TOKYO – The Japanese government unveiled on Friday a plan for the long-term storage of highly radioactive waste from the disaster-struck Fukushima and other nuclear power plants in the country that involves placing the waste in underground repositories in coastal areas.
The government hopes to begin talks with local authorities in September to get their approval for the repositories after explaining the technical advantages and logistics of every area and gaining the understanding of the citizens, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said at a press conference on Friday.
However, this seems unlikely in the face of the reluctance displayed by several regional governments and citizens of areas chosen earlier to temporarily house repositories for waste with medium or low levels of radioactivity from Fukushima.
The plan drawn up by the government includes parts of the Japanese archipelago designated more favorable on account of their geological conditions.
Around 900 locations have been identified as the safest places to store the waste, most of which are along the eastern coast of the main island of Honshu, including the Tohoku region, devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as the islands of Shikoku and Hokkaido.
In contrast, the areas designated as unfavorable are those located near seismic faults and hence more prone to earthquakes, or those with logistical access challenges.
Fukushima prefecture has not been considered as a possible site for the repositories as it is still in the process of reconstruction after the 2011 nuclear disaster, according to the document published by the ministry.
The repositories will be located at a depth of around 300 meters (984 feet) and will be designed to last for around 10,000 years to match the long life of radioactive isotopes, according to the data of the ministry, which has put the budget to build and maintain the facilities at around 3.7 trillion yen ($33.2 billion).
Japan has so far failed to finalize a deadline for a definitive long-term solution for its highly radioactive waste.
The technical difficulty of this process is compounded by the fact that the Fukushima accident was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and has increased the public’s sensitivity to radioactive waste while also posing enormous challenges and huge costs for the country.