AUDIO Japan’s nuclear safety record criticised by regulator http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/connect-asia/japans-nuclear-safety-record-criticised-by-regulator/1132464 17 May 2013, Japan’s nuclear watchdog has refused to give the go-ahead to commission an experimental fast-breeder reactor due to safety concerns. The Monju reactor in the Fukui prefecture has been closed for almost two decades after a leak and a fire in 1995.
The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority has blasted Monju’s operator for its lack of a safety culture, saying it deserved severe action.
The decision comes as dealing with Japan’s stockpile of nuclear waste becomes more urgent. Reporter: Karon Snowdon Speakers: Professor Andrew O’Neil, Director of the Griffith University Asia Institute; Hajime Matsukubo, International relations director of Tokyo’s Citizens Nuclear Information Centre
Concern in US as Japanese nuclear reprocessing plant completed http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3760280.htm Mark Willacy reported, May 16, 2013 TONY EASTLEY: It’s taken more than 20 years and $20 billion to build, and in a few months time Japan’s state-of-the-art nuclear reprocessing plant will be ready for operation.
The Rokkasho plant in far northern Japan will be capable of turning used nuclear fuel into eight tonnes of plutonium a year, although the Japanese say this weapons-grade plutonium will be used for power generation only.
That hasn’t soothed American concerns though. It’s worried about the security of the plutonium stockpiles and the risk that the new plant could stoke a nuclear race in the region.
North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy was given an exclusive look inside the Rokkasho nuclear complex. MARK WILLACY: In the spring sunshine, Keiko Kikukawa tends to her daffodils. The winter snow has finally melted up here in Japan’s far north and her fields are beginning to burst with colour.
When Keiko Kikukawa isn’t selling her flowers, she’s campaigning to uproot what she sees at the biggest pest in this district – the Rokkasho nuclear complex a few kilometres down the road.
“First of all, Rokkasho village has become a dump for radioactive waste from around Japan,” she tells me. “If there was an accident it’d be catastrophic,” she says.
Keiko Kikukawa is talking about the sprawling Rokkasho nuclear re-processing plant.
Its operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited, has spent two decades and $28 billion building the facility……Japan has 17,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel sitting in pools across the country. If Rokkasho is given the green light to begin operation, it can turn this fuel into eight tonnes of plutonium every year.
The problem is, this eight tonnes of plutonium will be weapons-grade – meaning it could theoretically be used to make nuclear bombs…..
NRA wants Monju to remain shut downhttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/05/14/national/nra-wants-monju-to-remain-shut-down/#.UZQmBqJwpLt Lapses seen in JAEA checks of key reactor components KYODO, STAFF REPORT MAY 14, 2013 The Japan Atomic Energy Agency committed grave safety errors in managing the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture, and top officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Monday they plan to make sure it stays closed.
The closure order to the government-linked JAEA will effectively dash any hope of trying to restart the reactor by year’s end, dealing another setback to Japan’s long-stalled plan to set up a nuclear fuel recycling system.
In September, the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency carried out surprise inspections and determined that JAEA failed to regularly check key components of the experimental 280,000-kw reactor, as required by internal rules. Read more »
Is Japan Developing a Nuclear Weapons Program? By Peter Symonds Global Research, May 07, 2013 Huge reprocessing plant could be used to stockpile plutonium for the future manufacture of nuclear weapons.The Wall Street Journal published an article on May 1 entitled “Japan’s nuclear plan unsettles US.” It indicated concerns in Washington that the opening of a huge reprocessing plant could be used to stockpile plutonium for the future manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The Rokkasho reprocessing facility in northern Honshu can produce nine tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium annually, or enough to construct up to 2,000 bombs. Read more »
Tokyo’s ability to both enrich uranium and reprocess spent reactor
fuel has allowed it to amass roughly nine tons of weapons-usable
plutonium on its soil. Activating the Rokkasho plant would produce
that much each year, said officials and industry experts.
Japan’s Nuclear Plan Unsettles U.S, WSJ, By JAY SOLOMON and MIHO INADA
2 May 13, TOKYO—Japan is preparing to start up a massive nuclear-fuel
reprocessing plant over the objections of the Obama administration,
which fears the move may stoke a broader race for nuclear technologies
and even weapons in North Asia and the Middle East.
The Rokkasho reprocessing facility, based in Japan’s northern Aomori
prefecture, is capable of producing nine tons of weapons-usable
plutonium annually, said Japanese officials and nuclear-industry
experts, enough to build as many as 2,000 bombs, although Japanese
officials say their program is civilian…… Read more »
Steve Skutnik January 17, 2013 There is a hallowed tradition in Washington known as the “Friday Document Dump,” in which news and announcements the government wishes to bury are strategically timed for Friday afternoons, when such announcements tend to fall through the cracks of the typical news cycle (i.e., assuming reporters are even present to cover the event, the strategic timing tends to ensure it will miss the weekend papers, thus effectively “burying” the story by the time the new week rolls around).
