Sasebo city pushes Japanese to dispose of radioactive waste on U.S. bases
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — In an effort to ease concerns over low-level radioactive waste from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami currently being stored at U.S. military installations across Japan, the Sasebo City Assembly is sending a letter to the Japanese government asking them to expeditiously dispose of the materials in their city.The letter — which is being sent to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as well as the ministries of defense and foreign affairs — includes a demand for more information about the waste, after city officials only recently found out about the materials through media reports.“It is the government’s understanding that the low-level radioactive waste poses no threat but we cannot be definitely sure that there is no danger and we need to take away any anxiety of the residents here,” said assembly spokesman Koji Imazato. “We are expecting a response [to the letter]. We wouldn’t be sending it if we weren’t.”Following the disaster in northeastern Japan, the U.S. Navy dispatched 22 ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel to assist in search and recovery efforts as radiation spewed from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese government asked U.S. officials to store work clothes, towels, and rags used to wipe down aircraft that had flown into the affected region until they could be disposed of properly, Navy and city officials have said.In addition to Sasebo, similar waste is being stored at Misawa Air Base, Yokota Air Base, Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Kawase said.In Sasebo, the materials are stored at one of the base’s outlying fuel facilities, according to city officials.The radiated materials are sealed and constantly monitored, according to city officials and base commander Capt. Charles Rock. Rock said the materials pose no threat to public safety and contain less radiation than a dental X-ray.“There is no risk to public health,” Rock said earlier this week. “We will continue to work with the government of Japan [until the materials are disposed of],” Rock said earlier this week.He said he had not been given a timeline on its disposal.The Japanese ministry of foreign affairs is working with the U.S. embassy, U.S. Forces Japan, and other groups including the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on a plan to deal with the waste, said ministry spokesman Kazuhiro Kawase. Kawase declined to comment on the letter as government officials had not yet received it.“The government and TEPCO will deal with the matter responsibly as soon as possible,” he said.