2016 New Year's Message to NUMO Staff from the President

Dear Colleagues,

Happy new year to you all. I hope you celebrated the start of 2016 in good spirits with family and friends. Now that we’re a few days into the new year of “丙申”(hinoe-saru) in the oriental astrological calendar, it’s good to look ahead and think about what this year may bring us. As “hinoe” conveys a meaning of increasing abundance and “saru” suggests a time of growth and progress in material things and new activities, I would like to say that this year should be a year in which NUMO will continue to re-invent ourselves and innovate our activities so as to take a significant step toward the fulfillment of our mission. But before elaborating this point further, a quick look back.

In accordance with the Basic Policy on the Final Disposal of Specified Radioactive Waste that was revised in May 2015, the Government and NUMO promoted activities to gain understanding of the importance and safety of the deep geological disposal (DGD) of radioactive waste from the general public in the various municipalities. The discussion of scientifically suitable areas was also carried out in an advisory council on the final disposal of specified waste.

In the Inter-Ministerial Council on this matter held in the end of the year, it was reported that the public understanding about the DGD of radioactive waste has disseminated gradually while there were still various concerns and anxieties on the DGD among the public. Regarding the scientifically suitable areas, it was reported that a significant progress was made on the discussion of geo-scientific factors to distinguish such areas for siting a deep geological repository (DGR), while the discussion of suitability from the social scientific viewpoint was to start soon.

Reviewing this situation, the Council decided that; first, the Government should promote the following activities proactively in close cooperation with relevant administrative agencies; 1) gaining public understanding on the importance of the implementation of the DGD; 2) enhancing dialogue activities in municipalities to the stage of reviewing the merit and demerit of siting a DGR; and 3) finalizing the discussion of factors for distinguishing the scientifically suitable areas.

Second, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission will evaluate progress in these activities for realizing a DGR, and third, the Government should aim at announcing the scientifically suitable areas by the end of 2016 after making sure that the public and the residents in such areas understand that the announcement is a first step of a long road toward the decision of the site for a DGR and would accept the announcement without excessive reaction.

In response to the above decisions, NUMO announced its determination to make utmost efforts to enhance diverse activities we have initiated in the year for finding municipalities that would accept the geological survey of their areas from the viewpoint of suitability for siting a DGR, in close collaboration with the Government and the electric power companies.*

This is where we are. Accordingly, the main goal of our activities in this year is to enhance a) understanding of the public as well as diverse communities in municipalities on the importance of both realizing a DGR and showing the public’s respect and gratitude to the communities that volunteer to participate in the process for the siting of a DGR in order to help society solve the problem, and b) interest of residents in municipalities in the suitable areas in accepting geological surveys to ensure the feasibility of siting a safe DGR in their areas. It is also essential for us to prepare ourselves sufficiently for promoting open and transparent dialogue with interested groups of the public and when a municipality accepts the survey, making the survey and the preliminary safety assessment of a DGR located in the area and performing, in close cooperation with the municipality, a study on socio-economic effects associated with the construction and operation of a DGR.

The siting of a DGR in Japan is a very first challenge technically and socially. NUMO needs to be recognized by the public as a group of trustworthy experts for implementing a DGR, and be accepted as the organization the local communities can coexist with for pursuing sustainable development of the communities. I will strive to strengthen NUMO technologically and organizationally. This will only be possible with your continued dedication and teamwork. Primarily in your own business but equally across our organization.

To close my message, I encourage all of us to keep focused on our priority of creating trust bonds with the public, maintaining our office filled with brightness and vibrancy.

January 4, 2016
Shunsuke Kondo
President of NUMO

*Go to the topic on December 18, 2015.