.

On Friday, the municipal assembly for Suttsu voted down a proposal to set an ordinance sought by locals for a referendum to be held asking residents whether they support or oppose the town's application for the first-stage survey.

The central government has explained that approval by the prefectural governor is required for NUMO to move on to the second-stage survey after the literature survey is completed.

In response to the start of the first-stage survey, Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki released a statement saying that he was "opposed at the moment" to the second-stage survey, reiterating his intention not to give his approval.

Kamoenai Mayor Masayuki Takahashi said that the village would keep asking the state and NUMO to provide correct information, hold dialogue with local residents thoroughly and take measures to prevent and deal with harmful rumors.

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