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Nuclear waste: from Bure in the Meuse, France to Japan, opponents of the burial unite

In Bure, in the Meuse, the Cigéo project for the burial of long-lived nuclear waste has been recognized as being of public utility. Opponents are calling on the Japanese to mobilize against a similar project on the island of Hokkaido.

Opponents of the Bure nuclear waste burial project have lent their support to the inhabitants of Suttsu, Japan, where a similar project is under study.

Ouest-France Alan LE BLOA. Published on 03/11/2022

On the borders of the Meuse and Haute-Marne regions, the Cigéo project for a nuclear waste burial center in Bure has been declared to be in the public interest. The decree, published on Friday, July 8, authorizes the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) to acquire the land needed for the surface installations, as well as the land located above the galleries. This means about 3,500 hectares, which can be expropriated if necessary.

85,000 m3 of radioactive waste

The aim of the project is to bury 85,000 cubic meters of long-lived high-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste from France’s nuclear power plants 500 meters underground by at least 2080. This decisive step, since the launch of research on site twenty years ago, has rekindled tensions. Some thirty associations and residents have filed an appeal with the Council of State to challenge the decision. A message relayed to Japan

On September 16, EELV and LFI parliamentarians gave their political support to the opponents’ action… which is becoming international. In a message relayed to Japan, they have, in fact, sent their support to the inhabitants of the village of Suttsu, opposed to the project of burying radioactive waste in the subsoil of the island of Hokkaido, in the north of the archipelago. The burial projects “are devastating for our territories and represent economic brakes for their future. No one wants to live next to a radioactive repository. The promises of development are lies intended to make the projects acceptable”, they write, condemning “the lack of transparency of the authorities”.

In the meantime, in Bure, an observatory for the health of local residents is being set up. Its objective? To monitor the physical and psychological health of residents within a 25 km (6,000 people in 180 municipalities) and 50 km (340,000 people in 679 municipalities) perimeter. Some 900 people, selected at random, are to be interviewed to assess their health.


November 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste: in Japan, a sensitive project in an earthquake-prone region

On the island of Hokkaido, a contested project plans to bury 19,000 tons of radioactive waste 300 m underground. In a region subject to the risk of earthquakes.

Yugo Ono, geologist and professor emeritus at the University of Hokkaido, considers that it is risky to bury radioactive waste in an area subject to seismic movements.

Ouest-France Johann FLEURI. Published on 03/11/2022 at 06h30

On the island of Hokkaido, Numo is carrying out stage 1 of the investigation, which began in 2020. The radioactive waste management company is studying the location, soils, seismic history of the area and calculating budgets. Residents and the city council will be asked to vote on whether to proceed with the project and move to Phase 2. The vote, scheduled for November, has been postponed.

Stored for over a thousand years

The 19,000 tons of nuclear waste that could eventually be buried on site, between 300 m and 3 km below the surface of the ground, are extracts of liquid waste, which after several treatments, remain highly radioactive and must be stored for more than a thousand years, to no longer present a danger to humans. The burial project, the first of its kind in the archipelago, consists of placing them in stainless steel tubes, so that they can be stored as vitrified waste. Numo plans to store 40,000 of these containers underground.

Soil and water table

An underground project that seems risky in a country subject to earthquakes. At Numo, we believe that “the degree of danger is under control”. In the event of a major earthquake, “the containers will follow the movement of the earth”. But Yugo Ono, a geologist and professor emeritus at Hokkaido University, does not share this opinion. “Buried, the waste could pollute the soil and groundwater in the event of a strong earthquake,” he says.


“The geology of the region, composed of volcanic rocks, is unsuitable for such a project, says the scientist. The soil is very affected by seismic activity. In the case of a major earthquake in Suttsu, “the radioactivity will spread into the water table,” he says. The waste would be stored at a depth of 300 meters, while “seismic activity can be felt up to 10 kilometers down.” Under pressure, the expert is certain: “The tanks will break.”

Another method

Rather than burial, “the only method of storing radioactive waste for Japan today is in steel containers, covered with 2 meters of concrete, within the walls of nuclear power plants. According to Yugo Uno, “this is the safest method, which we master best and it is not so expensive”. But this system requires that the containers be changed every fifty years at the most because the steel will be attacked by radioactivity. “Every twenty years would be better for maximum safety.”

November 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

REPORT. In Suttsu, Japan, the inhabitants do not want nuclear waste

At a time when Japan is announcing the restart of seventeen nuclear reactors by 2023, the question of radioactive waste management arises. In Suttsu, a landfill project is under study, to the great despair of the inhabitants.

