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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 August 2 - 8  > No municipality should be placed under gov’t pressure to accept disposal sites for nuclear waste
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2017 August 2 - 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

No municipality should be placed under gov’t pressure to accept disposal sites for nuclear waste

August 5, 2017
Akahata editorial

The Abe government at the end of July published its “scientific characteristics map” indicating that about 65% of Japan’s land is suitable for constructing final disposal sites for high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear reactors. The government plans to hold explanatory meetings about the map across the country and choose some municipalities to conduct surveys on the feasibility of establishing disposal sites.

Gov’t has responsibility for creating dangerous nuclear waste

The national government and power companies have long pushed forward with nuclear power generation which produced a large amount of hard-to-manage “nuclear waste”. The government now turns a blind eye to its responsibility for generating such waste and intends to impose disposal sites on municipalities.

Since 2002, the government has asked municipalities to become candidates for hosting nuclear waste disposal sites. However, no municipal government has so far decided to declare its candidacy due to strong local opposition.

Therefore, the Abe government decided to take the lead in finding a location to get rid of nuclear waste by such means as clarifying which regions of Japan are appropriate for disposal facilities and requesting municipal governments to accept a facility. The government included this policy in the 2014 Basic Energy Plan and 2015 basic strategy for final disposal of radioactive waste. As a first step in implementing this policy, the government on July 28 published the “scientific characteristics map” showing regions that the government deems are “scientifically promising” for a disposal facility.

Nuclear waste is highly radioactive. It takes tens of thousands years for the radioactivity level of such waste to decrease to the level of uranium ore. The government is considering burying the wastes at depths of more than 300 meters underground. A final disposal site must be placed in an area which is geologically stable so that the waste will remain isolated from humans for tens of thousands of years.

The government’s map designates areas near volcanoes and active faults as unsuited for disposal facility construction because those areas are unstable in the long run. The map also indicates that areas having oil, coal and other underground resources are inappropriate, taking into account the possible future development of the resources.

However, the Japanese Archipelago is situated in an active crustal movement zone where four major tectonic plates meet. While geological disposal of radioactive waste is being considered in Europe and the U.S., the stability of geological settings differs greatly between continents and the Japanese archipelago. If the national government thinks that there will be no problem as long as the selection of geological disposal sites avoids recognizable volcanic and active fault zones, it is overly simplistic and irresponsible.

The Science Council of Japan (SCJ) in September 2012 issued a statement regarding geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste warning that it is necessary to clearly recognize that there are limitations to the current scientific knowledge and technical capabilities to assess certain geological strata as tectonically stable over a long period of time. The government should take this warning seriously.

The government insists that contemporary human beings have to construct final disposal sites in order not to burden future generations with nuclear waste that the current generation created. However, when atomic power plants are activated, they always generate high-level radioactive waste. Restarting nuclear power plants is nothing less than placing further burdens on future generations.

How to deal with nuclear waste is an integral part of the future policy for atomic power plants.

The SCJ criticized the government for seeking to select final disposal sites for radioactive waste before obtaining social consensus on its nuclear power policy, by saying that the priorities are wrong. In order to address the issue of nuclear waste, the SCJ points out that the government must conduct a zero-base review of the conventional policy framework for nuclear power generation.

Create a Japan free from nuclear power

In defiance of popular protests against the restart of nuclear power plants, the Abe government is trying to reactivate nuclear power plants, freely produce more radioactive wastes, and move forward with the plan to construct nuclear waste disposal facilities. However, the Japanese people cannot tolerate this policy.

The government should decide without delay to stop the reactivation of nuclear power plants and create a Japan free from nuclear power. This is the responsibility that contemporary human beings who experienced the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns should fulfill.

Past related article:
> Present generation should not leave behind radioactive legacy [ October 19, 2016]
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