Town to apply for nuclear waste site survey

A town in the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido says it has decided to apply for a first stage survey by the government for selecting a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

Suttsu Town is now to be the first municipality to apply for the survey since the government released in 2017 a map showing areas deemed suitable in scientific terms to host such sites underground.

Mayor Kataoka Haruo told reporters on Thursday that he made the decision to apply for what is called a literature survey after discussions by all town assembly members earlier in the day.

Kataoka said the town has also gone through meetings to explain its plan to local residents and industry groups.

He said there appear to be many views opposing the plan, but he has also received a considerable number of opinions supporting it.

He said he wants to stimulate discussions on the issue nationwide with the town's move.

Kataoka said he plans to visit the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, or NUMO, shortly to hand in the application papers.

Early in the morning, an object on fire was thrown into the mayor's house. Kataoka said such an act of violence as a way to express discontent should never be condoned.

By filing an application, the town is expected to get up to nearly 19 million dollars in state subsidy. It compares with the town's budget of 49 million dollars in fiscal 2020.

Residents opposing the move have set up a group, which is calling for the town to hold a referendum on the issue and for further discussions.

Meanwhile, the village assembly of Kamoenai, also in Hokkaido, adopted a petition on Thursday to urge the mayor to apply for a survey.

Village Mayor Takahashi Masayuki is expected to make a final decision on Friday.

These applications would finally move forward a long-stalled process to select a municipality to host a final disposal site.