Commission recommends revising disposal plans for dangerous nuclear plant waste via The Mainichi

The Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) on Nov. 27 submitted a draft proposal to the government suggesting that plans to “semi-permanently” bury highly radioactive nuclear power plant waste underground be revised in favor of an approach allowing the waste to be retrieved in the future.

Under current plans, highly radioactive nuclear waste that remains after reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is supposed to be solidified with glass and then cooled aboveground for 30 to 50 years before being inserted into metal containers to be stored some 300 meters or more below the ground’s surface for tens of thousands of years.

The JAEC, however, says that current plans do not properly reflect the latest scientific expertise or make an effort to achieve a shared awareness with the public on the issue.

Citing difficulties in guaranteeing the stability of geological layers tens of thousands of years into the future and the possibility of more stable disposal areas and better disposal methods being discovered in the future, the JAEC proposal says the government should evaluate the necessity and significance of making it possible to retrieve such waste in the future.

Under the current approach, it will remain possible to retrieve and transport highly radioactive nuclear waste for several decades before tunnels are blocked off, but government plans have made no mention of this.
From 2002, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan has called for local bodies to host nuclear waste disposal facilities, but there have been no applications besides one from the Kochi Prefecture town of Toyo in 2006 (which was later retracted). Even literature-based research has failed to move forward. No country in the world has actually started disposing of high-level radioactive waste underground.

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