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Gov’t unveils map of potential final nuclear waste disposal sites

TOKYO — The Japanese government unveiled Friday a map indicating potential deep-underground disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, identifying that coastal areas are “favorable” while those near active faults are unsuitable.


Based on the map, the government is expected to ask multiple municipalities to accept researchers looking into whether they can host sites to dispose of waste left by nuclear power generation. But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated amid public concerns over nuclear safety following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.


The map, illustrated in four different colors based on levels of the suitability of geological conditions, was released on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.


Energy minister Hiroshige Seko said earlier Friday that the unveiling of the colored map is an “important step toward the realization of the final disposal but also the first step of a long road.”


Taking the map as an opportunity, “we hope to have communications (with municipalities) nationwide and earn the understanding of the public,” he said.

“The map is not something with which we will seek municipalities’ decisions on whether to accept a disposal site,” Seko said.


For permanent disposal, high-level radioactive waste must be stored at a repository more than 300 meters underground so that it cannot impact human lives or the environment.


Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields, which are potential drilling sites, are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics” and colored in orange and silver.


Areas other than those are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.


Also among the potential areas, zones within 20 kilometers of a coastline are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green.


The ministry formulated standards for classification in April.


Japan, like many other countries with nuclear plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological disposal repository, while Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have decided on final disposal sites.

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