Genkai Town mayor 'in dilemma' over nuclear waste site survey

The mayor of a town in western Japan has told the industry minister that he needs more time to study a government request that his town accept a survey to select a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste.

High-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants is required to be buried more than 300 meters underground as it continues to emit intense radiation for tens of thousands of years.

The law also obliges surveys to be carried out in three stages to select possible final disposal sites.

In April, the Genkai Town assembly approved a petition calling for accepting the first-stage survey. The petition was submitted by three local organizations.

Last Wednesday, a senior industry ministry official visited the town and handed over a letter from the minister to the mayor to accept the survey.

Mayor Wakiyama Shintaro visited Tokyo on Tuesday to discuss the matter with industry minister Saito Ken.

Wakiyama said he is agonizing over the issue now that the ministry's request was delivered to him.

He said since selecting the final disposal site is a very important issue, he needs to deepen his understanding of the matter.

Saito said his ministry will provide more information to help enhance debates among the local population.

After their meeting, Wakiyama told reporters that he has told the assembly that the town will not take the initiative to accept the survey. He said his personal opinion puts him at odds with the assembly's decision.

The mayor also said his town's involvement in the process has attracted national debate over the disposal of radioactive waste.

Wakiyama said he will make his decision later in May.

The first-stage surveys were carried out in two other municipalities in the country.

If the mayor agrees, Genkai would be first town that hosts a nuclear power plant to accept the survey.