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Gov't to lift special designation on 7.7 tons of radioactive waste in Chiba

The Environment Ministry will lift the designation of 7.7 metric tons of waste stored in the city of Chiba that is contaminated with radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as "specified waste," allowing it to be disposed of as regular trash, ministry officials said.

The decision, which is to be executed on July 23, comes after the level of radioactive cesium in the waste dropped below the government's standard of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. It will be the first time for the ministry to lift the "specified waste" designation from waste tainted with radioactive substances from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Though the move will enable waste to be disposed of as ordinary trash, the Chiba Municipal Government is likely to store the waste, as it fears that disposal would cause anxiety to local residents and disposal businesses.

State Minister of the Environment Shinji Inoue met with Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai on July 22 to notify him of the decision.

The Chiba Municipal Government retains 3.5 tons of zeolite and 4.2 tons of incinerated ash at a waste disposal facility in the city's Mihama Ward. The amount of radioactive cesium contained in the waste was above the government-set standard as of March 2014. However, measurements conducted by the municipal government in June show that the radioactive cesium levels in the zeolite and ash had fallen to 6,100 becquerels and 4,020 becquerels per kilogram, respectively.

The Environment Ministry worked out rules this past April under which the designation of radioactively contaminated waste is lifted based on the level of radioactive cesium in the waste. The city of Chiba asked the ministry to lift the designation in June.

The ministry intends to build a specified waste disposal facility in each prefecture, and the city of Chiba hosts one candidate site for Chiba Prefecture. The municipal government urged the lifting of the designation, partly to make it easier for the city to refuse to host such a facility, as it would be without the designated waste in the city.

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