Friday, February 24, 2012

After Fukushima, Japan's nuclear crisis persists

(Reuters) - On a hillside in northern Japan, wind turbines slice through the cold air, mocking efforts at a nearby industrial complex to shore up the future of the demoralized nuclear power industry.

The wind-power farm at Rokkasho has sprung up close to Japan's first nuclear reprocessing plant, a Lego-like complex of windowless buildings and steel towers, which was supposed to have started up 15 years ago but is only now nearing completion.

Dogged by persistent technical problems, it is designed to recycle spent nuclear fuel and partly address a glaring weakness in Japan's bid to restore confidence in the industry, shredded last year when a quake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi power station to the south, triggering radioactive leaks and mass evacuations.

But the Rokkasho project is too little, too late, according to critics who say Japan is running so short of nuclear-waste storage that the entire industry risks shutdown within the next two decades unless a solution is found. Read More