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Mansion without a toilet: Towns in Japan seek to house, store nuclear waste out of necessity

Oct 12, 2020

Two remote towns in northern Japan struggling with rapidly graying and shrinking populations signed up Friday to possibly host a high-level radioactive waste storage site as a means of economic survival.

Japanese utilities have about 16,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel rods stored in cooling pools or other interim sites, and there is no final repository for them in Japan — a situation called “a mansion without a toilet.”

Japan is in a dire situation following the virtual failure of an ambitious nuclear fuel recycling plan, in which plutonium extracted from spent fuel was to be used in still-unbuilt fast breeder reactors. The problem of accumulating nuclear waste came to the fore after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Finding a community willing to host a radioactive dump site is difficult, even with a raft of financial enticements.

On Friday, Haruo Kataoka, the mayor of Suttsu town on the northwestern coast of Hokkaido, applied in Tokyo for preliminary government research on whether its land would be suitable for highly radioactive waste storage for thousands of years.

Later Friday in Kamoenai just north of Kamoenai, village chief Masayuki Takahashi announced his decision to also apply for an initial feasibility study.

Suttsu, with a population of 2,900, and Kamoenai, with about 800 people, have received annual government subsidies as hosts of the Tomari nuclear power plant. But they are struggling financially because of a declining fishing industry and their aging and shrinking populations.

The preliminary research is the first of three steps in selecting a permanent disposal site, with the whole process estimated to take about two decades. Municipalities can receive up to 2 billion yen ($19 million) in government subsidies for two years by participating in the first stage. Moving on to the next stage would bring in more subsidies.

“I have tried to tackle the problems of declining population, low birth rates and social welfare, but hardly made progress,” Takahashi told reporters. “I hope that accepting research (into the waste storage) can help the village’s development.”

It is unknown whether either place will qualify as a disposal site. Opposition from people across Hokkaido could also hinder the process. A gasoline bomb was thrown into the Suttsu mayor’s home early Thursday, possibly by an opponent of the plan, causing slight damage.

Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki and local fisheries groups are opposed to hosting such a facility.

One mayor in southwestern Japan expressed interest in 2007, but faced massive opposition and the plan was spiked.

High-level radioactive waste must be stored in thick concrete structures at least 300 meters (yards) underground so it won’t affect humans and the environment.

A 2017 land survey map released by the government indicated parts of Suttsu and Kamoenai could be suitable for a final repository.

So far, Finland and Sweden are the only countries that have selected final disposal sites

https://www.firstpost.com/tech/science/mansion-without-a-toilet-towns-in-japan-seek-to-house-store-nuclear-waste-out-of-necessity-8904851.html

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Struggles to Secure Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dump Sites

A small, aging town grapples with the financial lure of storing radioactive waste underground. 

Japan’s worsening depopulation crisis is crippling the public finances of regional towns. Now one small town has made national headlines after expressing interest in storing radioactive nuclear waste underground in a last ditch effort to save itself from impending bankruptcy.

The small town of Suttsu in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan, has a population of just under 3,000 people. It’s the first local municipality to volunteer for the permanent storage site of highly radioactive nuclear waste and nuclear spent fuel. Suttsu Mayor Kataoka Haruo says the town has no more than 10 years left to find new sources of income after struggling with a slump in sales of seafood due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Kataoka says there is an impending sense of crisis unless an urgent financial boost in the form of a government grant can be secured. He has called on local residents not to dismiss the idea of applying for the phase one “literature survey” without weighing the ways the grant could be spent — in contrast to the harsh reality of town funds running dry in 10 years’ time.

In Japan there are more than 2,500 containers of nuclear waste being stored in limbo without a permanent disposal site. Currently, the waste is stored temporarily in Aomori prefecture in northwest Japan at the Japan Nuclear Waste Storage Management Center. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry there are also approximately 19,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at each nuclear power plant.

Nuclear waste projects immense heat and it needs to be cooled through exposure to air for between 30 to 50 years before it can be transferred and stored underground. However, it takes roughly 1,000 years to 100,000 years for radiation intensity to drop to safe levels.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster left long-lasting trauma further exasperating Japan’s already vexed relationship with nuclear energy as a resource deficient nation. The aftermath of the disaster and the slow road to recovery prompted many people to object to nuclear waste storage not only on geographic grounds but also out of strong emotional opposition.

