Japan may bury nuclear waste, despite its earthquakes and hard-to-predict underground movements of water and molten rock, the Associated Press reports.
Entombed storage is one option under investigation at the Horonobe Underground Research Center, a government-subsidized laboratory located 1,150 feet below the surface of Japan's northern Hokkaido prefecture, AP said in a Monday article. The facility is examining possible methods to prevent any release of stored atomic-reactor waste for up to 100,000 years.
Tokyo is weighing the construction of a $35 billion underground site to receive spent nuclear fuel once it has been blended into glass, encased in steel and cooled for up to half a century at Japan's above-ground Rokkasho complex. Under the tentative plan, the island nation would load the potential site to capacity by the year 2100.
Identifying possible hosts for such a site has proved difficult, however. Residents of Horonobe, the small town at which the underground research complex is located, have aired concerns about the lab becoming a waste-storage facility if the country fails to find an alternative.
"There is no guarantee this test site won't turn into a final repository," area resident Satoshi Sumi said.
Laboratory chief Kazuhiko Shimizu said Horonobe so far appears capable of safely handling waste. He argued that finding another host location would take two decades.
Japan's nuclear-waste concerns could become more urgent if it drops a plan to recycle material to generate weapon-usable plutonium for civilian reactors, according to AP. Such a move may cause the nation to amass even more spent fuel.
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