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4 cities withhold info on ash disposal
The Daily Yomiuri(Tokyo)
July 6, 2012

CHIBA–Four cities in Chiba Prefecture have stopped disclosing the names and locations of companies charged with burying incinerated ash from ordinary debris, which contains radioactive cesium, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Thursday.

Matsudo, Abiko, Nagareyama and Narita are cities in the prefecture where relatively high levels of radiation were detected following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The four cities, which ask companies to collect incinerated ash, said they made the decision because disclosing such information would cause fierce opposition from people living near disposal companies and final disposal sites.

Since the public has expressed serious concerns over the disposal of radioactive ash, the procedures for disclosure of such information will likely become more important, observers said.

The Matsudo municipal government disclosed in its fiscal 2011 general waste disposal program the names of four municipalities where private final dump sites used by ash collecting companies were located.

In its fiscal 2012 program released in April, however, such information was missing.

Abiko disclosed the names and locations of disposal companies until last year, but the companies’ names were crossed out in black in its document for this fiscal year.

Nagareyama started releasing the names of companies that rejected incinerated ash beginning last July. This fiscal year, however, it did not release the names of firms newly contracted to bury the ash.

Narita also did not disclose the names of such companies, though it did so last fiscal year.

The Waste Disposal Law obliges municipalities to map out a disposal program with basic information such as the details of companies that deal with waste materials.

The four cities’ documents on ordinary waste disposal programs are available for public viewing.

Last fiscal year, the documents of the four cities listed a total of eight municipalities in seven prefectures as places hosting final dump sites.

Currently, the ash being buried outside the four cities meets the radiation safety standards set by the central government at 8,000 becquerels or lower per kilogram–an acceptable level for a landfill.

To justify the decision to avoid disclosing information on disposal sites, an official of the Matsudo government said, “Local governments that accept the ash may be criticized by their residents, which could hinder their work and make them decline to accept the ash.”

The other three cities also referred to possible opposition from local residents as reasons for their decisions.

Meanwhile, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned that Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, and Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, accepted incinerated ash from Matsudo.

The two cities and ash collecting companies have explained the situation to residents, giving information on the source, concentration of radioactive materials and other details.

The identity of other local governments accepting the ash remains unknown.

In Chiba Prefecture, some local governments have never disclosed the names of companies that dispose of the ash.

Because the four cities released the names of such entities until last fiscal year, their policy changes have attracted scrutiny.

Ichikawa, a city adjacent to Matsudo, started disclosing some companies’ names last year.

“People pay a lot of attention to waste disposal matters,” said the official of the municipal government that stated all the names of companies charged with waste disposal this fiscal year.

“Local governments can make their own decisions on what they choose to mention in the documents on their disposal program. But we think it’s best for them to state the names of companies they ask [to dispose of incinerated ash],” said an official of the Environment Ministry’s waste division.

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