EDITORIAL: Radioactive waste disposal a challenge without end? via The Asahi Shimbun

The government has changed its basic policy on the disposal of radioactive waste produced during the processing of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants.

This was an invitation-based approach whereby it waited for local governments to volunteer to host a final disposal site for nuclear waste. That policy was pursued for seven years.

Now the government will switch to taking the initiative in selecting candidate sites.

A law that took effect in 2000 created the current program to build a facility to deal with high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. But no local government has offered to host a disposal site except for Toyo, a town in Kochi Prefecture, which later withdrew its application due to fierce opposition from residents.

Japan’s nuclear power generation system, which lacks a plan for final disposal of its radioactive by-products, has been lampooned as a “condominium without a toilet.” Clearly, the government needs to play the leading role in determining a final disposal site.


The only way to prevent an increase in nuclear waste is to initiate a policy of phasing out nuclear power generation. Otherwise, the program will require an expansion of waste disposal facilities.

Another problem with the government’s plan is that it is based on the assumption that the nuclear fuel recycling program, which is effectively bankrupt, will be kept alive.

The government claims the program will help reduce the volume of nuclear waste. Even if it can reprocess spent uranium fuel, however, the program will face the formidable challenge of how to reprocess and dispose of mixed oxide fuel, or MOX fuel, made from reprocessed plutonium blended with uranium.

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