Image shows the government's map of places thought to be suitable for nuclear waste disposal. Dark green = favourable conditions. Light green = moderately favourable. Orange = geologically problematic (due to presence of active volcanoes and geological faults, etc). Silver = least favourable due to possible mineral resources, including oil/gas fields.
Municipalities across Japan look set to reject a Japanese government nuclear waste map indicating places throughout the country that it believes are potential sites for disposing of nuclear waste, such as spent fuel and other waste such as that produced in the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima.
The color-coded map, which is ambiguously titled a "Scientific, Specialised Map," indicates areas where highly radioactive nuclear waste could be entombed underground for an estimated 100,000 years.
Of Japan's 1,750 municipalities, around 900, all of them coastal or within 20 km of the coast, were labelled as favourable. Among those labelled as unfavourable are places where active volcanoes exist, or active geological faults have been confirmed -- 600 of which are indicated on the map. Not included in the "favourable" areas are places where there may be, but have yet to be scientifically confirmed, other geological faults.
Fukushima was deemed unfavourable, but only because it was thought a nuclear waste disposal site would to be too heavy a burden for a populace still reeling from the 2011 disasters, where multiple reactor meltdowns and explosions resulted in the evacuation of around 160,000 residents.
According to an article in the Japan Times, the general response to the map and the proposed sites from municipalities in Hokkaido in the far north to Okinawa in the South was "not in my backyard."
According to notes accompanying the map, which was announced by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) yesterday, any nuclear spent fuel sent to the sites would first be stripped of its plutonium and uranium content before being mixed with glass and solidified. It would then be placed in metal casks and buried underground at depths of 300 meters. The sites themselves are estimated to take 100 years to complete.
Any nuclear waste would be transported to the new sites, once approved and built, by road and ship. Municipalities agreeing to house the dump sites would receive compensation payments of 10 billion yen per year for the initial land surveys and 20 billion yen per year for further followup surveys.
As mentioned in "Yoshida's Dilemma," Japan commenced its nuclear energy policy without having any facilities to deal with nuclear waste, which mostly results from "spent" nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants. Plutonium and uranium extracted from that spent fuel was originally targeted for reprocessing, and an early facility to do just that was built in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, which was the site of a nuclear disaster in 1999 that killed 2 people. Tokai's successor, Rokkasho, has hit numerous snags since its scheduled start in 2013 and remains inactive.
In addition to Fukushima, Aomori has also been excluded from the favourable list due to the northern Japanese prefecture's hosting of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.