Miki Nobuka, 50 years old, says she learned that the project of nuclear waste burial was validated while she was buying her bread.

Ouest-France Johann FLEURI. Published on 03/11/2022

“We don’t want our village to become a garbage dump,” say Kazuyuki Tsuchiya and his wife Kyoko. This couple of septuagenarians runs an inn in Suttsu, located on the island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan. This village of 2,800 souls, 78% of which is made up of forests, is picturesque and is located between mountains and the sea.

It is here that a nuclear waste storage project has been taking shape since 2020. Suttsu and the neighboring village of Kamoenai (800 inhabitants) were the only ones to apply to the Radioactive Waste Management Corporation (Numo), created by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the electricity companies, and were selected to receive, within 20 years, the 19,000 tons of radioactive waste piling up in the country’s power plants, particularly in Fukushima Dai-chi and Rokassho in Aomori, where storage capacity is saturated.

In Japan, between the villages of Suttsu and Kamoenai, which have applied for the radioactive waste burial project, is the Tomari nuclear power plant. In Japan, between the villages of Suttsu and Kamoenai, which have applied for the radioactive waste disposal project, is the Tomari nuclear power plant.

Although Suttsu officially submitted its application, the inhabitants feel that they were not consulted and accuse the municipal council of having made the decision alone. Miki Nobuka, 50 years old, says she learned that the project was approved while she was buying her bread. This mother has been campaigning ever since to “stop it for our children”.

More than 50% of the inhabitants against

According to Kazuyuki Tsuchiya’s calculations, “more than 50% of the inhabitants of Suttsu are against”. Not having had access to the details of the project, “the council makes heavy decisions in plenary sessions”. The residents feel betrayed and angry. “The mayor wants to take advantage of the subsidies to develop the city, but we don’t want it,” he says.

According to Kazuyuki Tsuchiya’s calculations, “more than 50 percent of the residents of Suttsu are against” the radioactive waste disposal project.

In the first phase of the project, which consists mainly of soil investigation, 15 million euros are paid to each of the two municipalities. Fifty-three million in the second phase, which is to be voted on by referendum. The city council can say stop at any time,” says a Numo spokesperson. A vote will validate the continuation of each phase.”

Lack of transparency

But “we want to have access to all the documents: it’s unacceptable,” says Kazuyuki Tsuchiya, who won his case in the Hakodate administrative court last March for lack of transparency on the part of local authorities. The court ruled that the city of Suttsu should publicly share all the minutes of the city council meeting during which the vote for the final storage project was held. The vote for the second phase, originally scheduled for November, has therefore been postponed to a later date.

When contacted, the mayor of Suttsu refused to answer our questions. The Kishida government has announced the restart of 17 of its reactors by 2023 and the probable construction of new ones in the future. The Prime Minister also declared that before each restart, the local population, who live near the said plants, would be consulted. A promise that makes the inhabitants of Suttsu smile bitterly.

November 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

[Nuclear Waste] Two Years After Applying for the Literature Review, the Divide Remains Unresolved in Suttsu Town, Hokkaido, Japan

High-level radioactive waste, or “nuclear waste.

Two years have passed since the town of Suttsu, Hokkaido, applied to participate in a study for the construction of a final repository for this waste.

The first phase of the literature review has reached its climax, but the focus is on whether or not to proceed to the next phase of the survey.

We covered the current situation in Machi.

Salmon landings are at their peak in Sutou Town.

Strong winds blow all year round.

In the fall of last year, when the wind began to turn cold, the town attracted nationwide attention.

(Mayor Kataoka said, “I want to put this nuclear waste on the table.

Mayor Haruo Kataoka decided to apply, so to speak, on his own initiative to the national government’s survey for the construction of a final disposal site for nuclear waste from nuclear power plants.

Nuclear waste has no place to go and cannot even be touched by humans.

After it is mixed with glass and hardened, it is buried in a stratum deeper than 300 meters underground.

It will take 100,000 years for the waste to reach a safe state.

However, for each of the three levels of investigation accepted, the municipality is given a large subsidy.

This was Mayor Kataoka’s goal.

(Mayor Kataoka said, “I heard about this in a study group on the final disposal of nuclear power plants, and I thought it was a pretty tasty grant.

The grant obtained from the literature review was 1.85 billion yen over two years.

Part of the grant is used for personnel expenses for nursery staff, and the rest is set aside as a fund.

For a small town, this is a valuable financial resource.

Kazuyuki Tsuchiya runs a pension in the town.

He has consistently opposed the survey.