Hokkaido has built a global reputation for its high quality dairy, agricultural products, and seafood. Nuclear waste storage, and the negative publicity that would follow, could jeopardize those industries.

With the proposal, local residents in Sutsu have been placed in a difficult situation, weighing up the health of their children and future generations against the town’s financial prospects and viable funding opportunities.

In August, Kataoka said he would not apply for phase one without the understanding of the general public. Last week, Kataoka held a local briefing session aiming to deepen local understanding and consent. But after discussing the damage to the town’s reputation and the possible conflict with a previous ordinance against accepting nuclear waste set by a radioactive waste research facility created in Hokkaido in 2000, Kataoka indicated the application for phase one would likely be delayed.

In 2000 the government enacted the Final Disposal Law, which outlined criteria for electing a permanent storage site. A three-stage investigation process sets out excavation to be deeper than 300 meters below ground and in doing so a survey of volcanoes, active fault lines, and underground rock must be performed in addition to installing an underground survey facility. It’s estimated that steps one through to three will take approximately 20 years in total.

In 2017 the government released a scientific map of Japan, pinpointing towns with suitable geographic conditions to host final disposal sites. If the application and survey are approved successfully, towns are eligible for grants up to 2 billion yen (around $19 million at current exchange rates) from the central government and another 7 billion yen if stage two goes ahead. In 2002 The Nuclear Waste Management of Japan (NUMO) launched an open call for local municipalities to consider applying for an initial investigation stage without success. Three years after the release of the map, NUMO has attempted to garner public support by hosting over 100 local discussion meetings all over Japan. Suttsu was the first town to express interest in phase one out of 900 local municipalities.

The final nuclear waste site is expected to make room underground for 40,000 barrels requiring six to 10 square kilometers — the equivalent of 214 Tokyo Dome Stadiums — to a tune of 3.9 trillion yen.

The government is currently formulating a “nuclear fuel cycle policy,” which aims to reduce the amount of nuclear waste generated by encouraging the recycling and reuse of spent fuel. But one major criticism of Japan’s nuclear power policy is the lack of a comprehensive strategy. The two year period for a “literature survey” has been touted as an opportunity for Japan to seriously consider the cleanup of nuclear power.

https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/japan-struggles-to-secure-radioactive-nuclear-waste-dump-sites/?fbclid=IwAR3UC-dCpZzWDF4eS8WvHn04z1ZxM3SwijKeTO5fdwJ3BOIenmceT_weFxo

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Much at stake in picking a final nuclear waste disposal site

Local residents attend a meeting held Sept. 10 by the town government of Suttsu, Hokkaido, to explain plans to host a final disposal site for nuclear waste.

September 22, 2020

Two local communities in Hokkaido are considering pitching themselves as candidates for the site for final disposal of highly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

Last month, the mayor of Suttsu in the northernmost main island said the municipal government is thinking to apply for the first stage of the three-stage process of selecting the site for the nation’s final repository for nuclear waste.

During this period, past records about natural disasters and geological conditions for the candidate area are examined. Town authorities are holding meetings with local residents to explain its intentions.

In Kamoenai, a village also in Hokkaido, the local chamber of commerce and industry submitted a petition to the local assembly to consider an application for the process. The issue was discussed at an assembly committee. However, the assembly decided to postpone making a decision after further discussion.

Both communities are located close to the Tomari nuclear power plant operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and struggling with common rural problems such as a dwindling population and industrial and economic stagnation.

The law decrees that when the first stage of the selection process starts, the municipality that is picked will receive up to 2 billion yen ($19.1 million) in state subsidies for two years.

But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), which are in charge of the selection process, have promised it will not move to the second stage if the prefectural governor or local mayor voices an objection.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki has already expressed his opposition.

A huge amount of spent nuclear fuel has been produced by nuclear plants in Japan, and it needs to be stored and disposed of somewhere in this country.

This policy challenge requires a solid consensus among a broad range of people, including residents of cities who have been beneficiaries of electricity generated at nuclear plants.

The two Hokkaido municipalities’ moves to consider applying for the first stage of the selection process should be taken as an opportunity for national debate on the issue.

The first step should be to establish a system for local communities to discuss the issue thoroughly from a broad perspective.

It is crucial to prevent bitter, acrimonious divisions in local communities between supporters and opponents.

The central government and other parties involved need to provide whatever information is needed from a fair and neutral position to help create an environment for healthy, in-depth debate.

