Japan govt. asks town to accept survey for underground nuclear waste site

Japan's industry minister has asked a town in the west of the country to accept a first-stage survey to choose a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste.

The move came five days after the assembly of Genkai Town, Saga Prefecture, adopted a petition calling for accepting the first-stage survey submitted by three local organizations.

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

On Wednesday, a senior industry ministry official handed a letter from the minister to ask for the carrying out of the survey to Genkai Mayor Wakiyama Shintaro.

The mayor said he is taking the assembly's adoption seriously, and that he will consider a response.

It is the second case that the central government has requested a local government to accept the survey, following the first for Kamoenai Village in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido in 2020.

The first-stage survey is conducted after a local government applies for it or accepts a request by the central government.

Genkai Town hosts a nuclear power plant. A survey would be the first of its kind in a municipality where a nuclear power plant is located.

Such surveys were carried out in Hokkaido's Kamoenai Village and Suttu Town.

Several other town mayors had shown their intention to accept the survey. A municipality accepting the first-stage survey will be paid a subsidy of up to 2 billion yen, or more than 12 million dollars. None of them officially accepted the survey after facing local opposition.

The central government wants to increase survey sites, as securing places for disposal has been long considered one of Japan's biggest challenges for the country's nuclear power industry.