At a time when Japan is announcing the restart of seventeen nuclear reactors by 2023, the question of radioactive waste management arises. In Suttsu, a landfill project is under study, to the great despair of the inhabitants.
Miki Nobuka, 50 years old, says she learned that the project of nuclear waste burial was validated while she was buying her bread.
Ouest-France Johann FLEURI. Published on 03/11/2022
“We don’t want our village to become a garbage dump,” say Kazuyuki Tsuchiya and his wife Kyoko. This couple of septuagenarians runs an inn in Suttsu, located on the island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan. This village of 2,800 souls, 78% of which is made up of forests, is picturesque and is located between mountains and the sea.
It is here that a nuclear waste storage project has been taking shape since 2020. Suttsu and the neighboring village of Kamoenai (800 inhabitants) were the only ones to apply to the Radioactive Waste Management Corporation (Numo), created by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the electricity companies, and were selected to receive, within 20 years, the 19,000 tons of radioactive waste piling up in the country’s power plants, particularly in Fukushima Dai-chi and Rokassho in Aomori, where storage capacity is saturated.
In Japan, between the villages of Suttsu and Kamoenai, which have applied for the radioactive waste burial project, is the Tomari nuclear power plant. In Japan, between the villages of Suttsu and Kamoenai, which have applied for the radioactive waste disposal project, is the Tomari nuclear power plant.
Although Suttsu officially submitted its application, the inhabitants feel that they were not consulted and accuse the municipal council of having made the decision alone. Miki Nobuka, 50 years old, says she learned that the project was approved while she was buying her bread. This mother has been campaigning ever since to “stop it for our children”.
More than 50% of the inhabitants against
According to Kazuyuki Tsuchiya’s calculations, “more than 50% of the inhabitants of Suttsu are against”. Not having had access to the details of the project, “the council makes heavy decisions in plenary sessions”. The residents feel betrayed and angry. “The mayor wants to take advantage of the subsidies to develop the city, but we don’t want it,” he says.
According to Kazuyuki Tsuchiya’s calculations, “more than 50 percent of the residents of Suttsu are against” the radioactive waste disposal project.
In the first phase of the project, which consists mainly of soil investigation, 15 million euros are paid to each of the two municipalities. Fifty-three million in the second phase, which is to be voted on by referendum. The city council can say stop at any time,” says a Numo spokesperson. A vote will validate the continuation of each phase.”
Lack of transparency
But “we want to have access to all the documents: it’s unacceptable,” says Kazuyuki Tsuchiya, who won his case in the Hakodate administrative court last March for lack of transparency on the part of local authorities. The court ruled that the city of Suttsu should publicly share all the minutes of the city council meeting during which the vote for the final storage project was held. The vote for the second phase, originally scheduled for November, has therefore been postponed to a later date.
When contacted, the mayor of Suttsu refused to answer our questions. The Kishida government has announced the restart of 17 of its reactors by 2023 and the probable construction of new ones in the future. The Prime Minister also declared that before each restart, the local population, who live near the said plants, would be consulted. A promise that makes the inhabitants of Suttsu smile bitterly.