The Environment Ministry plans to choose one candidate site in each of four prefectures in eastern Japan for permanent disposal of radioactive incinerated ash and sewage sludge, the ministry said on Aug. 20.
The four are Miyagi, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. The candidate sites will be chosen from state-owned land in those prefectures by the end of September.
Residents living around the prospective sites are expected to strongly oppose the plan, although they will have little recourse.
If a permanent disposal site is constructed on state-owned land, it is not necessary under Japanese law to obtain local consent.
However, a ministry official said, “After choosing a candidate site, we will politely explain to local residents about the safety and necessity of the (permanent disposal) facilities.”
Radioactive cesium scattered by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last year contaminated much of the ash and sludge produced in garbage incineration facilities and sewage plants in surrounding prefectures and Tokyo.
Because of the difficulty in disposing of the highly contaminated ash and sludge through conventional methods, much of it is being temporarily stored at those facilities.
Under the laws that were enacted after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant, the central government is responsible for the disposal of incinerated ash and sludge whose concentration of radioactive cesium exceeds 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.
Based on the law, the government has to dispose of more than 42,000 tons of “designated waste,” including the ash and sludge, in Tokyo and eight prefectures, as of Aug. 3, according to the Environment Ministry. The amount is expected to increase in the future.
In March, the ministry adopted a policy that requires local governments, which have large amounts of designated waste, to accelerate disposal of those wastes by constructing permanent disposal sites by the end of fiscal 2014.
The ministry asked five prefectures--Miyagi, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures--to choose candidate sites for permanent disposal sites.
Of these, Miyagi, Tochigi and Ibaraki held briefings with officials of municipal governments.
On Aug. 20, the ministry held a meeting in which the guidelines to choose candidate sites were mostly agreed upon.
According to the guidelines, each prefecture will choose state-owned land whose geological formation and stipulations on the use of the land do not impose any restrictions on the permanent disposal of ash and sludge there.
In addition, the possibility of landslides or flooding and adverse impacts on water sources, agriculture and local communities will be checked. On-site research will also be conducted.
After that, the government will designate one piece of state-owned land as a candidate site by the end of September in each of the prefectures except for Gunma, where the prefectural governor is proposing that disposal of the ash and sludge be done in each municipality.
In the three prefectures of Miyagi, Tochigi and Ibaraki, where research has already begun, the selection of sites could be made by the end of August. The ministry will also ask Gunma Prefecture to choose a parcel of state-owned land as a candidate site.
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