Series of Ordinances Rejecting Nuclear Waste in Communities around Suttsu Town and Kamoenai Village, Hokkaido

By Ban Hideyuki (CNIC Co-Director)

A literature review has been initiated for Suttsu Town and Kamoenai Village in Hokkaido, which is the first stage in the process to host a high-level radioactive waste repository. There had been strong opposition in Suttsu Town to the mayor’s intention to apply for the literature review, with signature drives and direct requests for local referendum ordinances, but the assembly vote was tied, and the presiding officer resolved it in favor of the mayor, who filed the application.

Following that, on March 26, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) established the “NUMO Suttsu Exchange Center,” “NUMO Kamoenai Exchange Center” and “Sapporo Office” to provide support to the two centers. All are permanently staffed. NUMO’s “Interactive Activity Plan” involves “conducting activities continuously to deepen mutual understanding among all of the citizens of the communities for which the literature review is undertaken, while establishing various forms of interaction for building a symbiotic relationship and striving to gain the communities’ trust.” They will confront the opposition “with a strong will to ‘materialize deep geological disposal enterprises without fail’.” NUMO’s basic policy, revised in 2015, states “It is important that the affected citizens be provided educational opportunities continually regarding final disposal enterprises, so NUMO and the national government will continuously and appropriately support provision of such educational opportunities, including ensuring access to diverse opinions and information from experts and others.” What is really happening would be better described as the onset of full-scale inveiglement. In response to this, on March 8, an ordinance was passed in Suttsu Town for a public referendum prior to initiation of the preliminary geological investigation.

The town’s mayor, Kataoka Haruo, proposed an ordinance to hold a local referendum before the detailed geological investigation, but an amended bill was presented for holding the referendum before the preliminary geological investigation, and that was approved. It seems there is deep-rooted distrust among the citizens, who had sought to hold the referendum prior to applying for the literature review.

Ordinances refusing to allow radioactive wastes to be brought in were passed on December 15, 2020 in Shimamaki Village and on March 16, 2021 in Kuromatsunai Town, which are both adjacent to Suttsu Town. A similar ordinance was passed on March 12 in Shakotan Town, which is adjacent to Kamoenai Village. There are slight differences in how these “refusal ordinances” are worded, but in all cases, they say, “We will not allow radioactive wastes, etc. to be brought into our village (or town) under any circumstances. Neither will we accept any investigations regarding the disposal or storage of or research, etc. on radioactive substances or the construction of such facilities.”

In Rankoshi Town, the assembly passed a resolution by unanimous vote on March 18 refusing to allow radioactive wastes to be brought in. According to media reports, there are even movements seeking a resolution to have nothing to do with nuclear matters whatsoever, and a signature drive in which nearly half of the town’s citizens participated turned the tide toward the refusal resolution.

While both NUMO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) were fully aware that agreement by the residents had not been obtained, and despite there being ordinances among Hokkaido’s regulations that make it “difficult for Hokkaido to accept” special radioactive wastes, they accepted the applications and made their offers. With the case being that no literature reviews have been embarked on since the enactment of the Final Disposal Act in 2000, it could be said that they were eager to create results showing even a little progress had been made. Such behavior deserves severe criticism.

Map of Japan showing municipalities which have ordinances refusing radioactive waste

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