Restart of nuclear facilities and policy for nuclear waste disposal in Japan unlikely to be settled soon

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In Japan, utilities are working to restart idled nuclear power plants across the nation and regain public support post-Fukushima.  The Nuclear Regulation Authority, a newly established regulator, set new safety standards in July of 2013 which call for greater preparedness in regards to severe accidents, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

So far, 7 utilities have applied for regulatory officials to conduct safety screenings required to restart 9 plants.  Officials still say that none of the plants are ready to restart because utilities have not adequately revised their estimations of potential earthquake activities.

This week, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority told reporters that there was no time limit on how long the safety screening process might take.

Even if operators are able to pass safety screens, they still need to obtain consent from local governments before the reactors can be restarted.

The task will not be easy in a nation which before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had very little experience with management of severe accidents. The challenge is even greater considering the fact that the most experienced members of the workforce are aging and the new workforce has little to no prior experience with nuclear power.

As a nation Japan still has to revise a basic policy for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste.  While government plans call for storage in deep underground repositories, experts caution that finding such locations in Japan will be difficult due to the seismicity of the area and lack of public trust.  So far, no municipalities have come forward with any candidate sites.

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