Japanese Geological Disposal Program

Timeline of Japanese Geological Disposal Program

In the Japanese program for nuclear power generation, the safe management of the resulting radioactive waste, particularly vitrified high-level radioactive waste (HLW) from fuel reprocessing, has been a major concern and a focus of R&D since the late ‘70s. The Second Progress Report on R&D for the geological disposal of HLW (H12 report) was published after two decades of R&D activities and showed that disposal of HLW in Japan is feasible and can be practically implemented at sites which meet certain geological stability requirements. The report supported government decisions that formed the basis of the “the Act on Final Disposal of Specified Radioactive Waste” (Final Disposal Act), which came into force in 2000. The Final Disposal Act specifies deep geological disposal of HLW at depths greater than 300 meters, together with a stepwise site selection process in three stages.
Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) was established in October 2000, as a corporation authorized by the Final Disposal Act, with the remit to implement a project for the geological disposal of HLW. NUMO initiated the siting process with open solicitation of volunteer host municipalities for exploring the feasibility of constructing a final repository. This open solicitation approach was announced in December 2002 and information packages were sent to all municipalities in Japan.
The Final Disposal Act was revised in 2007 to include TRU* waste for geological disposal: some types of long-lived, low heat-generating waste from fuel reprocessing and other processes in the nuclear fuel cycle. It is destined for geological disposal and thus fell within the remit of NUMO.
*: radioactive waste containing transuranic radionuclides