News Navigator: What is the 'specified waste' from the Fukushima accident?
Final disposal facilities for "specified waste" from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster are planned for construction. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about this waste.
Question: What is "specified waste"?
Answer: Sewage, straw, grass, ash from burned trash, and other waste with radioactive cesium concentrations of over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Radioactive substances spreading from the Fukushima plant have contaminated the environment, and to reduce the impact on people's lives as soon as possible, the national government has taken responsibility for disposing of the specified waste according to a special measures law created for the disposal of radioactive waste.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the construction of "mid-term storage facilities" has become a problem, but those are somewhat different from final disposal facilities. Those storage facilities are to temporarily hold specified waste or contaminated soil that exceeds 100,000 becquerels per kilogram in landfills.
Q: Can final disposal facilities be built anywhere?
A: No, the special measures law dictates that the prefecture where the waste comes from must dispose of it. The relevant prefectures in this situation are Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Chiba, Niigata, and Tokyo. The national government wanted each prefecture to set up final disposal facilities using existing facilities, but in Miyagi, Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki and Chiba Prefectures, new facilities will have to be made, as these prefectures either do not have their own waste facilities or they need them in their current state. By the end of this month, the national government will notify each prefecture of the candidate sites for new facility construction.
Q: Why is Yaita, Tochigi Prefecture, objecting to the Sept. 3 designation of a national forest there as a construction site?
A: In April, vice-environment minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu visited the prefecture to ask for cooperation in the construction, and he received some amount of understanding. However, the Yaita city government says that the national government's announcement of the forest as a candidate site came suddenly, with no prior explanation. The national government conducted careful preparations like carrying out surveys on ground properties, to look for the presence of rare animals, and the locations of dams and water sources, but the Yaita city government says it was not informed at all about that process.
Q: What condition is the designated waste in now?
A: As of August, there were around 42,575 tons across the nine prefectures. Currently the designated waste is spread across various locations where it is being temporarily held. There are problems with this, as further temporary storage of burned trash ash, for example, will become difficult if processing of the waste does not proceed. This could lead to a halt in operations at trash burning facilities and a halt to garbage collection.
Regarding the final disposal facilities' construction, in addition to having a concrete foundation beneath a concrete floor where the facilities will hold the waste, the national government is stressing that it will work to prevent airborne leakages of radioactive materials by having a concrete lid on top. However, local opposition to construction of the sites is expected, and an explanation of a clear, long-term view from the national government is desired. (Answers by Shun Iwakabe, Utsunomiya bureau)
September 22, 2012(Mainichi Japan)