There is also a crucial need to fix the problems with the current plan to build a final repository for radioactive waste.

Under the plan, which is based on the assumption that a nuclear fuel recycling system will eventually be established, the repository will be used to store waste to be left after spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed to recover and recycle plutonium and uranium.

But there is no prospect for the establishment of such a recycling system which would allow for disposing only of the waste from reprocessing and recycling.

Eventually, Japan, like most other countries with nuclear power plants, will be forced to map out plans for “direct disposal,” or disposing of spent fuel from nuclear reactors in underground repositories.

The central government has not changed its policy of maintaining nuclear power generation as a major power source. If nuclear reactors keep operating, they will continue producing spent fuel.

The government will find it difficult to win local support for the planned repository unless it makes clear what kind of and how much radioactive material will be stored at the site.

Many local governments are facing a fiscal crunch partly because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hokkaido Governor Suzuki has taken a dim view of the financial incentive offered to encourage local governments to apply for the first stage of the selection process, criticizing the proposed subsidies as “a wad of cash used as a powerful carrot.”

It takes tens of thousands of years for the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel to decline to sufficiently safe levels.

Trying to stem local opposition by dangling temporary subsidies could create a serious problem for the future in the communities.

It is vital to ensure that the repository plan will secure a long-term policy commitment to the development of the local communities and ensure benefits for the entire areas.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13749856

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste disposal is a matter of environmental concern

Aug 31, 2020

It has been reported that the town of Suttsu in Hokkaido is considering applying for a two-year “literature research” into the possibility of storing high-level radioactive nuclear waste. A maximum of ¥2 billion in subsidies will be granted by the central government.

“The future of the town is financially precarious,” said Haruo Kataoka, the mayor of Suttsu, in an interview.

But the money that is thought to revive the town cannot reverse what the nuclear waste is likely to cause.

It is, in my opinion, never a financial issue, but a matter of environmental concern.

What is in question here is high-level radioactive nuclear waste, which can be dangerous for at least 200,000 years and therefore must be handled with the utmost care. It is indeed a problem that any country with nuclear power plants needs to address, however thorny it is. Any indiscreet decision is deemed extremely irresponsible and profoundly unethical.

“Financially precarious,” I must stress, is by no means comparable to environmentally threatening. Besides, it is specifically stated in a Hokkaido ordinance that nuclear waste is hardly acceptable in the prefecture.

Before a final disposal site is selected, or even before an application for research is submitted, the scientific facts ought to be thoroughly understood and the residents properly informed.

The span of recorded history is merely 5,000 years, while 200,000 years is far beyond human experience and comprehension. We certainly cannot live to see what is going to become of the nuclear waste, but I believe that we do not want to leave the thorny problem unaddressed to haunt our future generations.

Jive Sun

Sapporo

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/08/31/reader-mail/nuclear-waste-disposal-matter-environmental-concern/

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Hokkaido town mayor eyes hosting nuclear waste site

jhhjkThis facility in Finland is the only one where construction has begun on a final storage site for nuclear waste.

 

August 14, 2020

The mayor of Suttsu in western Hokkaido is bracing for a backlash after stating that he wants his small town to be considered as a final destination for nuclear waste by the central government. 

When I think about the future of our town, where the population has been shrinking, there is a need for financial resources to promote industry,” said Haruo Kataoka, 71, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. 

I am prepared for whatever form of bashing I may encounter.” 

Kataoka may be in for a long fight. 

Selecting the site for the nation’s final storage of nuclear waste is a three-stage process that can take up to 20 years. At each stage, the central government provides any municipality that has applied with annual grants. 

Kataoka said he was considering having Suttsu apply for the first stage in which past records about natural disasters and geological conditions for the area are examined. 

This stage normally takes about two years, and the municipality can receive up to 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) a year or a maximum total of 2 billion yen. 

The annual budget for the Suttsu town government is 5 billion yen. Its main industries are oyster farming and fishing for Atka mackerel. 

As of the end of March, the town’s population was 2,893. The population has decreased by 30 percent over the past two decades. 

To encourage municipalities to submit applications, the central government in July 2017 released a map of areas that were considered scientifically appropriate as a site for the final storage of nuclear waste. 

Suttsu is the first municipality expressing an interest in applying since that map was released. 

