The first stage of the process has been under way since November 2020 for the town of Suttsu and the village of Kamoenai assessing two municipalities in Hokkaido for their suitability to host a final disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. Under the government’s plan, the first-stage surveys take two years and will be followed by the second phase… which will include geophysical exploration, geological reconnaissance surveys and drilling surveys. Already stories about divisions and conflict over the surveys are emerging from the local communities.
The mayoral election of Suttsu in October 2021, for example, turned into a bitter and divisive political battle over the issue between the incumbent who decided to apply for the first-phase survey and a challenger who ran on opposition to the project. Some of the neighboring municipalities have enacted an ordinance to ban the entry of radioactive materials. Both the Hokkaido prefectural government and most of the local administrations around the two municipalities have declined to accept state subsidies related to the surveys. These actions have been driven by the fear that accepting the surveys will set in motion an unstoppable process leading to a permanent repository for nuclear waste.
The NUMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan) and the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) have jointly held more than 100 meetings to explain the plan to local communities across the nation. Even though they have continued calling for localities to volunteer, no local governments except for the two in Hokkaido have responded.
Excerpts from Entire nation should share in disposal of spent nuke fuel, Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2021