(Kazuyuki Tsuchiya) “The gap between those in favor and those opposed is deepening. Those who are in favor of the project have talked to me.

I try not to mention it as much as possible. I try not to mention it.”

The literature survey will soon reach the two-year mark, with the pros and cons remaining divided.

However, with the exception of Kamieuchi Village, where the survey is also underway, no local government has raised its hand.

In the town of Sutto, a referendum will be held to decide whether or not to conduct the next survey, but Mayor Kataoka has not found the right time to do so.

(Mayor Kataoka (last month): “The residents are still anxious. They are anxious in the absence of knowledge.

I frankly feel that things are not progressing very smoothly.

(Mr. Kazuyuki Tsuchiya) “I think that those who are complying with the town’s way of doing things have stopped thinking about it.

(Is the future bright?

(Kazuyuki Tsuchiya) “It is not bright. The darkness is getting deeper and deeper.

There is an expert at Hokkaido University who has been advising NUMO, which is conducting the survey, for many years.

(Professor Tsutomu Sato, Hokkaido University Graduate School) “The literature survey has already started, and I have given advice before that.

The next time the overview survey starts, I will advise them on how they should proceed in this way.”

Discussions with local residents have not progressed well in the town of Sutou.

Professor Sato points out that the reason for this is also on NUMO’s side.

(Professor Tsutomu Sato, Hokkaido University Graduate School) “Right now, NUMO is investigating what they want to investigate for their own purposes.

They may want to know why we can get good oysters here, or why it may have something to do with geology or geological strata.

It is difficult to say whether the research is being conducted in such a way that the residents would want to know about it.

The purpose of a literature review is to compile information for a dialogue that is beneficial to both parties.

If we can do that well, I think we can overcome the hurdle of the literature review.

The debate over nuclear waste has created a deep divide within the town.

Concrete solutions to bridge that divide remain shrouded in darkness.

October 16, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima chemical waste moved to Hokkaido for detoxification

A truck carries waste containing polychlorinated biphenyls to a treatment facility in Muroran, Hokkaido, for detoxification, on Tuesday.

Aug 16, 2022

Sapporo – Highly toxic chemical waste stored near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was transferred on Tuesday to a city in Hokkaido for detoxification, stirring safety concerns among local residents.

The waste, mostly consisting of condensers and lighting ballasts, contains high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls that are harmful to humans, and was disposed of in municipalities surrounding the plant before the 2011 nuclear disaster, according to the city of Muroran.

The waste had been set for detoxification at a treatment facility in Muroran operated by the government-sponsored Japan Environmental Storage & Safety, but the plan was postponed due to the nuclear crisis.

On Tuesday, around 10 people including members of a citizens’ group protested near the facility against the delivery of the waste.

“Once we accept the waste, it will be forced on us again and again,” said the group’s co-leader Sachiko Okura, a resident of Date, which neighbors Muroran.

The Environment Ministry said it had confirmed that radioactive materials in the waste were below safety standards prior to removal. The ministry also said it will measure air dose rates periodically during transportation and treatment.

The toxic compounds, known as PCBs, were used in products such as insulating oil for electrical equipment, but their production has been banned in Japan since 1972 following a 1968 mass food poisoning outbreak. The government has been proceeding with the disposal of waste containing PCBs.

The 1968 food poisoning was caused by rice bran cooking oil produced by Kanemi Soko K.K. that was contaminated with toxic compounds including PCBs.

August 21, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Report on “The Symposium Concerning Geological Disposal of High-level Radioactive Waste from Nuclear Power Plants” held in Kamoenai Village, Hokkaido

by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center · Published August 4, 2022 · Updated August 4, 2022

By Takano Satoshi (CNIC)

In November 2020, literature surveys were launched in Suttsu Town and Kamoenai Village, both in Hokkaido, as part of the official procedures for determining whether the two municipalities were suitable for hosting an underground storage site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. More than 18 months has passed since that time, during which the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), which oversees the selection of the location of the dump site, strived to promote communications with the local residents by arranging “dialogue” events. Although NUMO publicly maintained that the dialogues were not intended to create a local consensus for accepting the storage facility, the reality was that NUMO took the leadership in the move to deepen popular understanding of the geological repository. Some of the local residents and the municipalities concerned were critical of the dialogue events, claiming that such occasions were organized simply for seeking compromises and winning the support of residents for the geological disposal project. [1]

To date, dialogue events have been held eight times in Kamoenai Village. In the events, some participants, such as the members of the events’ steering committee and local villagers, expressed a wish to hear different opinions, not only those of NUMO. In response, NUMO held a symposium concerning the geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste on May 29 in the Kamoenai Village Fishing Center, by inviting experts for and against the geological disposal project. [2] Professor Yoshida Hidekazu of Nagoya University Museum was invited as the expert supporting the geological disposal project, and CNIC Co-director Ban Hideyuki, as the expert against it. This writer accompanied Mr. Ban to Kamoenai to attend the event. 