But the continued operation of the Monju reactor is uncertain due to
frequent malfunctions. The Japanese government has admitted that it
may not be put into commercial use until 2050, prompting criticism
that the Rokashomura facility was a colossal waste of money.
Japan Could Reprocess Nuclear Fuel from Korea
January 07, 2013 From Chosun Ilbo The Japanese government is
considering reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods from Korea, Vietnam
and other Asian countries, the Tokyo Shimbun reported Sunday. Japan is
the only country in the world that has no nuclear weapons but the
facilities to reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods capable of producing
An advisory council to the Democratic Party of Japan in a report last
May said reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods would “strengthen”
Japan’s diplomacy, security and the country’s economy as well as
“contribute to the peaceful use of atomic energy.”
The report suggests using the Rokashomura nuclear reprocessing plant
in Aomori Prefecture, which will become obsolete if Japan scraps all
its own nuclear power plants in the 2030s. Read more »
Rokkasho has grown dependent on the reprocessing complex for nearly all its jobs and income.
“Without Rokkasho, we would not get approval to restart the other reactors—not ever,” says a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
Japan’s Nuclear Future, Rokkasho and a hard place The government’s fudge on its nuclear future remains unconvincing http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21566018-governments-fudge-its-nuclear-future-remains-unconvincing-rokkasho-and-hard-place Nov 10th 2012 | ROKKASHO THIS remote north-eastern coastal village in Aomori prefecture would delight a North Korean or Iranian spy. Not because of the rolling countryside, but the uranium-enrichment facility, the plant undergoing testing to make nuclear fuel by reprocessing spent uranium and plutonium, and the stash of a good part of Japan’s stockpiles of more than nine tonnes of separated plutonium—enough, experts say, to make more than 1,000 nuclear warheads.
The Rokkasho plant seems an anomaly in a country that forswearsnuclear weapons and that has shut down all but two of its 54 nuclear reactors. Yet the same government that says it wants to phase out atomic energy by the end of the 2030s also insists that it is committed soon to start reprocessing enough nuclear waste at Rokkasho to provide fuel for Japan’s nuclear-power plants to go flat out into the 2050s.
It does not take much prodding for officials to concede a potential contradiction, big enough to render Japan’s nuclear policy almost meaningless. Read more »
The [nuclear industry] lobbying has also forestalled scrapping a controversial, 25-year-old fast breeder reactor on the country’s western coast in Fukui prefecture.
25 years and $13 billion after construction began, the Monju fast breeder reactor has managed to produce electricity for only one hour.
“What’s frightening is that it has the property that once it starts running out of control it can’t be stopped,…. What no one can ignore is that Monju is located adjacent to an earthquake fault.
Japan Plans Restart of Controversial Reactor VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was given unprecedented access inside Japan’s Fast Breeder Reactor Research and Development Center at a time when the country is debating its future energy policy in wake of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
kui Pref., Japan. Steve Herman September 25, 2012 TSURUGA, JAPAN — There has been an ongoing debate in Japan on the best way to obtain a safe and affordable energy supply for the island nation. The nuclear option suffered a setback in March, 2011, when a massive earthquake and devastating tsunami caused a meltdown in reactors at Japan’s main Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. Read more »
S. Korea urges U.S. to allow ‘peaceful’ nuclear enrichment SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea called for the United States to approve it undertaking “peaceful” enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, a government think tank said Monday, as little progress has been made in bilateral negotiations to revise the countries’ nuclear accord.
Under a 1974 accord with the U.S., South Korea is banned from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The allies have held five rounds of formal negotiations since 2010 to rewrite the bilateral nuclear cooperation treaty, which expires in 2014…..
Some nonproliferation experts say pyroprocessing is not significantly different from reprocessing, and pyroprocessed plutonium could be quickly turned into weapons-grade material….. http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2012/09/17/38/0301000000AEN20120917002600315F.HTML
MOX or not? Gov’t likes weapons fuel, public doesn’t Equities.com, By Eric Fleischauer, The Decatur Daily, Ala. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services Sept. 14--The Energy Department believes it is safe to use weapons-grade fuel at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, but not many residents attending a public hearing Thursday agreed.
“They don’t need to have it here,” said Sara Crossfield of Athens, who has a farm near the Limestone County plant. “TVA’s charter requires them to protect us.”
U.S. treaties with Russia require the disposal of 50 tons of surplus plutonium. The treaties authorize disposal by recycling the weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, for use in nuclear reactors. MOX is a mixture of plutonium and low-enriched
While MOX is the Energy Department’s preferred alternative for most of the surplus plutonium, the Tennessee Valley Authority said it has no preference. Sachiko McAlhany, document manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, presented a summary of the environmental impact statement. She said the department concluded using MOX “does not appreciably change” the risk posed by conventional uranium fuel.
Neither McAlhany nor a TVA representative, Mick Mastilovic, answered questions at the hearing. The comments from the public will be incorporated into the final environmental impact statement, scheduled for a spring 2013 release.
