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2013年11月23日 (土)

放射性廃棄物 政府は最終処分に責任を持て

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 23, 2013
Govt must act responsibly to find site for final N-waste repository
放射性廃棄物 政府は最終処分に責任を持て(11月22日付・読売社説)

No time must be wasted in strengthening government efforts to secure a site for a final disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste generated from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has hammered out a set of new steps regarding how to secure candidate sites for a final repository, focusing on a recommendation that the government should be at the forefront of efforts to make progress on the issue.

Currently, candidate sites are being sought through open solicitation, inviting volunteer candidates among municipal governments to host a final disposal site for radioactive waste. As a result, the opinions of local communities are being given great weight in the matter. So far, the government has just waited for municipalities to volunteer, but no candidates sites have been found since open solicitation began in 2002.

To break the impasse, it is reasonable for the expert panel to propose that the government take on the responsibility of designating areas where high-level radioactive waste can safely be disposed of. This is the same policy followed by Sweden, which has selected a final disposal site. We hope to see the planned approach result in progress in locating candidate sites.

Authorities envision burying high-level radioactive waste deep underground, at least 300 meters below the surface, by constructing a disposal facility in stable rock formations in an area where there are no volcanoes or other threats.

Similar methods have been employed overseas, since they make it possible to dispose of nuclear waste in a stable manner for more than 100,000 years.

Radioactivity lessens with time, more than 99 percent of it ceasing to exist in about 1,000 years.

Excessive political risks

It should be noted that there is little public understanding of the current technological level and safety of geological disposal, hindering efforts to find a candidate site. Government efforts to widely disseminate correct, scientific knowledge about the matter are indispensable.

Open solicitation of volunteer candidates is problematic in that municipal leaders put themselves at great political risk if they support hosting a disposal facility. When the mayor of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, applied to be a candidate site, residents fiercely opposed the idea and the mayor was in danger of having to resign. The town’s application was withdrawn.

The selection process of candidate sites can hardly make progress without wide-ranging support from the central government.

On Wednesday, urging the government to redouble its efforts to find candidate sites, the ministry’s expert panel cited the need to boost government efforts to promote the local economies of the municipalities concerned. The panel also proposed a forum in which the government and local residents closely exchange views on the matter. Both suggestions are very important.

The task of establishing a final disposal repository has been undertaken by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, which was established by power utilities and other organizations under the Specified Nuclear Waste Final Disposal Law enacted in 2000. Reform of the waste management organization, which has failed to produce any tangible results, is also urgently needed.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has continued making unrealistic calls to completely stop the nation’s nuclear power generation, saying it is “too optimistic and irresponsible” to assume that a site can be found for a final disposal facility.

Even if the nation’s nuclear power generation should be eliminated, the problem of how to dispose of nuclear waste remains. It is impermissible to pass the burden of inaction on the matter to the next generation.

The Liberal Democratic Party is also studying ways to secure a final disposal facility, and there are moves in the Diet to create a suprapartisan group of legislators to address the problem of a final repository. They should engage in discussions with a strong sense of responsibility.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2013)
(2013年11月22日01時31分  読売新聞)


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