The symposium was comprised of two sessions, the first concerning policy aspects, and the second technical aspects. As for policy aspects, Mr. Ban pointed out the need to obtain the consent of the prefectural governor before the prefecture’s municipalities apply for the literature survey, in order to avoid confusion and turmoil within the local communities. He also said the government’s offer of subsidies in exchange for accepting the literature survey is not appropriate, since impoverished local governments may not be able to resist the temptation of the subsidies and apply for the literature survey simply to obtain the money. Mr. Ban went on to say that the offer of massive subsidies to small municipalities may create the negative effect of depressing their local industries. In addition, he pointed out the need to determine the types and the amount of high-level radioactive nuclear waste that would be stored in the repository.

Referring to the plan to set a limit on the total amount of nuclear waste to be stored at the disposal site and the determination of the types of waste, Prof. Yoshida said it would be rather difficult to formulate such a precise plan, but added that it would be ideal if it could be done. He went on to say that accumulation of a greater amount of highly radioactive waste would endanger the safety of geological disposal. Although nuclear power generation has the advantage of not emitting CO2, it is exposed to many risks, such as tsunami tidal waves, he added. For this reason, he recommended that Japan should develop other energy resources. There was no disagreement about this point between Mr. Ban and Prof. Yoshida. On the contrary, they agreed that they would make efforts to reduce the amount of nuclear waste and to prevent the restart of nuclear power plants.

 With regard to the technological aspect of geological disposal, Prof. Yoshida introduced the geological phenomenon called “concretion.” This means a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, which is found in sedimentary rock or soil. He then stated, if “concretion” is applied to the construction of the repository, it may be useful for making geological disposal safer.

According to Prof. Yoshida, the geological disposal site will be constructed several hundred meters below ground because the great depth of the ground prevents weathering originating from the ground surface, and serves as a buffer against seismic motion, volcanic activity, fault movements and other types of environmental phenomena on and below the ground surface. The buffer-function level is called the ‘cocoon degree,’ and a high ‘cocoon degree’ signifies an area suitable for creating a repository of nuclear waste.

He pointed out that NUMO must find a high cocoon-degree area based on the technological data collected in the literature survey, and then determine if it is appropriate to proceed to the next stage of overview survey of the area.

Prof. Yoshida also pointed out that the geological characteristic of the Kamoenai area is that it consists of hyaloclastite. Hyaloclastite is lava and volcanic ashes from undersea volcanic eruptions which have been crushed and cooled by seawater and accumulated in the location. The Kamoenai area and the Shakotan Peninsula were formed from hyaloclastite elevated from the seabed. Prof. Yoshida said the main point of the literature survey should be to discover how deep the underground accumulation of hyaloclastite is in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ban said it is problematic that the standards by which construction of the nuclear waste repository would be deemed inappropriate are not clearly stated in the literature survey results. He went on to say that the geoscientific characteristics map gives only an extremely rough standard, and insisted that more exact and stricter standards should be formulated. For example, no volcanic eruptions are predicted on the east side of the “volcanic front” shown in the map, and for this reason he proposed that the repository site should be chosen within that area.

The comprehensive technological report contains a simulation which was conducted on the assumption that a rare frequency event had occurred. The simulation, using transuranic waste (TRU), revealed the possibility that an annual radiation exposure of 4 to 14 millisieverts per annum (mSv/y) might occur at ground level. The report said an annual exposure of less than 20 mSv/y is safe, but Mr. Ban asserted that such a high level of exposure is not safe. According to Mr. Ban, the maximum permissible level of exposure for ordinary people is 1 mSv/y and this level is set by considering the balance between the use of nuclear power and its effect on human health. The probability of the use of nuclear power by future generations is very slim, and setting the maximum permissible exposure level of 20 mSv/y for these future people is ethically impermissible, he added.

One thing that was impressive for this writer during this symposium was that when Kamoenai Village Mayor Takahashi Masayuki delivered the opening and closing speeches, nobody clapped. Generally speaking, when the head of a municipality greets the participants at the outset of a local event, they usually clap, albeit in a formal manner, but no one did so at this symposium. Mayor Takahashi has served as the mayor of the small village with a population of less than 800 people for a long time, and all the villagers know him.