The plutonium would be reprocessed into MOX at a $6 billion plant in South Carolina, operated by France-based AREVA. It would then have to be transported to Browns Ferry.
Many of the concerns expressed by those attending the hearing involved the cost of creating MOX and the risks involved in transport.
Concerns specific to Browns Ferry focused on the impact of the fuel – which burns at slightly higher temperatures than conventional fuel – on the reactors and the possibility that Browns Ferry would become a terrorist target. Read more »
Of all the bequests of the atomic age, the heavy metal that takes its name from Pluto, god of the underworld, is considered the most dangerous. A nuclear chain reaction initiated with six kilograms (13 pounds) of the material over Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945, immediately killed 80,000 people. Breathing in just a few milligrams of plutonium dust is fatal to humans.
Vast amounts of this element, which almost never occurs naturally, now exist on Earth. Well more than 1,000 tons of the plutonium, which is one component of spent fuel from nuclear reactors, now sits in spent fuel pools and interim storage facilities, awaiting an indeterminate fate.
Then there are a further estimated 250 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, which consists of the fissile isotope Pu-239 at its highest possible concentration. This is a material produced for a single, military purpose: to trigger the most devastating detonations possible, as reliably as possible.
But what meant power during the arms race has since become a curse. Plutonium is enormously expensive to secure — and completely useless for civilian purposes.
For many years, permanent storage facilities for nuclear waste were the solution of choice among experts in the field. Melted down in a glass matrix and mixed with other highly radioactive nuclear waste, plutonium could be made to disappear deep into the Earth, protected from the elements and from the reach of untrustworthy militaries.
These days, though, that method is essentially off the table, because tough disarmament negotiations reach their goals more quickly when the end result is profit rather than unpredictable storage facility costs. The world’s military superpowers have done this once before: In 1993, as part of the “Megatons to Megawatts” nonproliferation program, the US pledged to buy 500 tons of weapons-grade uranium from Russia. Diluted down to a level suitable for use in a nuclear plant, fuel obtained from Soviet nuclear bombs currently generates one tenth of the United States’ electricity……http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/energy-from-the-bomb-russia-to-produce-electricity-with-former-nukes-a-854318.html
He [ Yevgeny (name changed)] then explains that colleagues and superiors of many years have been leaving the BN-800 project in recent weeks. Their vacated positions, he says, are being given to new employees just starting their careers.
“People who have no experience with the difficulties sodium coolant can cause now head our departments,”… ”And you know what? I’m going to leave, too. Or, no, I’m going to run.”
From Plutonium to Power, Spiegal Online 09/07/2012 Russia To Produce Electricity with Former Nukes By Kerstin Brandt ”…….. plutonium is not uranium. It’s more toxic and more radioactive, and it’s not easy to dilute.
Yevgeny doesn’t speak English, so he doesn’t understand the disarmament slogan “Global Zero.” Until recently, he was convinced that Russia, alone among world’s countries, had mastered fast reactor technology. He himself worked at Beloyarsk’s fast reactor for many years, after all. But since the plant’s managers assigned him to the construction of the successor model BN-800, Yevgeny has grown doubtful. Read more »
About 35,000 people live within 10 miles of the plant. That’s no place for TVA and DOE to be running an experiment with radioactive material in an aging nuclear plant under increased supervision because of major safety problems.
Alabama.com OUR VIEW: Next door, nuclear research, September 09, 2012, By Mike Hollis, The Huntsville Times The Tennessee Valley Authority says it’s willing to consider using a blend of uranium and weapons-grade plutonium as reactor fuel at its Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens. That’s surprising, given the plant’s safety record.
Part of the problem, critics say, is that this mix of uranium and plutonium oxide fuel, called MOX, makes reactors harder to control, may increase the risk of some types of accidents and raises the threat to public health if an accident results in a major radioactive release. Read more »
Aomori Pref. mulling rejecting nuclear waste The Yomiuri Shimbun , 6 Sept 12, AOMORI–The Aomori prefectural government is considering refusing to accept highly radioactive waste scheduled to be returned from reprocessing overseas if the central government abolishes its nuclear fuel cycle policy.
The prefectural government was likely prompted to act by recent moves by the central government toward abandoning nuclear power generation.
The village of Rokkasho in the prefecture is home to a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant that is considered to be the foundation of the nuclear fuel cycle, in which plutonium and uranium are extracted from spent fuel to be reused.
The plant has yet to begin operating, and spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s nuclear reactors are currently stored at nuclear power plants or at the Rokkasho facility. Some spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed in France and Britain. Vitrified radioactive waste, the highly radioactive waste that is produced in the reprocessing process, has been shipped from Europe to the Vitrified Waste Storage Center at the Rokkasho facility. So far, the plant has received 1,414 containers of vitrified waste, and 28 more are scheduled to be shipped from Britain in October at the earliest. Read more »
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