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Genkai mayor ready to accept final disposal facility for nuclear waste

Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto (Mainichi)

Hideo Kishimoto, the mayor of Genkai, Saga Prefecture, that hosts Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai Nuclear Power Plant, told the Mainichi Shimbun on April 26 that he was willing to accept a government plan to build a final disposal facility for highly radioactive nuclear waste in his town.

    The central government is planning to show a location deemed proper for a final disposal site as early as the end of this year. Genkai Mayor Kishimoto said in an interview with the Mainichi, "If the town is shown as a proper place, I would like to hold a briefing session for townspeople and hold talks with the state."

    In 2007, the mayor of the Kochi Prefecture town of Toyo applied for a candidate site for a final disposal facility, but his proposal failed to get off the ground due to opposition. No local governments or heads of municipalities have since openly expressed their positive stance toward hosting a final disposal site. Therefore, the remarks by Genkai Mayor Kishimoto are certain to spark controversy.

    On the occasion of the first anniversary on April 27 of the decommissioning of the Genkai No. 1 nuclear reactor, Mayor Kishimoto spoke to the Mainichi over two interviews on April 21 and 26, clearly stating that accepting a final disposal facility would be "one of the options."

    In a questionnaire survey conducted by the Mainichi in July 2015 of municipalities hosting nuclear plants across the country, the Genkai Municipal Government replied that it would "turn down" if it was asked by the central government to accept a final disposal facility in the town. Regarding this, Kishimoto said, "We were thinking that there was no land to build a disposal site on." He added, however, that partly because a working group of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry showed a method on April 19 of burying a final disposal facility beneath the ocean floor in a coastal area, he changed his way of thinking. "I became positive. I think it is technically possible."

    Kishimoto also said that he has become positive toward accepting a final disposal facility partly because of revenue cuts being caused by reduced subsidies and property tax revenue stemming from the decommissioning of the Genkai No. 1 nuclear reactor. He also said that Genkai registered only 2 to 3 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7 when two earthquakes measuring 7 on the intensity scale hit parts of Kumamoto Prefecture.

    Some Genkai citizens were puzzled by Kishimoto's unexpected remarks. Kido Chushu, 86, who is involved in anti-nuclear activities in Genkai, said, "Can they take responsibility in the future as this is an issue that involves 100 and 200 years from now?"

    Akira Fujiura, a 79-year-old Genkai Municipal Assembly member from the Japanese Communist Party, said, "We must never allow them (to build a final disposal facility). The final disposal of nuclear waste is not an issue just for 10 or 100 years."

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