I was unable to find out why the villagers did not clap, because I did not have a chance to ask them, but there is a possibility that his acceptance of the governments’ literature survey made the villagers angry and they are currently very dissatisfied with his behavior. The absence of applause made me feel that way.

As things stand now, I would like to watch the development of this literature survey issue in Kamoenai from a rather critical viewpoint from now on and try to understand the opinions and feelings of the villagers on this problem.

[1] Takano has outlined the problems with the dialogue that NUMO is conducting in a previous article at

[2] The symposium can be seen on YouTube at


August 21, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Hokkaido Electric ordered not to restart its nuclear reactors

Takeichi Saito, who heads the group of plaintiffs, speaks at a news conference after the Sapporo District Court’s ruling on May 31.

May 31, 2022

SAPPORO–In a blow to Hokkaido Electric Power Co., the Sapporo District Court on May 31 ordered that the reactors at its Tomari nuclear plant remain offline.

The utility has been seeking to soon bring the plant back into operation, as surging fuel costs for thermal power plants have pushed down its revenues.

Presiding Judge Tetsuya Taniguchi cited safety concerns in the ruling, siding with a request by more than 1,000 plaintiffs from the area who raised concerns there are not sufficient safeguards to protect it from natural disasters.

“A sea wall required under the nuclear regulations does not exist,” Taniguchi said. “The plaintiffs’ right (to life) could be violated even without judging other points of contention.”

But he dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for decommissioning the plant, saying there is no specific circumstance that would warrant it.

The court ruling cannot force the plant to halt operations unless it is finalized at a higher court.

But it could impact the assessment by the government’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which has been working for nine years to determine if the plant meets the new regulations.

A group of about 1,200 plaintiffs from in and outside of Hokkaido launched the suit against the power company in November 2011, after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in March that year.

They sought a halt to the operation of the plant’s three reactors, arguing that their constitutional rights to life and health would be violated in the event of an accident involving the release of radioactive substances.

The three reactors were taken offline between April 2011 and May 2012 for regular checks and have remained idle since.

Hokkaido Electric applied for a restart in 2013, soon after the more stringent reactor regulations were enforced by the government following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The regulator has in the meantime been assessing whether the reactors meet the new safety standards.

But it is not clear when the assessment will end, mainly due to what the watchdog says is the utility’s lack of experts capable of engaging in discussions on safeguards against earthquakes, tsunami and volcanoes with NRA inspectors.

The central issue in the lawsuit was whether concrete danger should be anticipated by restarting the plant, which is located in the Shakotan Peninsula facing the Japan Sea.

The plaintiffs contended that an active seismic fault measuring up to 100 kilometers exists in waters about 15 km from the plant. They argued that the planned sea wall would not protect the plant from the anticipated maximum height of a potential tsunami strike.

They also said that an earthquake powerful enough to cause such a tsunami would liquify the ground and cause the sea wall to sink. And they contended that the plant is also suspected to sit along an active seismic fault.

With an overall output of 2.07 gigawatts, the plant accounted for about 40 percent of the electricity needs in Hokkaido prior to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But the plant remaining offline does not pose serious problems to the local power supply, partly because new thermal plants went into operation.

June 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | 1 Comment

Court rules against restarting nuclear power plant in Hokkaido

This Sept. 25, 2021 file photo shows Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear power plant in Tomari, Hokkaido.

May 31, 2022

SAPPORO (Kyodo) — A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered a nuclear power plant in Hokkaido to remain offline as requested by over 1,000 plaintiffs due to safety concerns, in a rare decision issued while the operator is seeking permission from authorities to restart the plant.

The Sapporo District Court ruled that Hokkaido Electric Power Co. should not resume operation of all three reactors at its Tomari nuclear plant in northern Japan in the suit filed in November 2011. It marks the third district court ruling for a nuclear plant to be suspended.

But the court rejected that the plant be decommissioned as requested by some 1,200 plaintiffs including local residents, in the first ruling on the scrapping of a nuclear power station.

All three reactors had been taken offline for regular inspections by May 2012 and remain idled, with Hokkaido Electric Power undergoing screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority to restart them under tighter rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

In the latest in a series of similar suits filed since the nuclear crisis, Presiding Judge Tetsuya Taniguchi said the power company has “not provided evidence of the safety” of spent nuclear fuel stored at the plant and the plant does not have adequate protection against tsunami.

The court ruled that in the case of a plant accident, 44 of the plaintiffs who live within a 30-kilometer radius would have their human rights hindered.

