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Monday
Mar112013

In Japan, two years after Fukushima nuclear accident, work resumes on new plant

 

OMA, Japan — At the remote northwestern tip of a snowy peninsula, beyond a small road of fishing shacks and empty one-story homes, 600 construction workers and engineers are building a brand-new nuclear plant for a country still recovering from the most severe atomic accident since Chernobyl.

The main reactor building is already at its full height, though draped in heavy fabric to protect it from the wind and freezing temperatures. A 500-foot crane swivels overhead. A completed power line stretches along a nearby ridge, where it might one day carry electricity down the peninsula and back toward the Japanese mainland — a place still fiercely divided over the long-term role of nuclear power.

In the aftermath of March 2011 meltdownsin Fukushima that contaminated 700 square miles with radiation and forced 150,000 to flee their homes, most never to return, Japan’s utility companies paused nearly all nuclear-related projects. The accident sparked a global debate about nuclear power, but it was especially fierce in Japan, where all 50 operable reactors were taken offline and work was halted on three new plants where building had been underway.

But two of the existing reactors are back in action, and the resumption of construction at the Oma Nuclear Power Plant here — a project that broke ground in 2008 and was halted by the operator, J-Power, after the accident — marks the clearest sign yet that the stalemate is breaking.

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