But it remains to be seen if local residents will go along with Kataoka’s idea. He will hold a meeting in September to explain his intention and a decision will be made thereafter whether to proceed with the application. 

Kataoka has also expressed interest in moving toward the second stage of the selection process in which boring samples are taken from underground. This is part of the four-year process to determine if the area meets general conditions to enable the selection process to move to the third stage, in which a test facility will be constructed underground. 

In the second stage, the municipality can receive up to 2 billion yen a year, or a maximum total of 7 billion yen. 

A municipal government can decide at any time to withdraw from the selection process and the grants it has received until then do not have to be returned. 

Because nuclear waste may take up to 100,000 years for radiation to reach safe levels, any final storage site would have to be constructed at least 300 meters underground. 

Suttsu is classified at the highest of four levels of appropriateness, according to the map released by the central government. Its location facing the Sea of Japan makes Suttsu highly suitable for transporting nuclear waste to the storage site. 

But in addition to possible local opposition, the town government will also have to take into consideration an ordinance approved by the Hokkaido prefectural government in 2000 regarding nuclear waste that said no such waste should be brought onto the main northern island. 

In a statement released on Aug. 13, Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki said the ordinance, “is an expression of the desire not to allow a final storage site within Hokkaido, and I believe I have no alternative but to abide by the ordinance.” 

Kataoka said that the first stage of the selection process was just a study that did not represent a violation of the ordinance. 

But at each stage of the selection process, the views of the prefectural governor and municipality mayor are solicited and any opposition will stop the process from proceeding. 

Meanwhile, Hiroshi Kajiyama, the industry minister who oversees the process for selecting a final storage site, told reporters on Aug. 13 that a number of municipalities in addition to Suttsu had expressed interest in obtaining information about the selection process. 

While Kajiyama acknowledged his awareness of the Hokkaido ordinance, he added that applying for the first stage of the process did not mean the municipality would automatically move to the second stage. 

The central government has had to resort to offering annual grants to encourage municipal governments to express an interest in becoming the site for the final storage of nuclear waste. 

Commenting on the interest shown by Suttsu, one government source said, “It is a step forward, but if we think about the entire process as a marathon, the race has just started and the runners have not yet even left the stadium (to reach the road).” 

Meanwhile, other municipalities that in the past showed some interest in becoming the final storage site have more often than not met with huge local opposition. 

In 2007, the mayor of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku expressed interest in applying without first consulting the town assembly. Local opposition was so strong that a candidate opposed to the idea defeated the incumbent in the next election and the application was withdrawn. 

There have also been reports of other municipalities expressing an interest in applying, but no formal announcement has been made until now. 

Japan now possesses about 19,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel, but no progress has been made in selecting a site for its final storage. Foreign nations have also experienced difficulties in securing a site for such storage. 

Finland is the only nation where actual construction of such a facility has begun. 

(This article was written by Yasuo Sakuma, Ichiro Matsuo, Rintaro Sakurai and Yu Kotsubo.) 

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13635457?fbclid=IwAR2y1aSmsRZcwyWcLhGzhwRhNED1qP8w2ppgMGxzBcQA0EZFN-ILepvxGn0

 

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Gov’t, TEPCO ordered to compensate Fukushima evacuees to Hokkaido

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March 11, 2020

SAPPORO — A court ordered the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Tuesday to pay a combined 52.9 million yen in damages to 89 people who evacuated from their hometowns to Hokkaido after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The Sapporo District Court ruling marked the seventh case where both the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc were ordered to pay damages, out of 11 cases brought against the two parties. In the four other cases, only TEPCO was ordered to pay damages.

It was also the 15th decision handed down among around 30 similar damages suits filed across Japan over one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

A total of 257 plaintiffs, 90 percent of whom at the time were living in Fukushima city and other locations outside of areas given evacuation orders, had sought a combined 4.24 billion yen from the utility and the state.

“While (the ruling) is a sign of recognition of the government’s responsibility, it doesn’t reflect the actual lives that those who evacuated to Hokkaido have led,” a lawyer representing the plaintiffs told reporters after the court decision.

Following the ruling, TEPCO offered a “heartfelt apology for causing great trouble and worries” to those affected in Fukushima and other areas and said it will consider how to respond to the court decision after closely examining it.

At the court, the operator had said it had already paid damages to some of the plaintiffs and that the amount was adequate as it was based on the government guidelines. The utility also said it was not obligated to compensate the others as they had voluntarily evacuated.

