Town assembly in western Japan adopts petition for nuclear waste site survey

A local assembly in western Japan wants its town to take an initial survey for consideration to become a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. It has taken a step to petition for a first-stage survey as part of the selection process.

The assembly of Genkai Town in Saga Prefecture on Friday approved the petition by a majority vote with six members in favor and three against.

The town hosts the Genkai nuclear power plant that is operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company.

It is the first time that an assembly of a municipality hosting a nuclear power plant has adopted a petition calling for a first-stage survey.

A Japanese law requires high-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants to be buried more than 300 meters underground, and also requires surveys to be carried out in three stages to select possible final disposal sites.

A municipality accepting the first-stage survey will be offered a subsidy of up to 2 billion yen, or about 12.5 million dollars.

The petition was submitted to the town assembly by three local groups --- an accommodation operators' association, a restaurant business association and a disaster management council.

Before the vote on Friday, assembly members opposing the petition said that they do not think deliberations have fully been carried out, and that the vote should come after the town residents widely understand the issue.

Members in favor of the petition pointed out that there has already been high-level nuclear waste in the town, and stressed that it is an issue the country must resolve.

The town mayor is set to make the final decision on whether the town will accept the first-stage survey. Mayor Wakiyama Shintaro indicated he will make his position clear next month.

Meanwhile, the governor of Saga Prefecture, Yamaguchi Yoshinori, told reporters that he has no plan to accept the final disposal site in the prefecture. Consent by the governor is required to move onto the second-stage survey.

Yamaguchi said he will watch discussions in the town, and that he hopes that people throughout the country will also think about challenges related to the matter.