Fukushima No. 1 eyed as site for nuke fuel graveyard (May 27th)


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Fukushima No. 1 eyed as site for nuke fuel graveyard
The Atomic Energy Society of Japan is discussing a plan to make the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant a storage site for radioactive waste from the crippled station.
Building a repository would cost several trillion yen, Muneo Morokuzu, a professor of energy and environmental public policy at the University of Tokyo, said in an interview Wednesday. The society comprises more than 7,000 nuclear researchers and engineers and makes recommendations to the government on atomic energy policy.
"We are involved in intense talks on the cleanup of the Fukushima plant and construction of nuclear waste storage facilities at the site is one option," said Morokuzu, one of 50 people on a cleanup panel that includes observers from Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
While there has been no reactor explosion at Fukushima, as happened in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, radiation leaks from the meltdown in three reactors have ranked the accident on the same scale as the Ukraine plant. The 20-km exclusion zone around the No. 1 complex since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has forced the evacuation of 50,000 households, extermination of livestock and disposal of crops.
Areas up to 30 km from Chernobyl remain "a dead zone," Mykola Kulinich, Ukraine's ambassador to Japan, said in Tokyo on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the disaster.
Local authorities in Fukushima, 220 km north of Tokyo, aren't aware of a proposal to make the Fukushima station a nuclear waste storage site, said Hisashi Katayose, an official at the prefectural government's disaster task force. He declined further comment.
Building storage for radioactive waste at Fukushima could take at least 10 years, the University of Tokyo's Morokuzu said. Tepco would need five years to complete decontamination work at the reactors, which includes the removal of hydrogen to prevent explosions.
Japan's three storage facilities for highly radioactive waste are at the northern tip of Honshu at Rokkasho and Sekinehama, both in Aomori Prefecture. The third site is at Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.
As the sites are for intermediary use, the nation is still searching for a deep underground storage site for the waste, according to the World Nuclear Association. The selection is due to be completed by 2025 and become operational from 2035, the London-based association said.
About 90 percent of the world's 270,000 tons of used nuclear fuel is stored at reactor sites, mostly in 7-meter deep pools, such as those exposed at the Fukushima site when hydrogen explosions blew the roofs off reactor buildings.
"Intensive discussion is needed before reaching any conclusion on what to do with the Fukushima site," said Tetsuo Ito, head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University. "This is one that the government should take responsibility for and make the final decision."
In the past two weeks, Tepco has said fuel rods in reactors 1, 2 and 3 are likely to have had almost complete meltdowns. That matches U.S. assessments in the early days of the crisis that indicated damage to the station from the March 11 disaster was more severe than the utility's officials suggested.
"Most of the fuel rods melted and damage to the cores is most severe in the No. 1 reactor, followed by No. 3 and then No. 2," Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said Tuesday in Tokyo.
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