Tag Archives: Rokkasho

"Hosono Paper" – A Report about Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing – Part 2: "It’ll just heighten chaos."



     This is the continuous article (the former one is here: http://wp.me/p16bjt-nv) about a report of Japan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing project written by a private consultative body of Minister Hosono (for the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accidents). The original article on the Chunichi (August 3) is written in Japanese.

     Let’s look at the environment in East Asian countries on the assumption that the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura of Aomori Prefecture will accept their spent fuel.

     Korea currently has 23 nuclear reactors in operation. They have planned to construct about 20 more reactors and to raise the ratio of nuclear power generation up to 59% by 2030. It is an immense challenge for them to dispose the spent nuclear fuel. Yonhap News Agency, the largest news agency in South Korea, reported last month that Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company had agreed to call on the U.S. to admit reprocessing used fuel in Korea.

     The U.S.- Korean Nuclear Power Pact will decide about the handling of Korea’s spent fuel in two years because Korea imports the nuclear element of uranium from America. If Korea could get the permission to reprocess their used fuel domestically, they would have at least two merits: 1) They could manufacture nuclear fuel by themselves, and 2) it would discourage North Korea, which is moving ahead with nuclear development. But the U.S. is showing reluctance to admit it because they are concerned about the possibility of Korea’s nuclear development.

     There are 15 nuclear power plants operating in China. They will construct more 26 facilities and have a total of 41 nuclear power reactors in three years. They are going to reprocess their spent fuel independently and to build a reprocessor with Areva SA in France.

     Taiwan has 6 plants and there are some possible countries and areas in Asia, such as Vietnam which has decided to import reactors from Japan, to ask Japan to dispose their spent nuclear fuel. But the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura has not completed yet in spite of spending about 2.2 trillion yen.

     Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. announced on July 27th that they had finished the final test to encase high-level radioactive liquid waste after reprocessing in glass. They may solve some technically difficult problems at last, but will not be able to start to operate the reprocessor in October which is their target month. They have not completed the plant for MOX (plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel), either.

     Besides, reprocessing itself has uncertain prospects. The government provides guidelines about the ratio of dependence on nuclear energy in the future and will choose one of these: 1) 0%, 2) 15%, 3) 20~25%. If Japan chooses 1), we will not have any reasons to maintain the reprocessing plant. And if it chooses 2) or 3), we will not only reprocess the spent fuel but also bury some.

     About accepting other countries’ used nuclear fuel, Mr. Takao Ohsawa in Public Relations Office for Nuclear Energy Regions says, “We recognize the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura as the place for reprocessing domestic spent fuel,” and Mr. Shigehiro Ito, the spokesman in the Tokyo Office of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., just comments, “We’re now devoting all our effort to complete the reprocessor.”

     Japan has paid lots of money for disposing its spent fuel to England and France. Some thinks the government tries to earn money as the opposite side in spite of the fact that the reprocessing project has not progressed. Mr. Keiko Takeda, the journalist, says, “Probably the idea of overseas development on the reprocessing plant was born to extend the life of the nuclear fuel cycle project which is on the rocks, but it’s a natural evolution. It has a commercial potential because it’s too costly to reprocess the spent fuel internally for the countries which have a few nuclear power plants.”

     On the contraty, Ms. Masako Sawai in Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center opposes against the recommendation saying, “We don’t have any corroborating technical evidences to reprocess the used nuclear fuel. So we shouldn’t accept other countries’ ones irresponsibly. Does the government think that they can sell nuclear reactors with reprocessing system to other countries?” She also appeals, “The countries which buys nuclear power systems from Japan will have plutonium produced by reprocessing fuel. It’ll be a problem from a standpoint of non-proliferation. We haven’t solved the issue of reprocessing our own spent nuclear fuel yet. We also haven’t progressed handling of the nuclear accident in Fukushima yet. Under these circumstances, the idea will just heighten chaos.”

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


     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?