Taniguchi added that the court had decided in January to terminate the hearing as the utility was not expected to be able to provide evidence for its claims in the foreseeable future.

“This is the first step toward creating a future without nuclear power plants in Hokkaido. It’s groundbreaking,” said 69-year-old Takeichi Saito, who led the group of plaintiffs.

But Hokkaido Electric Power said it cannot accept the ruling and will “promptly” file an appeal.

The company said in a release that it had repeatedly explained to the court the safety of the plant from both scientific and technical standpoints.

The case is a setback for the government’s efforts to reboot reactors that meet the post-Fukushima regulations after the nuclear disaster led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants and increased dependence on coal-fired and gas-fired power generation.

Japan will likely need to rely on nuclear power to meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions 46 percent in fiscal 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels. As of May 16, only 10 of the country’s 36 reactors have resumed operation under the stricter rules.

The country is also faced with the issue of reducing dependence on Russian coal and gas following Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.

The plaintiffs argued there are active faults near the Tomari plant and in the nearby sea and the operator could be underestimating the size of potential earthquakes when designing the reactors’ quake resistance.

They claimed soil liquefaction could occur around seawalls near the plant in the event of an earthquake and the utility has not taken sufficient measures to protect against tsunami.

The power company countered that there are no active faults around the nuclear complex or in the nearby sea, and that the possibility of soil liquefaction is low.

Other district courts ordered the suspension of the Oi nuclear power plant’s No. 3 and 4 units in Fukui Prefecture in May 2014, and Tokai No. 2 located in Ibaraki Prefecture in March 2021.

However, no rulings over reactor suspension have been finalized. The order on the Oi plant was subsequently overturned by a high court and the Tokai No. 2 case is still pending.

June 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Sapporo District Court orders injunction against operation of Tomari Nuclear Power Plant, rejects request for decommissioning

Plaintiffs and supporters in front of the Sapporo District Court on the afternoon of May 31, 2022, after the ruling to halt the operation of the plant.

May 31, 2022
On May 31, the Sapporo District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by residents of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant of Hokkaido Electric Power Company, demanding an injunction against the plant’s operation and its decommissioning.

 The case was brought by approximately 1,200 residents of the area surrounding the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant of Hokuden, demanding an injunction against the operation of Units 1 through 3, the removal of spent nuclear fuel, and the decommissioning of the plant on the grounds that the plant is not safe enough against earthquakes and tsunami.

 The case has been ongoing for more than 10 years, and arguments have been made as to whether there is an active fault line in the sea near the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant and whether tsunami countermeasures, such as seawalls, are sufficient.

 In the ruling on March 31, Judge Tetsuya Taniguchi of the Sapporo District Court ruled that “the defendant (Hokuden) has failed to explain with adequate data that there is no risk of liquefaction of the ground with regard to the seawall, and that it lacks safety against tsunami and is likely to infringe on the lives and personal rights (life and body) of residents in the vicinity,” and “the danger extends within 30 km of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant. The court ruled that “since the danger is within a 30-kilometer radius of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant, the operation of the plant should be enjoined in relation to the plaintiffs who live within the radius.

 The court dismissed the claim for removal of spent nuclear fuel, stating, “Although the danger is recognized, the plaintiffs are demanding removal of the spent fuel without limiting the destination of removal, and there is a possibility of violation of the personal rights of the residents of the destination area.” The court dismissed the claim on the grounds that “there is no danger” to the defendant. On the other hand, the court ruled that the defendant “must explain the lack of danger with reasonable data.

 The court dismissed the request for decommissioning of the plant on the grounds that “even if individual preventive measures such as shutting down the reactor are necessary, it is difficult to find concrete circumstances that would make such measures necessary until the plant is abolished.

 After the ruling, Hokkaido Electric Power commented, “Although we have explained the safety of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant from a scientific and technical point of view based on the latest findings, we sincerely regret that our arguments have not been understood. We will promptly file an appeal.

June 7, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Sapporo District Court orders Hokkaido Electric Power Co. not to operate Tomari Nuclear Power Plant

May 31, 2022 
The Sapporo District Court has ruled that Hokkaido Electric Power Company (HEPCO) should not operate the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant in the village of Tomari in the Goshi region of Hokkaido, following a lawsuit by local residents and others claiming that the plant is not safe enough against earthquakes and tsunami.

The court ruled that Hokkaido Electric Power Company’s Tomari Nuclear Power Plant reactors No. 1 through No. 3 should be banned from operation, claiming that they are not safe enough. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, claiming that the plant was “unsafe” and demanded that it be banned and decommissioned.

