CNIC Statement: We Strongly Protest the Government Proposal to Genkai Town to Conduct a Literature Survey

May 1, 2024

On 1st May 2024, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) requested Genkai Town in Saga Prefecture accept a literature survey in the area for selection of a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. On April 15th, three local organizations in Genkai Town submitted a petition to the town council requesting that a literature survey be conducted, the petition being adopted on April 26th at the town council plenary session by a vote of six out of nine in favor and three against. This is the first case of a petition being adopted by the council of a local government where a nuclear power plant is located. It seems that this request by the government is aimed at encouraging the mayor of the town, Mr. Wakiyama Shintaro, to accept the survey. At CNIC, we have three concerns for strongly protesting against this government action and request immediate withdrawal of the proposal.


The first concern is that this could lead to an unjust oppression of the voices of the people from surrounding cities and outside the prefecture who oppose the council’s decision. Thus far, citizen groups in neighboring municipalities, such as Karatsu City, have submitted requests against a literature survey to be carried out in Genkai Town. People who joined the protests held in front of the town hall included those from other and neighboring prefectures such as Fukuoka. People such as the governor of Saga Prefecture, Mr. Yamaguchi Yoshinori, and the governor of Nagasaki Prefecture, Mr. Oishi Kengo, have also both opposed the proposal. In a situation like this, where there are strong opposition voices, as stated above, the government’s action in making an offer to the town council is very likely to cause community conflicts to worsen.


The second concern is Genkai Town council’s insufficient discussions and poor decision making. While the town council invited officials from METI and the organization responsible for the literature survey, the Nuclear Power Environmental Improvement Organization (NUMO) to receive explanations, they have not invited any experts who are critical of geological disposal and took a vote on the matter just eleven days after the petition was submitted. This is in stark contrast to Tsushima City Council in Nagasaki Prefecture. Last August, the Tsushima Council was also discussing a petition on a literature survey. Unlike Genkai Town council, however, they invited experts from both sides to give explanations. Discussions were held over several months until the question was out to the vote. Genkai Town’s unique regionality as host to a nuclear power plant, where the people are highly sensitive about the nuclear power plant and it is hard to raise voices against nuclear power policy, seems to be one of the causes behind of this poor decision making. At the same time, the government’s attitude, seeing this situation as an opportunity, is facile and they are unable to escape criticism that they are behaving in an irresponsible manner.


The third concern is about the safety of geological disposal in Genkai Town. On The Nationwide Map of “Scientific Features” drawn up by the government, most of the area of Genkai Town is color-coded in grey, which indicates the existence of mining resources. In other words, the area has already been considered to have a relatively low aptitude for geological disposal due to the mining potential of coal. It is assumed that METI has an interest in conducting an accurate survey to discover if recoverable reserves have current economic value. As stipulated in the government’s “Evaluation Approach for the Literature Review Phase” written in November last year, the mining potential of minerals is decided by their current economic value.


However, judging the mining potential of minerals based only on current economic value is a mistake. Methane gas accidents used to occur frequently in coal mines all over Japan. Safety is the first priority of nuclear waste disposal, and specific safety concerns due to the presence of mineral resources in the ground should be included in evaluation criteria. If stringent safety standards were applied, Genkai Town would be removed from the list of proposed sites for geological disposal. The very fact that Genkai Town was able to become a proposed site shows extreme disrespect for safety.


The government has stated that it is necessary to share gratitude and respect towards people in municipalities which accepted surveys. Still, by making this proposal, the government is about to repeat its bad habit of stirring up divisions in local communities by using grants as a financial incentive to lead people in a particular direction, together with immature discussions for promotion of a disposal site survey. This clearly shows the government’s true intentions. Instead of trying to arouse public interest in nuclear waste disposal, the government is attempting to impose burdens on regions suffering from economic decline and locations where nuclear power plants are sited. The price we have to pay for this government approach is a disregard for democracy, a lack of attention to safety, and a waste of survey costs, which are paid for from our electricity charges. CNIC demands that the government immediately withdraw the proposal and reconsider engaging in discussions that lead toward fundamental changes in disposal site policy. 


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