Town to Receive Radioactive Waste; Long-Term Policy Uncertain
ROKKASHO, Japan (AP) _ A ship carrying 14 tons of nuclear waste was idling outside this northern port Tuesday, refused permission to land by a Japanese governor who wants a promise the waste won’t be stored permanently in his prefecture.
Protesting the shipment of reprocessed Japanese waste from a facility in France, about 100 people near the port carried banners saying ``We don’t need nuclear waste″ and ``We don’t allow nuclear garbage into Rokkasho.″
``It is almost criminal to force such dangerous materials on people who have nothing to do with it,″ said one demonstrator, Buddhist monk Eijo Yamato.
Gov. Morio Kimura of Aomori Prefecture, or state, blocked an attempt by Japan’s government to make a permanent storage site out of the holding facility in Rokkasho, designed to hold waste for 50 years.
But Japan hasn’t found a permanent site, and Kimura won’t let the transport ship Pacific Pintail can’t land until he’s satisfied that site will be somewhere else, according to Kanji Fukuta, the prefecture’s top nuclear policy official.
The ship was idling just outside the port early Tuesday, and authorities said it would anchor there.
At the wharf, a 150-ton crane stood in a fenced-off area, surrounded by police and waiting to unload the waste. An anti-nuclear activist was arrested Monday after he spray-painted ``Nuclear NO″ on the crane in red letters.
Japanese government officials in Tokyo wouldn’t comment early Tuesday, but the Science and Technology Agency scheduled a news conference for later in the morning.
Japan doesn’t have the facilities to reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel, so it sends the waste to France and Britain. The reprocessed material is then shipped back to Rokkasho, a town of 11,000 people 325 miles northeast of Tokyo.
The shipment Tuesday, made up of 28 cylinders of waste mixed with glass, is just the beginning of a process intended to ship 3,000 such cylinders from the reprocessing plant in Cherbourg, France.
Environmentalists say Japan should have worked out its long-term policies before accepting the return of the waste, and warned that the ships could be targeted by terrorists. Several nations banned the Pacific Pintail from their waters.
Energy-poor Japan has adopted an aggressive nuclear program. Of Japan’s 49 reactors, 38 are in operation, supplying about 28 percent of the country’s electricity. Others are undergoing repair or regular inspection.
Critics say Japan’s vulnerability to seismic disasters _ from earthquakes to volcanoes _ make it a dangerous place for nuclear power plants.
There are at least two active faults underneath the government-owned Rokkasho nuclear facilities, and cracks in the concrete around the port and nearby roads are still visible from a magnitude 7.5 earthquake last December.
Rokkasho also is known for its vast marsh, which could mean a weak land structure and underground water system, factors that could endanger the safe storage of radioactive materials.