Japan Ships Uranium-Contaminated Soil to U.S. for Disposal
TOKYO Japan's nuclear research and development agency on Monday shipped uranium-contaminated soil to an undisclosed location in the United States for disposal, officials said.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency sent 290 cubic meters (10,150 cubic feet) of radioactive soil from the port of Kobe, part of 3,000 cubic meters (105,000 cubic feet) of contaminated soil from a uranium ore plant in western Japan, said Atsushi Oku, an official of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology which oversees the agency.
He declined to disclose the destination of the ship, but Kyodo News agency said it was headed for Everett, Washington.
The soil will be sent to a company which will extract the uranium, Oku said, declining to give the name of the company.
However, the watchdog group Citizen's Nuclear Information Center said the soil would be sent to a company in Utah.
In 1988, abnormally high levels of radioactivity were found in soil in Yurihama in Tottori prefecture (state), where the agency's predecessor had a plant which extracted uranium from uranium ore for enrichment, according to the CNIC. In 2004, Japan's Supreme Court ruled that the contaminated soil must be removed.
Officials had been looking for a place inside Japan for disposal of the soil, but could not find a suitable location, Oku said.
Japan currently does not have facilities to dispose of radioactive byproducts from uranium enrichment.
CNIC criticized the move, saying that "countries which are unable to handle their own radioactive waste are not qualified to produce such waste."
Source: Associated Press