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'Not a nuclear dumping site': mayor rejects plan to store Japan utilities' spent fuel

Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita is seen during a news conference at the city hall after a meeting with Shimizu Shigenobu, the vice chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, on Dec. 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Yudai Hiraka)

MUTSU, Aomori -- The mayor here has objected to a proposal for power companies to share a temporary storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in the northern city, arguing that his community is "not a nuclear dumping site" and that there was "no need" for Mutsu to accept the spent fuel from across Japan.

    Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita met with Shimizu Shigenobu, the vice chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), and a senior official of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in the Aomori Prefecture city on Dec. 18, where the latter pair explained the proposal to Miyashita.

    The city's temporary nuclear storage facility was built on the premise that it would be used to store spent nuclear fuel from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. However, the FEPC wants other utilities that operate nuclear power plants to be able to use the facility as well. FEPC vice chairman Shimizu told Mayor Miyashita, "We want to move forward with considering (the plan) while we make efforts to gain understanding from local residents."

    Miyashita said in response, "We cannot accept a situation where the decision made by Kasumigaseki (the administrative district in Tokyo) is imposed on us one-sidedly. While I understand that a temporary storage space is necessary, an appropriate process should be conducted to look for a place across the country." He also expressed his concern that the temporary facility could become a final disposal site without debate.

    Shimizu also met with Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura and reported to him on the proposal. Mimura responded, "I am only going to hear it out for the time being since it's a new development. The national government needs to come to the forefront to thoroughly explain the matter to the community."

    The motivation behind the FEPC's move to consider the shared use of Mutsu's temporary storage facility stems from developments in Fukui Prefecture. The process of reaching an agreement with local bodies to restart the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in the prefectural town of Mihama, and No. 1 and 2 reactors at Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Takahama -- all of which have been in service for over 40 years -- is moving forward. The Fukui Prefectural Government has told Kansai Electric to present a candidate site outside the prefecture for a temporary storage facility by the end of 2020 as a prerequisite for the restart, and the proposal for the shared use of the facility in Mutsu is aimed primarily at helping Kansai Electric.

    Kansai Electric President Takashi Morimoto said during a Dec. 18 news conference in Tokyo that his company would like to join the shared use plan proactively, and expressed his intension to report the proposal to the Fukui Prefectural Government soon.

    (Japanese Yudai Hiraka, Aomori Bureau and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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