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Bungling, cover-ups define Japanese nuclear industry

Behind Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sits a scandal-ridden energy industry in a comfy relationship with government regulators often willing to overlook safety lapses.

Leaks of radioactive steam and workers contaminated with radiation are just part of the disturbing catalog of accidents that have occurred over the years and been belatedly reported to the public, if at all.

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US spent-fuel storage sites are packed

US spent-fuel storage sites are packed

The nuclear crisis in Japan has laid bare an ever-growing problem for the United States - the enormous amounts of still-hot radioactive waste accumulating at commercial nuclear reactors in more than 30 states.

The U.S. has 71,862 tons of the waste, according to state-by-state numbers obtained by The Associated Press. But the nation has no place to permanently store the material, which stays dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

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No Urgent Changes Seen for U.S. Nuclear Plants

William BorchardtA top official with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that the nuclear crisis in Japan did not warrant any immediate changes in American nuclear plants. The commission’s inspectors at each nuclear site have been told to double-check that emergency precautions mandated years ago were still in place, including temporary hoses and fittings and other last-ditch backup equipment, said the official, William Borchardt, the executive director for operations.

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Stricken Japan plant missed scheduled inspections: filing

Stricken Japan plant missed scheduled inspections: filingThe operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant told safety regulators less than two weeks before disaster struck that it had failed to carry out some scheduled inspections at the facility.

In a report submitted to Japan's nuclear safety agency on February 28, Japan's largest power utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment in the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

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U.S. nuclear plants store more spent fuel than Japan's

U.S. nuclear plants use the same sort of pools to cool spent nuclear-fuel rods as the ones now in danger of spewing radiation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, only the U.S. pools hold much more nuclear material. That's raising the question of whether more spent fuel should be taken out of the pools at U.S. power plants to reduce risks.

The Japanese plant's pools are far from capacity, but still contain an enormous amount of radioactivity, Lyman said. A typical U.S. nuclear plant would have about 10 times as much fuel in its pools, he said.

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Japan Nuclear Disaster Caps Decades of Faked Reports, Accidents

Decades of false reports about Japanese nuclear plantsThe unfolding disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant follows decades of falsified safety reports, fatal accidents and underestimated earthquake risk in Japan's atomic power industry.

The destruction caused by last week's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami comes less than four years after a 6.8 quake shut the world's biggest atomic plant, also run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. In 2002 and 2007, revelations the utility had faked repair records forced the resignation of the company's chairman and president, and a three-week shutdown of all 17 of its reactors.

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Experts Had Long Criticized Potential Weakness in Design of Stricken Reactor

The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972: If the cooling systems ever failed at a “Mark 1” nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.

G.E. began making the Mark 1 boiling-water reactors in the 1960s, marketing them as cheaper and easier to build — in part because they used a comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure.

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