A nuclear power plant produces and piles up radioactive wastes, in particular, high-level radioactive one, as it works. Lately new developments have been seen, concerning how to deal with the hazardous material: one is a statement of Mayor of Genkai-cho, Saga Prefecture, where the Genkai Power Plant of the Kyushu Electric Power Co. is located, and the other is a government’s initiative to hold a series of symposia concerning final disposal sites.
SOLE OPTION ? PERMANENT STORAGE OF WASTE INSIDE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
High-level radioactive waste is a liquid left over in the reprocessing stage when uranium and plutonium are separated from nuclear fuel spent at power plants. It is solidified with glass (vitrified), but its radiation level immediately after the vitrification counts as high as 1,500 Sv per hour that kills a man in twenty seconds. It takes dozens of thousand years for the waste to reduce radioactive dosage similar to that of natural uranium.
Why did Mayor change his stance?
Town Mayor Kishimoto Hideo of Genkai-cho expressed his favor to a government offer concerning a final disposal site of high-level radioactive waste in the interview held on April 27 by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. He told that ‘if the town is proven to be suitable, I will hold meetings with residents and negotiate with the government’. Last July, however, the town authority replied ‘no’ to the government’s proposal for such a site when asked by the same newspaper firm in the questionnaire sent to municipalities which domicile power plants.
Mayor Kishimoto replied ‘I had thought there was no land space in the town to set up a disposal site’, when asked why. But he has changed the posture when the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry presented on April 19 a method to bury wastes under the seabed. Mayor adds that: ‘I will commit in the issue positively. The method is technically viable’.
The government will designate ‘candidate sites’ which should meet conditions, including a factor of solidity of ground, before talking with municipalities for cooperation. Mayor Kishimoto says his town will be proven ‘good’.
As for selection of final disposal site of dangerous waste, the government had a policy to call on applicants in 2007, when Mayor of Toyo-cho, Kochi Prefecture, offered. But residents staged protest campaigns and the application was made null. Since then no municipality or no mayor has taken a positive step.
Responding to the recent statement of Mayor Kishimoto, former Mayor of Toyo-cho, Sawayama Yasutaro, visited the town office of Genkai-cho to present a protest letter. It says ‘if an accident happens, the Genkai-nada Sea will be a dead sea. I hope Mayor will make a new decision to withdraw the statement’.
Government will announce candidate sites
Under these circumstances the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) had the first of a series of symposia on repository for the public in Tokyo on May 9. Another eight cities nationwide will host the events. Public meetings for residents will be planned, too, in various municipalities.
The government will announce candidate sites by the end of the year, surveying the country’s map, and will begin dialogues with municipality authorities. Once the government wins support, concrete processes for selection will begin, including documentary survey.
Store wastes inside power plants
The fact, however, remains the same ? no safe repository exists that can bear for dozens of thousand years, even in an underground location. The Japanese Archipelago is situated on several tectonic plates and numerous active geological faults go through the islands, which causes frequent big earthquakes. Volcanic belts run on the islands. Underground water is abundant. No land or seabed is appropriate for disposal.
The sole way to store spent fuel is to preserve inside the nuclear power plant under strict control of the government and a relevant electric power company on the semi-permanent basis.
May 24, 2016