TOKYO -- Japan's central government will step up efforts to select a final repository site for nuclear waste, after years of foot-dragging over this controversial project.
The government since 2002 has solicited localities to host a nuclear dump, but none came forward. The central government now will name candidate sites based on scientific analyses and then ask the localities to conduct more study. The new policy was decided by the cabinet Friday, marking the first step in seven years.
Highly radioactive liquid waste from spent nuclear fuel will be solidified in glass and buried 300 meters underground. In narrowing its choices, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will consider factors such as avoiding areas within 15km from a volcano.
The government decided to move forward with the selection process as it seeks to bring nuclear power plants back online. Japan already has about 17,000 tons of spent fuel, and the public is increasingly critical of the government's plan to restart nuclear plants without a repository. The government will discuss provisional storage measures with power companies as well.
But Yoichi Miyazawa, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said there is no timeline to finish the analyses to narrow the list. The studies may take years, and the government likely will face opposition from local residents once the site is announced. Opportunity for dialogue is part of the new policy, but skepticism is persistent over the safety of nuclear power in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Public opposition has forced the U.K., Germany and the U.S. to revisit their waste disposal plans.
The government will consider providing aid to the hosting locality for sustained development.