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Gov't OKs decentralized storage of radioactive waste

In a policy shift, the Environment Ministry agreed with the Ibaraki Prefectural Government and municipal governments on Feb. 4 to separately store high-level radioactive waste and other designated trash generated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in 14 cities and towns in the eastern Japan prefecture.

    The waste includes radioactive materials of over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. The accord reflects a change in government policy to build one solid disposable site each in Ibaraki and four other prefectures, where such waste is still abundant nearly five years after the Fukushima disaster.

    Shinji Inoue, state minister of the environment, said after talks with officials from the Ibaraki Prefectural Government and the 14 municipal governments that the central government will maintain its policy to integrate radioactive waste storage in Miyagi, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures but will try to deal flexibly with these prefectures depending on their respective conditions and requests.

    The Environment Ministry separately announced a new policy on procedures for lifting radioactive waste designations. If such waste's density drops below the safety standard of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram due to natural attenuation, the environment minister can lift the designation and cities, towns and villages concerned can dispose of such waste like any other garbage at the central government's expense. The procedures apply to all municipalities which currently store designated waste.

    The Environment Ministry told the Ibaraki Prefectural Government that it approves of separately storing a total of about 3,500 tons of high-level radioactive waste and other designated garbage at 15 locations in the 14 cities and towns in the prefecture. The ministry also told the prefecture that it will strengthen safety measures for storage sites such as covering them with concrete walls at its expense, conduct briefings for local residents and take steps to promote the economies of host municipalities and fight against harmful rumors. There were no dissenting opinions from the Ibaraki officials.

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