Rokkasho is a village in Aomori prefecture, on the northern tip of the Japanese main island of Honshu, some 700 km north of Tokyo. It is the nuclear capital of Japan. Since 1993 a nuclear waste processing factory has been under construction here. It is scheduled to start operation around the middle of 2005. Its stated objective, the recycling of uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, makes no economic sense. Recycled nuclear materials are more than an order of magnitude more expensive than freshly mined uranium. The cost of the plant alone (some 2.1 trillion yen at the latest estimate) would buy enough uranium at current world market prices to supply Japanese uranium needs for 144 years. It's like burning paper money to keep your house warm...
Rokkasho also hosts a tempory storage facilty for nuclear waste, to be processed here once the waste facility starts up.
Furthermore there is a uranium fuel enrichment facility using centrifuge technology. Production costs at the enrichment facility are at least 20% above those of foreign competitors.
Last but not least, Japan is bidding for Rokkasho to become the site of a worldwide nuclear fusion research facility. For Japan to outbid its competitors in Europe it will have to offer billions of dollars more in tax payers' money for the project. Nuclear fusion is unlikely to become a commercial source of energy for several more decades. Even then it will produce more nuclear waste. Fusion reactors are exposed to intense neutron radiation, turning the materials highly radioactive. Tritium, one of the two components of the fusion fuel, is a volatile and radioactive gas that penetrates even metal walls.
Monju Problems: A thread that started before the 1995 Monju accident and outlined the problems in detail.
The Tokaimura Accident: About the 1999 accident in the JCO nuclear fuel factory.
TEPCO Scandal: Power company punished for faking critical safety check.
The Mihama Accident: A burst steam pipe in a Japanese reactor that killed 4 workers had not been inspected for 27 year.