The plaintiffs argued that “the existence of an active fault that could cause a major earthquake was not taken into account, and that the current tsunami protection system is inadequate to prevent tsunamis. The plaintiffs argued that “there is an active fault that causes major earthquakes, but the shaking was not anticipated, and the current levees cannot prevent tsunamis.

At 3:00 p.m. on March 31, the Sapporo District Court handed down its decision, in which Judge Tetsuya Taniguchi ordered Hokkaido Electric Power Co. to stop operating the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant.
The court did not approve the decommissioning of the plant or the removal of spent nuclear fuel, which the plaintiffs had demanded.

All three units of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant have been out of operation for 10 years since Unit 3 stopped power generation in 2012 for routine inspections. The plant has been in a state of shutdown for 10 years.

June 5, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

In desperate search of disposal sites for its nuclear waste, Japan offers poisonous grants to two small villages

Masao Takimoto chez lui à Kamoenai, sur l’île d’Hokkaido au Japon, devant des affiches où l’on peut lire « Non aux déchets nucléaires ».

November 9, 2020

One morning in September, 87-year-old retiree Masao Takimoto was reading the newspaper in his house in Kamoenai when a news story captured his attention, ruined his day and changed the course of this quiet fishing village on the island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan : the mayor of the village of 822 had agreed to a preliminary study to host a disposal site for highly radioactive nuclear waste, for which the Japanese government would award 2 billion yen (€16 million, US$19 million) in subsidies.

Mr Takimoto didn’t waste a single minute. He wrote a letter of protest and delivered it by hand to the mayor’s house. Over the following days, he produced and distributed leaflets alerting others to the dangers of the nuclear disposal site and tried to gain access to the meetings that were being hastily held. His journey to activism resulted in tensions and anonymous threats. Ultimately he was unable to stop the mayor from signing on 9 October an application with the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NUMO), a quasi-governmental body charged with managing Japan’s radioactive waste.

Meanwhile, just 40 km away, another fishing village of 2,900 inhabitants quickly mobilised to prevent their mayor from volunteering for the same study. Suttsu, 40 per cent of whose inhabitants are over 65 years old, announced in August its interest in applying for the large subsidy to combat depopulation. Haruo Kataoka, 71, the town’s mayor since 2001, has been accused of ignoring civil society groups, national anti-nuclear organisations, fishers’ associations, leaders of neighbouring municipalities, the think tank CEMIPOS and even the governor of Hokkaido. The region, a major source of fishing and agricultural resources, has an ordinance opposing nuclear waste in its territory.

“We want to vote on the proposal. We’re worried about our fishing industry. If nuclear waste is stored here and there are problems in the future, we won’t be able to protect the environment or our jobs,” says Toshihiko Yoshino, a fishing entrepreneur in Suttsu. Yoshino processes and sells the local specialty, oysters, young sardines and anchovies. On 10 September, with a group of residents both young and old, he founded the organisation ‘No to Nuclear Waste for the Children of Suttsu.’ They collected signatures to request a referendum. On the eight day they launched a campaign to implement it, in collaboration with civil groups in the region. Their efforts were in vain : the mayor signed the application in Tokyo the following day. The previous morning, a Molotov cocktail exploded at the mayor’s house, an incident that left no one injured.

Someone broke the bicycle that Junko Kosaka, 71, was using to hand out leaflets against the nuclear disposal site. She has been a member of the opposition in the Suttsu council for nine years and laments the tension and discord between neighbours. “The village has no financial problems. There are fishing companies and profitable sales of fish. We receive a large budget from Japanese citizens who support rural areas through the Hometown Tax scheme.” She was surprised by the age of NUMO’s managers, all of whom are elderly, and believes that young people should decide their own future. “I would like the managers to reflect, to rethink nuclear energy. We are a country of disasters.”

Emptying villages and poor employment prospects

Japan is the world’s fourth largest producer of nuclear power after the United States, France and China. Distributed across the archipelago, 54 reactors generated 30 per cent of electricity until 2011. Despite having shut down the majority of reactors following the fatal accident of Fukushima, Japan’s commitment to nuclear energy remains firm, though not without controversy. Nine reactors are still in operation and 18 are waiting to be reactivated to generate 20 per cent of the country’s electricity in 2030.

