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Japan: Fukushima Nuclear Clean-Up To Span 40 Years

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According to Japan’s roadmap, the first two years will entail removing spent fuel rods from storage pools. (Image: Dan Candea)
According to Japan’s roadmap, the first two years will entail removing spent fuel rods from storage pools. (Image: Dan Candea)

WORLD

  • Japan sets 40-year roadmap to clean up the wrecked Fukushima
  • Fukushima plan will use robots and other new technologies to navigate hazardous waste
  • Tepco shares drop as a result of potential ramifications stemming from debt it has incurred

The Japanese government has released a 40-year plan that local officials feel is highly ambitious to clean up and decommission the Fukushima nuclear plant.

After being hit by both a debilitating tsunami and earthquake earlier this year, Fukushima was rendered out of commission and injured nearly 160,000 victims. However, Japan’s detailed 40-year plan should eventually return the surrounding area back to normal.

During a recent press conference, Japan’s nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono commented on the aggressive timetable stating that “no country has ever had to clean up three destroyed reactors at the same time” and called it an “unprecedented project.”

Hosono further told reporters that the challenges that lie ahead were not totally predictable, but that Japan “must do it even though we may face difficulties along the way.”

According to Japan’s roadmap, the first two years will entail removing spent fuel rods from storage pools in the same buildings as the damaged reactors.

However, perhaps the most difficult part of the process will be to remove the melted fuel, which is anticipated to take 25 years and require both robots and new technologies that have yet to be developed.

Tokyo Electric Power Shares Drop

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) shares dropped nearly 10% after news of the utility possibly being nationalized to avoid collapse due to the billions of dollars it is expected to cost to fully decommission Fukushima. According to the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan’s government may acquire over two-thirds of the utilities shares through its Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund.

Information from an unidentified source said to be familiar with the Fukushima plan claims that the governmental fund may invest nearly $13 billion to obtain stock as well as potential bank loans of the same amount.

Tepco, however denies such claims.

Key Statistics – Nuclear Energy in Japan (source: World Nuclear Association; Nov 30, 2011)

  • In mid 1996, Japan began operating its first commercial nuclear power reactor and within 7 years nuclear energy became a national priority.
  • Until now, 30% of Japan’s electricity was supplied by its 50 main nuclear reactors, and prior to the recent reactor meltdown this number was expected to increase to at least 40%.
  • Nearly 84% of Japan’s energy must be imported.

By Laurie Juliano-Bachara for
Laurie Juliano-Bachara is a Chicago-based writer who covers the latest topics in professional services, entertainment and business news.

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