"Hosono Paper" – A Report about Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing – Part 1 : Reprocess other countries’ spent nuclear fuel, too?

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     This is an article of the Chunichi (August 3) on a report of the nuclear fuel cycle plan written by a private consultative body of Mr. Goshi Hosono, the Minister for the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accident. The original is written in Japanese.

     The nuclear fuel cycle program of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in Rokkasho-mura of Aomori Prefecture is an unavoidable issue amid the discussion of nuclear power dependence ratio. Despite of the fact that the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant remains incomplete, a report which is an attempt to extend the plan in the name of internationalization has been submitted to Minister Hosono. It demands a drastic reform, but also mentions the acceptance of other countries’ spent nuclear fuel.

     The report is called “Hosono Paper” and written about the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura. The title is “The verification and reformation of nuclear fuel cycle”. It claims that the government should lead the discussion about the nuclear fuel cycle program and advance the reform boldly. The nuclear fuel reprocessing plant has not completed yet since it started 19 years ago, and “Monju” the fast-breeder reactor also has not been finished after spending 27 years trying to use it actually. So, the report preaches about the need for the verification of the management structure and the business strategy of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. In addition, it advocates the internationalization of nuclear fuel cycle, and demands considering that the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura can accept spent nuclear fuel from other countries such as Korea and Vietnam, which is going to start nuclear power generation newly, from the viewpoint of international non-proliferation and the peaceful use of atomic energy.

     Minister Hosono’s private consultative body made the report at the end of May. The leader of the organization is Mr. Tetsuya Endo, 77, who used to be an ex-diplomat and the chairman of the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He says, “I suggested the internationalization of nuclear fuel cycle project at an argument with Mr. Hosono at the end of last year, when he asked me to think about it mainly internationalization.” Then he started a study group with other three specialists to examine the issue of the nuclear fuel cycle.

     “Without reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel, where can we bury them here in Japan?” Mr. Endo and his group members suppose promoting the nuclear fuel cycle project, and suggest that the government should be involved in the management reform because they think that the executive officers from power companies of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. and Japan Atomic Energy Agency have little sense of belonging to their companies in their report.

     About the internationalization, it will be very difficult. Japan needs the agreement from America because of the Japan-U.S. nuclear energy pact, and Korea won’t agree to reprocess their spent nuclear fuel in Rokkasho-mura since they want to accumulate the technology. Moreover, it is necessary to gain a consensus from Aomori Prefecture, too. However, they think there is a possibility to internationalize the reprocessing by involving IAEA because they believe that the number of nuclear power plants will increase in mainly developing countries and the problems of spent fuel will be more serious in the near future.

     After the accident in Fukushima, many people are demanding no-nuke society. But Mr. Endo and his group say it is unrealistic not to operate the reprocessing plant because Japan already has lots of outstanding spent nuclear fuel. Besides they claim that Japan is the only country which has got the permission for reprocessing among non-nuclear nations. They warn that Japan would never have the right if the country once let it go. Can “Internationalization” become a rationale for continuation of the nuclear fuel cycle amid growing demand for denuclearization?

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