Since 2002, the government has been looking for a location for a permanent geological repository, concrete structures at least 300 metres below ground that will store radioactive waste for millennia so as not to affect life and the environment. Desperate to solve a global and irreversible problem of the nuclear age, Japan is offering subsidies to encourage localities to host the repository. Small villages with declining populations and uncertain futures are attracted by the promise of money and jobs. The first phase will consist of two years of feasibility research. For the following phase, a four-year preliminary geological investigation, villages will receive an additional 7 billion. The final phase will consist of digging and the construction of the underground facility, a process that will last 14 years. But where is the waste ? “It cools off in overflowing pools while time runs out,” say many frustrated opponents of nuclear energy in Japan.

For decades Japan has been shipping tons of spent fuel to France and England for reprocessing, but the resulting radioactive waste must be returned to the country of origin for disposal by the IAEA. Japan only has a temporary repository (between 30 and 50 years – and half of that time is already up) in the village of Rokkasho, but 40,000 highly polluting cylinders are waiting for a permanent storage (the construction of which could take at least 20 years). The central government must also find storage for low-intensity waste occupying the equivalent of eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Every time a power plant operator uses gloves, a suit or tools, the earth fills with rubbish that contaminates for generations. France, Belgium, Sweden and Spain already have disposal sites for several centuries and Finland has just opened a permanent site in one of the oldest rock formations in Europe.

In 2007, the city of Toyo asked to enter the preliminary study but soon backed out after facing strong local opposition. In 2017, the central government released a map of potentially suitable sites. It ruled out sites near active volcanoes and fault lines, as well as areas with recent seismic activity. A wide area of Suttsu and a small portion of Kamoenai are seen to be favourable. Both locations are very close to the Tomari nuclear power plant, which is currently inactive.

The residents of Suttsu turned to experts for help. On 2 October, Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre came to the town with a renowned geologist to provide information to residents. According to the nuclear expert : “There is no space for the nuclear repository in Suttsu. We have to reclaim land from the sea and there hasn’t been enough research. Our country is not a geologically stable territory.” He says that 200 people attended the seminar, including the mayor “who must have already made the decision.” Is it safe ? “It is not safe, there could be leaks. Currently there is no appropriate technology in the world for handling radioactive waste. The only way to reduce it is to shut down the plants.” So what should be done with the waste ? “More research should be done and it should be buried using deep borehole disposal at more than 3,000 metres below the earth’s surface.”

A debated that is not promoted

Nobody in Kamoenai wants to talk to the press. By mid-morning, the boats have returned and the women are cleaning the salmon for sale. There are empty houses and closed businesses which have seen better days. In the main street, an imposing building is under construction : the new town hall, just opposite the old one. “I’m an employee of the town hall and I’m not authorised to respond,” says one young woman. “I’m not an expert, I can’t give an opinion,” says a young man. “I don’t want to talk, I could lose my job,” says a worried woman. “We have the power plant nearby and nothing bad has ever happened,” says another evasively. Takimoto is the only person willing to speak out without fear : “It’s an obscure and cowardly process, nothing is transparent. The political administration is stifling the voices of the people. It’s strange that the most important thing, safety, isn’t being mentioned. We have to think about future dangers.”

“The government claims that it will be safe for years to come, that’s their argument. But should we believe it ? The experts say the opposite. Just this year, on the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was reading testimonies that made me cry. I have seen the effects of radiation on patients. I don’t want the children of Fukushima or of my village to suffer from it. We have to imagine a village without a nuclear power station or nuclear waste and that’s what I’m going to dedicate myself to,” he adds.

“I’ve been booed at local meetings, but there are people who support me in secret. Many of them pretend to be in favour but deep down they’re not. They don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs, like the relatives of plant employees.” Takimoto refuses to give up. He has offered his experience in the health sector as a resource to help revitalise the town through projects such as medical tourism, but he has been unable to prevent the application from going through.

The Japanese government has welcomed the two locations (Kamoenai and Suttsu) and NUMO’s president expressed gratitude “for the courageous step”. The Minister of Industry said that they “will do their best to win the support of the people.” But the governor of Hokkaido has firmly stated that he will oppose the second phase. Those who oppose the disposal site fear that receiving the subsidies will make it difficult to back out due to government pressure. According to local journalists Chie Yamashita and Yui Takahashi of the Mainichi Shinbun : “Without going into whether or not applying is the right thing to do, there needs to be a debate about the management of radioactive waste and the process of selecting a location.” Everyone consulted for this article is calling for a national debate, which the government has not yet set in motion.

Some residents, like Takimoto, continue to protest : “No to nuclear waste. Life is more important than money.” On the poster, a baby dreams of a world and an ocean without pollution.

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

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

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.

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.

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


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