CNIC Statement: We Protest the Rash and Unilateral Moves to Revise the Basic Policy on Final Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste

February 8, 2023

According to media reports, relevant ministry officials presented the coalition parties (LDP and Komeito) with a proposed revision of its basic policy on the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste on February 2, 2023. Among the proposed changes are the creation of an interagency liaison meeting, a forum for discussions with heads of local governments that have close ties to nuclear power, and the government making overtures to local business organizations and councils before local governments can make a decision on whether or not to accept a final disposal site.

This reflects the instructions of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a Green Transformation (GX) Implementation Council meeting held on December 22, 2022 to make all-out efforts to expand the areas in which literature reviews are to be conducted. During this period, however, high-level radioactive waste policy has not once been discussed by the Working Group on Radioactive Waste (WG), a council of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that has been conducting discussions on high-level radioactive waste policy. The raison d’être of the WG has thus been placed in severe jeopardy. We strongly protest the government’s action of rashly and unilaterally drafting a revision of the basic policy containing crucial content.

It is clear just how outlandish this move to revise the basic policy is when it is compared to the previous revision, drawn up in May 2015. The radioactive waste WG was established in July 2013, and repeated discussions on the revision of the basic policy were held from the beginning, with METI, the WG secretariat, preparing the draft revision after summarizing the contents of the discussions. Limitations on the WG discussions at the time included the small number of members opposed to nuclear power and the lack of careful deliberation that prevented members from freely setting their own agendas and engaging in deep and satisfactory discussions. Nevertheless, at the time of the 17th WG meeting held on February 17, 2015, the revised draft of the basic policy was also published on the METI website, and the discussions were broadcast over the Internet.

In contrast, it can only be said that the Kishida administration’s current process for revising the basic policy is arbitrary and undemocratic, completely ignoring the discussions on radioactive waste in the WG. Satoshi Takano, a CNIC researcher, is also a member of this WG, but was not informed of the contents of the proposed revisions. The draft revisions were also not disclosed to the public on the METI website and were shared only with the ruling parties. This is should be seen as secretive, closed-door politics by the government and the ruling parties. If such a draft revision of the basic policy, completely lacking in fairness and careful deliberation, is rashly finalized and the search for areas to conduct literature reviews is made accordingly, it is abundantly clear that the tragedy of community divisions, similar to the one that has occurred in Suttsu Town, Hokkaido, will be repeated. The government should immediately withdraw the revision proposal and begin again by initiating discussions in the radioactive waste WG. Further, the establishment of a more just, transparent and legitimate decision-making process based on participation and careful deliberation by the public and diverse stakeholders is a necessary requirement.

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