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Japan to Prod Atomic Plants to Shift to Dry-Cask Storage: Report

Japan intends to prod its atomic energy sector to transfer used nuclear fuel to dry casks for storage, the Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Nuclear reactors in the country currently store spent fuel rods in on-site pools. That method -- which is also used in the United States -- has been criticized as vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Should the pools' water level drain far enough, an ensuing fire could send large amounts of radiation into the environment.

In the dry-cask storage method, fuel rods that have been submerged in pools for roughly a year are transferred to concrete or metal containers and then relocated inside facilities.

The Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is planning to provide incentive funding to cities to prod them to implement dry-cask storage, according to Nikkei. The sustainment costs of dry-cask storage are reportedly 60 percent lower than pool storage.

An expert task force created last week is expected by the end of the present fiscal year to work out the details of the dry-cask storage plan. The reported change in government policy comes amid a declining amount of available space for pool storage at Japanese nuclear plants and difficulties completing a facility at Rokkasho that was intended to reprocess the spent fuel rods.

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