Underground nuclear waste disposal facility locations difficult to locate in Japan

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NUMO Radioactive Waste Disposal Method
A model of the NUMO nuclear fuel cycle. (Courtesy of NUMO)

All of Japan’s nuclear reactors are offline, but that is not stemming the debate about what to do with the nation’s stockpile of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NUMO) is the organization responsible for constructing the disposal facilities for nuclear waste materials.

They are working to design, construct, and operate an underground storage facility nearly 4 square miles in area, which would be operated for 50 years and monitored for 300 years after being shut down.

The organization is funded by every utility in Japan which operates a nuclear power plant, who pay a fee based on how much nuclear waste each produces in a year.

NUMO has been working to solicit communities across Japan which would be interested in hosting an underground repository, but has been unable to find any willing parties despite the billions of dollars in subsidies that would be awarded.

NUMO Waste Storage Facility - Japan
A model of the NUMO nuclear waste storage facility design. (Courtesy of NUMO)

This week NUMO submitted a proposal to a government-commissioned panel of experts which proposed new methods for choosing locations for burying radioactive nuclear waste.

The government panel of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is comprised of experts in seismology, volcanoes, and groundwater who have been discussing the methods of selecting sites which will host an underground nuclear waste repository.

The panel approved the guidelines proposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization on Monday.

Not all of the experts agreed that nuclear waste could be safely stored underground and requested further discussions on the matter.

Current guidelines in Japan stipulate that nuclear waste storage facilities should not be located near active geological faults, within 15 kilometers of volcanoes or nuclear reactors, in areas where the ground has risen in a thousand feet in elevation in the last 100,000 years, or in locations where water could permeate.

Once the guidelines have been approved the central government will use them to screen and identify candidate sites to host a future repository.

According to the Mainichi news publication in Japan, some 70% of Japan does not meet the criteria proposed.  This would greatly hinder the ability to locate host locations, because many areas have been resistant to being considered as host locations.

Instead of being able to use a scientific method for selecting the best sites from a wide range of available locations it seems the Japanese government will instead be forced to choose from a small pool of locations which meet the criteria and have a willing host prefecture.

On the same day the central government denied a request by the governor of Fukushima Prefecture to introduce new legislation which would prevent Fukushima Prefecture from being a host of any final repository facilities.

Source: Mainichi

Source: Asahi Shimbun

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