The quasi-state press organ “The Mainichi Daily News” has drawn out the straw to be today’s promoter of M. Hosono’s decision to spread the radioactive waste throughout Japan. Contrarily to the Mainichi’s title “Making Tohoku region final repository site for all nuclear waste simply not fair”, it is only fair because Tohoku received massive subventions through the years in exchange of hosting the nuclear power plants. Besides, fairness is a childish and irresponsible argument to the face of the extreme danger and urgency faced by Japan and the world at large. Transporting waste outside of Tohoku will only make the whole country unhabitable. Furthermore, if an accidental spill occurred in this natural disaster prone country, it would be another foreseeable environmental disaster come true. Unfortunately, M. Hosono will get his way and we can only prepare and avoid as much as possible the sludge destinations (cf. “Official Declaration of Irradiated Sludge Spread” on SurvivalJapan).
The Mainichi article / government propaganda is reproduced hereafter :
When candidates running for the post of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) president were giving a joint press conference on Aug. 27 in Tokyo, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan was in Fukushima bowing apologetically to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.
“I have no choice but to ask that Fukushima Prefecture host an interim storage facility for nuclear waste and contaminated soil,” Kan said.
“What are you talking about? This has come out of nowhere,” Sato responded.
Toshio Seya, the head of the Fukushima Chamber of Commerce and adviser to Toho Bank, witnessed the melodramatic negotiations. Later, at a round-table meeting with reporters, Seya said, “Tokyo is the beneficiary of the nuclear power plant. Why not build (a radioactive waste storage facility) in Tokyo’s Odaiba district?” (The comment was published in the Asahi Shimbun’s Aug. 31 morning edition.)
Although shadowed by the drama of changing prime ministers, the above anecdote points to a serious problem that both anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear camps must face: where to store nuclear waste, at least for the time being.
Massive amounts of spent nuclear fuel are accumulating at nuclear power plants across Japan. On average, 64 percent of waste storage capacities at power plants are currently utilized. At old nuclear power stations, like those in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures, the figure is close to 90 percent, based on a survey conducted by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) for 2009.
Nuclear waste was supposed to have been reprocessed to be used again as fuel, if things had gone according to the government’s 2005 Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy. But neither the prospects for recycling facilities nor fast-breeder nuclear reactors are good. And Japan has no final repositories. This is where the interim storage facilities come in, to buy time — several decades — until new technology is established to handle the problem on a more permanent basis.
Kan made the trip to Fukushima that day because he foresaw that leaving the task to the new prime minister would further delay the treatment and disposal of radiation-tainted soil and rubble. In appealing to the Fukushima governor for his cooperation in hosting a waste facility, Kan promised that it would only be used to store waste from within the prefecture, and also that it would not become a final repository for such waste.
There are two possible ways in which the new prime minister can go forward. The first option is to build up as many faits accomplis as possible, and eventually force the disaster-stricken Tohoku region to take on all nuclear waste. The alternative is to divide the responsibility of storing spent fuel among all prefectures.
A 23-page document titled “The Problem of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle’s Back End” argues that the recycling of spent fuel is impossible and that the burden of storing nuclear waste must be shared by each prefecture. It also suggests giving prefectures the capacity to buy or sell storage amounts with each other. The document reads like a sequel to another document that was released years earlier.
That document is “The 19 trillion yen Invoice,” a 25-page document critiquing the nuclear fuel cycle that caused a stir among government ministries in the spring of 2004. It had been written by a fringe group of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) bureaucrats who charged that the funds earmarked for the pointless bank-end stages of the fuel cycle totaled 19 trillion yen.
The construction of temporary storage sites for radiation-contaminated waste in the disaster-stricken region is unavoidable. The spent fuel in Fukushima cannot be transported elsewhere. However, taking advantage of such circumstances to make the Tohoku region a final repository of nuclear waste created around the country is simply unfair.
There was a time when the economy was booming and the government could afford to spend extra. Back then, compensation payments were routinely given out to resolve conflicts and contradictions. A bit of that practice still lingers, but the government no longer has the means to dole out massive amounts of cash anymore.
Looking back on the negotiations and discussions between the central and Fukushima Prefectural governments, one anecdote from 2009 stands out. A member of the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly asked how spent nuclear fuel would be treated, and when. A representative from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) responded, “That is something that is up to each operator (power company).”
This is apparently the sentiment of METI’s mainstream bureaucrats. Meanwhile, the new prime minister has not made any mention of the fuel cycle’s back end. Will he be able to rectify the mainstream’s irresponsibility, rigidity and decadence, and thereby alter the direction in which we are headed? Or will he retreat into the security of the status quo out of fear of turmoil? (By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
(Mainichi Japan) September 5, 2011