In February of this year, the town had asked the Chugoku Electric Power Co. to consider a survey and investigation for such a facility, to which the company responded on August 2 that it would do so as part of “new regional development measures to ensure funds for the growth of the town.”

Chugoku Electric Power will now determine the feasibility of locating an interim storage facility at its site in the town and obtain necessary data for specific planning. According to its proposal, the company will carry out a literature survey, conduct boring explorations, among other activities, requiring a half a year or so.

On August 8, Governor Muraoka met Mayor NISHI Tetsuo of Kaminoseki Town at the prefectural hall and was told by the mayor that a meeting of the town assembly would be held to consider the matter—all against the backdrop of a declining and aging population and severe financial circumstances.

At the August 9 press conference, the governor said that he wanted to “watch and see how the matter develops.” He indicated an intention to refrain from speaking about the prefecture’s views at a stage in which Chugoku Electric is considering whether a survey on siting feasibility will be conducted or not. “As the process proceeds,” he said, “the prefecture will keep a close watch, particularly as to the securing of safety, which is its most important concern.”

The governor also suggested that the prefecture would make its final judgment comprehensively, considering, among other things, relationships with neighboring municipalities and grants available from the national government and procedures for applying for them. He recognized the need for an interim storage facility and said that he was concerned about stagnation in the national fuel cycle effort.

As a matter of nuclear policy, he also emphasized that the national government would have to be involved all the way to final disposal.

According to Chugoku Electric, it would be difficult for it to construct and operate an interim storage facility alone. Consequently, it is evaluating the project on the premise that it will eventually be carried out jointly with the Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kansai EP). Chugoku Electric will develop a specific plan based on the results of its survey and investigation.

In 1996, Chugoku Electric, which owns and operates the Shimane Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in Shimane Prefecture, had asked Yamaguchi Prefecture and Kaminoseki Town for permission to construct NPPs in Kaminoseki. In 2009 it filed applications with the national government for permission to install two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) there.

Although work was launched to reclaim a portion of the sea area, that work was suspended due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPPs in 2011.

Since 2012, the company has formally notified the prefecture three times that it was pushing back a completion date for the plants, but no further progress has been made.