Japanese Gov’t to propose candidate areas for nuclear waste disposal (December 2015)

TOKYO — Japan aims to classify geologically suitable areas for the final disposal site for high-level nuclear waste by the end of next year, the industry minister said Friday.

The plan was confirmed at a meeting of relevant ministers, Motoo Hayashi, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said at a press conference.

The government will classify locations into three categories depending on their suitability for hosting a disposal facility.

The government sees the classification as “the first step on the long way to realizing” the disposal scheme, a ministry official said.

The government will also set up a committee to assess progress in choosing a disposal site, the official said.

For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored at a final depository more than 300 meters underground until radiation levels fall and there is no longer potential harm to humans and the environment.

Last month, Finland became the first country to give the green light to construction of a final nuclear waste disposal site, aiming to put it into operation in the 2020s.

Japan, on the other hand, has struggled to make progress in finding a disposal site.

The government once tried to solicit local governments willing to host a disposal site, touting economic benefits and job creation as benefits of accepting such a facility.

However, the only response came from the western Japan town of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture, before it rescinded its application.

A total of 13 out of 47 prefectures in Japan refuse to host a final disposal site, a recent survey conducted by Kyodo News showed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced a new scheme in May allowing the government to choose candidate sites based on scientific grounds such as resistance to earthquakes.

A government panel has already listed geological requirements for a final depository site.

Japan restarted nuclear reactors this year for the first time under tighter safety rules imposed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

© KYODO

National Dec. 19, 2015 – 06:30AM JST, as posted at http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/govt-to-propose-candidate-areas-for-nuclear-waste-disposal

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