CNIC Statement: Shameless Flouting of Local Ordinances Shows NUMO is not Qualified to “Coexist with the Community”

December 21, 2023

On September 27, in Tsushima City, Nagasaki Prefecture, where there had been moves to apply for a literature survey, the first step in the selection of a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste, Mayor Hisaki Hida announced his refusal to accept the survey, thereby bringing the issue to an apparent settlement. However, the situation has not yet been fully resolved. Several city councilors participated in visits to Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture and Horonobe Town in Hokkaido, at the expense of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO). In the same month, a Tsushima City citizens’ group filed a request for an investigation on the suspicion that the visits violated the provision of Article 3, Paragraph 1, Item 4 of the city’s Political Ethics Ordinance, which states, “Donations from business organizations, etc. that may be criticized from a political or moral standpoint shall not be received in relation to political activities.”

The Political Ethics Review Committee held deliberations five times from October, releasing a report on December 4[i]. According to the report, as the cost of visiting the facilities borne by NUMO “constitutes a donation that may be subject to political or moral criticism” due to the provision of economic benefits, the councilors that participated in the visits are said to have violated the ordinance. Furthermore, it has also been pointed out that there is suspicion that the bearing of costs by NUMO violates the provision in Article 21, Paragraph 1, of the Political Funds Control Act, which states, “Other organizations shall not make donations concerning political activities to persons other than political parties or political fund organizations.”

In response to the incident, NUMO stated on its website that paying the necessary expenses for the tours of the facilities was “essential in order to carry out the project” and that it was “regrettable” that the purpose of the project was not understood[ii]. The website shows no expression of remorse or apology. At the second meeting of the Sub-Committee on Specified Radioactive Waste held on December 11, NUMO expressed its intention to continue inspection tours for local councilors and expressed no remorse for the violation of the ordinance[iii].

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Tsushima City Council held on December 19, the chairperson Hatsumura Kyuzo apologized, saying, “I profoundly apologize for causing trouble.” He added, “As chairperson, I humbly accept the judgment of the review committee. All the members of the council have made a renewed determination to restore confidence in the city council.” In effect, all the city council members who were accused of violating the ordinance accepted the results of the review committee. It was therefore only NUMO which did not accept the judgment of the committee and neither apologized nor showed any intention to reflect on their conduct.

According to media reports, the citizens’ group that requested the investigation will file charges with the Nagasaki District Public Prosecutors Office against the city councilors who supported the literature survey and NUMO officials on charges of bribery[iv]. According to statements by city residents, even after the mayor of Tsushima refused to accept the literature survey, he regularly dined with city councilors who supported it. If this constitutes a factor analysis of the rejection of the literature survey, it would be necessary to hear opinions from both sides. But that’s not what NUMO is doing. It looks much more like NUMO is continuing to foment community divisions.

NUMO has stated, as a basic policy of its management philosophy, that it “values coexistence with local communities” and “aims to be an organization that is trusted by society.” But what community wants to live in harmony with an organization that has no intention of abiding by the law? What community would trust an organization that, even after refusing to accept the survey, would continue to communicate behind the scenes with city council members in favor of the survey? NUMO is not qualified to talk about “coexistence with the community.” NUMO should humbly accept the contents of the Political Ethics Review Committee report and show frank reflection on it. As a proof of this, the inspection tours for local councilors paid for by NUMO should cease forthwith.





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