First-stage survey begins in western Japan town for nuclear waste site

A first-stage survey to choose a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste has begun in a western Japanese town that had accepted the study.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, or NUMO, announced on Monday that it launched the survey after authorization by the industry ministry.

Genkai Town in Saga Prefecture accepted the first-stage document survey last month. The town hosts a nuclear power plant.

Genkai is the third municipality in the country to accept this type of survey, following Suttu Town and Kamoenai Village, both in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.

A 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.

Under the survey, officials will analyze activities of volcanos and faults among other factors. They will examine related documents to check whether there are improper locations for construction of a disposal facility. The survey is expected to take about two years.

A scientific map released in 2017 by the central government shows that most areas in Genkai are assumed to be unfavorable for the disposal site because the areas may have deposits of coal -- an underground resource.

NUMO says the map broadly shows areas where resources can exist, and that it is not confirmed that there are resources throughout the areas.

NUMO also says it is setting up an office in the town and will hold meetings and other exchange activities with local residents.

NUMO President Kondo Shunsuke said in a statement that the organization will carefully explain to residents the technology and safety of underground disposal, as well as the progress and results of the survey.

He added that NUMO will answers questions posed by local residents.