Japanese officials are working to select sites for the permanent disposal of more than 50,000 tons of sewage sludge and incinerated ash contaminated by fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Currently the government allows waste below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium contamination to remain in landfills, but must dispose of waste which contains more than the allowed benchmark.
The main criteria for site selection require that potential candidates feature enough space, roofs to prevent contamination seepage through rainwater, anti-corrosion applications on walls and floors, wells to monitor radioactivity in underground water sources, and a secure premises which should be distanced from residential areas.
Twice this month, Japan’s central government has met severe opposition after proposing a final site for the permanent disposal of ash and mud, as local officials have relentlessly criticized the government for abruptly announcing the decision without consulting the local municipalities during the selection process.
As other similar selection processes are still underway in other prefectures, the ministry has decided in the future to not reveal any of the other potential candidate sites, in order to quell potential unrest in communities still in the selection process.
The issues are not all related to just how the government is carrying out the selection process, but also a lack of trust in what is being said, a worry that the temporary storage locations may end up being more permanent in nature, a lack of transparency and openness from central government officials, just to mention a few.
For the disposal of waste of 100,000 becquerels or more, the government is asking Fukushima Prefecture to keep it at temporary sites within the prefecture, but has stated that it will find permanent disposal sites outside the prefecture within the next 30 years. One potential candidate is the town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture, where it has been recently announced that no residents will be able to return for at least 5 years due to heavy contamination from the nuclear disaster.