The government has denied responsibility for the disaster, saying it could not have foreseen the flooding of the nuclear plant due to a tsunami.

The plaintiffs argued that TEPCO neglected to take preventive measures although it could have predicted earthquake and tsunami risks at the plant, and that the government did not enforce adequate safety measures despite approving power generation at the complex.

They also said that the psychological distress they suffered due to fears that radiation exposure had damaged their health, among other concerns, had impacted their ability to lead a normal life following the evacuation.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/gov%27t-tepco-ordered-to-compensate-fukushima-evacuees-to-hokkaido

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

Japan nuclear plant’s power restored after quake triggers Hokkaido blackout

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August 6, 2018
(Reuters) – Power was restored to a nuclear energy plant in Hokkaido, northern Japan on Thursday after a strong earthquake left it relying on emergency generators for 10 nervous hours, but it may be a week before lights are back on all over the major island.
Triggering a blackout just after 3 a.m. local time, the magnitude 6.7 quake left at least seven people dead, more than 100 injured and dozens missing on Hokkaido, an island of about 5.3 million people whose capital is Sapporo. A major coal-fired power station was also damaged in the temblor that shut down the grid.
The situation at utility Hokkaido Electric Power’s (9509.T) three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant provided an uncomfortable, if comparatively brief, echo of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Reactors there melted down after a massive tsunami knocked out back-up generators, designed to maintain power to cool reactors in emergencies.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Hokkaido’s Tomari NPP using emergency generators after powerful M6.7 earthquake

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Tomari nuclear plant using emergency generators

Aug. 6, 2018
Japan’s nuclear regulatory body says the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido is using emergency generators to cool fuel after the region was hit by a powerful earthquake.
The plant’s operator Hokkaido Electric Power Company says all 3 channels from outside power sources were cut off about 20 minutes after the quake struck early Thursday.
The plant’s 3 reactors are all currently offline, with a total of 1,527 fuel assemblies in its storage pools.
Following the quake, 6 emergency diesel-powered generators automatically switched on to cool the nuclear fuel. No changes in storage pool water levels or temperature have been reported.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority and Hokkaido Electric say it is not yet clear when outside power sources will be restored, with all thermal power plants in Hokkaido currently shut down.
The emergency generators will be able to keep the Tomari plant running for at least 7 days, based on diesel fuel supplies stored on its premises.
They added that the earthquake did not seem to cause any irregularities in key plant facilities and radiation monitoring posts have shown no change.

Hokkaido nuclear plant on backup power after quake, reviving memories of Fukushima disaster

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Tomari Nuclear Power Station in the village of Tomari, Hokkaido, is seen in 2015. The plant is running on emergency power after a powerful earthquake knocked out electricity in Hokkaido on Thursday
September 6, 2018
A nuclear power station in Hokkaido is relying on emergency backup power after a powerful earthquake knocked out electricity on the northern island Thursday, offering a stark reminder of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant, operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and in shutdown since the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, lost power after a magnitude 6.7 quake hit the island in the early hours, the government said.
The plant’s fuel rods are being cooled with emergency power supplied by diesel generators, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday.
There were no radiation irregularities at the plant, Suga said, citing the operator.
The atomic regulator said the diesel generators have enough fuel to last seven days.
Hokkaido Electric has shut down all fossil fuel plants, cutting power to all its nearly 3 million customers, a spokesman said.
Industry minister Hiroshige Seko has instructed Hokkaido Electric to restart its biggest coal plant after the station was tripped by the earthquake.
The blackout shut down Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport, a popular gateway to the island, making it the second major airport to be knocked out in the country in two days after a typhoon swamped Kansai International Airport, the nation’s third biggest.
The March 11, 2011, magnitude 9 earthquake that struck off the northern Honshu coast set off a massive tsunami that devastated a wide swath of the Pacific coastline and left nearly 20,000 dead.
The quake knocked out power to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and the tsunami swamped diesel generators placed low in reactor buildings, leading to a series of explosions and meltdowns in the world’s worst nuclear disaster for 25 years.
The crisis led to the shutdown of the country’s nuclear industry, once the world’s third biggest. Seven reactors have come back online after a protracted relicensing process.
The majority of Japanese remain opposed to nuclear power after Fukushima highlighted failings in regulation and operational procedures in the industry.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment