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Mox plutonium reprocessing plant has been a huge waste of U.S. taxpayers’ money

Another SC nuclear boondoggle could soon meet its end. This time it’s $7B in taxpayer money wasted, Post and Courier By Andrew Brown abrown@postandcourier.com , – May 20, 2018 

      COLUMBIA — It’s a familiar story in South Carolina: Nuclear contractors fail to produce a reliable schedule, start construction with just a fraction of design finished, and let pipes and other material corrode in storage under the watch of government agencies.

The abandonment of two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station generated headlines and riled state lawmakers since last summer, but 90 miles south, a similar scenario played out at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

The federal government has likely squandered more than $7 billion as they watched a project fall decades behind schedule and its final cost increase by 12 times the initial estimates. And, like V.C. Summer, the plug is being pulled. The parallels don’t end there: The debacles also shared two of the same contractors.

  • The Savannah River project has not faced the same anger and scrutiny as the abandonment of the two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County — likely because the inflated cost of the complex project is being distributed to federal taxpayers across the country instead of 1.6 million electric customers in South Carolina.

    For more than a decade, the U.S. Department of Energy and its private contractors have tried to build the plant to turn Cold War-era nuclear weapons into fuel that could be used in nuclear power plants. It’s known as MOX, short for mixed oxide fuel fabrication.

    The project became a federal priority around the turn of the century, and was intended to be a cornerstone of the United States’ effort to reduce its aging stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

    But for more than four years, it has been on the federal chopping block. In federal studies and congressional testimony reviewed by The Post and Courier, government officials laid out a long list of problems with the contractors and the project in general. Two presidential administrations have tried to put an end to the costly undertaking.

    Each time, however, South Carolina’s powerful congressional delegation revived the project, siding with the contractors who disputed the findings of independent consultants and federal agencies.

    Now, it may be too late. Congress gave U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry the power in March to put an end to the 11-year construction effort, and the federal agency is already taking action.

    Earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s administration released an alternative proposal to deal with the 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium that was set to be processed at the site. They estimated it will cost less than half of what it would take to finish the MOX facility and turn the plutonium into commercial fuel.

    The new plan calls for mixing the plutonium with another material, not revealed by the federal government, and storing it below the New Mexico desert. Buried with it could be the second major nuclear project to be cancelled in South Carolina in less than a year.

    ……..the companies have sunk billions into the facility that has risen out of the surrounding pines. But many of the circumstances that drove federal officials to approve the project, including the deal with Russia, have changed.So, too, have the projections for the final cost of the facility. It now stands at roughly $17 billion.

    A ‘horror story’ for taxpayers? 

    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper took direct aim as he opened a congressional oversight hearing in the fall of 2015.

    “I am worried that, as we enter the month of October and head toward Halloween, that really the subject of this hearing is a horror story for the American taxpayer,” said Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee.

    By that time, the contractors’ forecasted price tag for the facility had jumped by more than six times the estimates from 2002. The Department of Energy estimated the cost to be even higher, and President Barack Obama’s administration was pushing to end construction altogether.

  • …..John MacWilliams, an Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy, told the federal lawmakers one of the biggest problems was that construction began with only 20 to 25 percent of the design for the MOX facility complete.

    “Immature design is one of the biggest problems we face,” said MacWilliams, who led a special team that reviewed the project’s management.

    MacWilliams also reported that around a quarter of the rebar, pipes, electrical wiring and other material that was initially installed had to later be torn back out and replaced — slowing construction and increasing the cost of labor.

    Like V.C. Summer, federal officials reported materials being ruined because parts were ordered years before they were ever needed. The contractors reportedly didn’t have a “resource loaded” schedule that tied together supplies and construction work. Fifty percent of the piping that was manufactured as of 2016 was unusable due to corrosion and design changes, a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found. “This pattern of early procurement is systemic,” the report said.

    “I think it’s clear that although there is blame to go around on all sides the contractors from the very beginning misled the Department and for that matter the U.S. government,” MacWilliams told The Post and Courier last week.

  • ……..Existing facilities at Savannah River are already capable of diluting the plutonium, but the federal government also wants to install new equipment to speed up the work that’s expected to continue for the next three decades. The full price tag for the process, according to a new Department of Energy analysis, could equal another $19.9 billion.

    By comparison, federal officials say it would take another $48 billion to complete the construction of the MOX facility, as well as finish the work of turning the plutonium into fuel.

    “The MOX project is not viable and needs to be terminated,” said Tom Clements, an advocate that runs Savannah River Site Watch, who has monitored the project for years. “It’s a huge waste of money.”……https://www.postandcourier.com/business/another-sc-nuclear-boondoggle-could-soon-meet-its-end-this/article_e7096912-590a-11e8-b88a-a76a2bf0e36e.html

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May 22, 2018 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear regulator reviewing Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant

Review of nuclear fuel reprocessing plant resumes https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180517_32/  Japan’s nuclear regulator has resumed its review of an under-construction nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, following a suspension of 8 months because of a maintenance problem discovered last summer.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Thursday resumed its review of the plant in Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture. The resumption came after the plant’s operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited, gave notice that it has worked out a plan to introduce new safety measures.

Last August, rainwater was found to have flowed into a building for emergency power generators at the plant. The rainwater leak was blamed on a failure by the company to conduct mandatory inspections of the area over a period of several years.

During Thursday’s review session, Japan Nuclear Fuel explained how it will improve its maintenance programs at the plant.

In response, officials from the Regulation Authority said the company should conduct a more rigorous assessment of its past maintenance work.

In future review sessions, the regulator is planning to ask about the company’s contingency plans for emergencies such as the fallout of volcanic ash from a nearby volcano, or a plane crash.

The company is aiming to complete the construction of the plant in 3 years.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Union of Concerned Scientists says USA government was right to end the MOX nuclear reprocessing program

Energy Department Makes the Right Decision to Kill MOX Program https://www.ucsusa.org/press/2018/energy-department-makes-right-decision-kill-mox-program#.Wv35qjSFPGh  Statement by Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists WASHINGTON (May 14, 2018)—Late last week, the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a report to Congress documenting that an alternative method to dispose of U.S. excess weapons plutonium would be less than half the cost of the current plan to use it as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for nuclear reactors. By certifying that finding, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will have the legal authority next month to stop construction of the MOX facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which obtained the report and publicly released it, has long called for canceling the MOX program because it would make it easier for terrorists to gain access to fissile material that could be used to make a nuclear weapon.

Instead of finishing the half-built MOX facility, the Trump administration—like the Obama administration before it—proposes to dilute 34 tons of plutonium from retired U.S. nuclear weapons with an inert substance and dispose of it at the deep underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. According to the DOE report, this “dilute and dispose” process would cost at most $19.9 billion, 40 percent of $49.4 billion cost of continuing the MOX program.

Below is a statement by Edwin Lyman, a UCS senior scientist.

“Energy Secretary Perry made the right decision to terminate the misguided MOX program. Ironically, while the program was intended to reduce the risks posed by the large US stockpile of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons, it would make this material more vulnerable to theft. The alternative approach—dilute and dispose—will be far safer and more secure than MOX.

“While the MOX program has gone well over-budget, we now know that the dilute and dispose process will be far cheaper. According to DOE’s comprehensive report the cost of diluting and disposing of 34 metric tons of U.S. excess plutonium will be less than half the remaining cost of the MOX program. This finding allows the DOE to waive the wasteful congressional requirement that it must continue to build the MOX plant. As a bonus, the agency can begin the dilute and dispose process much sooner.

“The dilute and dispose approach will not only be cost-effective, it also will provide sustainable employment at the Savannah River Site for decades to come. The DOE report estimates that the project will require more than 400 full-time employees through its completion date in the late 2040s. Secretary Perry’s decision to kill MOX is a victory for US taxpayers, national security, and South Carolina workers.”

May 18, 2018 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration abandons costly MOX failed nuclear energy project

Trump Abandons Nuclear Energy Project, Failed ‘Test’ Cost 38 Times More Than Russian Success, Western Journal , By Michael Bastasch , May 14, 2018 

The Trump administration will abandon a nuclear energy project that was supposed to satisfy de-nuclearization treaty obligations with Russia and will instead bury diluted nuclear weapons underground.

Energy experts have long pointed to bureaucratic inefficiencies holding back nuclear energy projects, but the now-abandoned Mixed Oxide, or MOX, project illustrates just how expensive building these facilities has become.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry wrote to Congress in early May, detailing the administration’s plan to abandon the project. Perry wants to blend weapons-grade plutonium with inert substances and then bury them underground in New Mexico, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Reuters.

The federal government has already spent about $7.6 billion on the MOX project at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, but Perry said completing the facility meant to convert nuclear weapons into fuel would cost another $48 billion.

In total, MOX is projected to cost nearly $56 billion and is still decades away from completion. Federal officials initially expected MOX to cost less than $5 billion and begin operations this year……

May 16, 2018 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration scraps MOX project to generate power from plutonium

Trump administration axes project to generate power from plutonium, Timothy Gardner, WASHINGTON (Reuters) 13 May 18 – The Trump administration plans to kill a project it says would have cost tens of billions of dollars to convert plutonium from Cold War-era nuclear bombs and burn it to generate electricity, according to a document it sent to Congress last week.

The Department of Energy submitted a document on May 10 to Senate and House of Representative committees saying that the Mixed Oxide (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would cost about $48 billion more than $7.6 billion already spent on it. The United States has never built a MOX plant.

Instead of completing MOX, the administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants to blend the 34 tonnes of deadly plutonium – enough to make about 8,000 nuclear weapons – with an inert substance and bury it underground in a New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Burying the plutonium would cost about $19.9 billion, according to the document, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“We are currently processing plutonium in South Carolina for shipment (to WIPP) … and intend to continue to do so,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a letter sent to committee leaders.

Legislation passed in February allows the Energy Department to advance burying the plutonium if it showed that the cost would be less than half of completing MOX……..

Edwin Lyman, a physicist at science advisory group the Union of Concerned Scientists concerned about plutonium getting into the wrong hands, said Perry had made a sensible decision. “MOX was a slow-motion train wreck, and throwing good money after bad simply wasn’t an option.”

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lisa Shumaker  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-plutonium-mox/trump-administration-axes-project-to-generate-power-from-plutonium-idUSKCN1IE0LH

May 14, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, politics, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

¥1.13 trillion of taxpayers’ money later, Japan’s Monju nuclear reprocessing reactor a spectacular failure

Monju reactor project failed to pay off after swallowing ¥1.13 trillion of taxpayers’ money: auditors https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/05/11/national/monju-reactor-project-failed-pay-off-swallowing-%C2%A51-13-trillion-taxpayers-money-auditors/#.WvZw_u-FPGg

The Monju fast-breeder reactor experiment yielded few sufficient results despite an investment of at least ¥1.13 trillion ($10.3 billion) worth of taxpayers money since 1994, state auditors confirmed on Friday.

The trouble-plagued prototype, which only ran for 250 days, was designed to play a key role in Japan’s quest to set up a nuclear fuel recycling program, but the project only achieved 16 percent of the intended results, the Board of Audit said.

The government finally decided to scrap Monju in December 2016 at an estimated additional cost of ¥375 billion. But the audit board noted that the 30-year decommissioning plan could cost even more.

The reactor, which started operations in 1994, was designed to produce more plutonium than it consumes while generating electricity, experienced several problems over its more than two-decade run, including a sodium coolant leak and attempted cover-up, and equipment inspection failures.

“Flawed maintenance led to the decommissioning,” the auditors concluded in their report.

But the report also spotlights the absence of a systematic evaluation system for the project. During the entire experiment, the auditors expressed their opinions on Monju’s research and development costs only once — in 2011.

Monju was only up and running for 250 days in total after repeatedly failing to complete test items, according to the report.

As for the decommissioning costs, the report said they might expand because the current estimate does not include personnel costs and taxes. It also noted that the cost of removing the radioactive sodium coolant could change.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | Japan, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Reprocessing nuclear waste – expensive, problematic transport, water intensive, dirty, dangerous

Recycling nuclear waste is not the win-win it seems like it should be, Las Vegas Sun, Editorial, Sunday, May 6, 2018   The idea of turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste  reprocessing facility, which some Nevadans are proposing, sounds wonderful….

But the hard facts behind reprocessing show that doing it at Yucca Mountain is almost as scary as storing waste there. …. Here are a few key reasons why: 

  •  It’s expensive. Reprocessing does yield new fuel, but it costs up to 10 times more than producing conventional fuel — uranium that is mined and enriched. That being the case, the market price of reprocessed fuel is far higher than enriched uranium, so it’s not a cost-effective option for nuclear plant operators.

• It doesn’t solve the transportation problem. Radioactive materials would still be shipped into Nevada, and some of the transportation routes for the waste cut through the heart of the Las Vegas Valley. This isn’t just a NIMBY issue, either, considering that the routes also pass through 43 other states.

• It’s water-intensive. According to one estimate, it would require 50,000 acre-feet of water annually, or the equivalent of enough for 100,000 homes for a year. Considering that the water in the Yucca Mountain area is already over-appropriated, that’s more than would be available and far more than would be environmentally sound.

• It’s dirty. Reprocessing involves using acid to extract plutonium and recover unused uranium from irradiated uranium fuel, which results in liquid wastes teeming with radioactive and chemical poisons. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, one of the few places in the U.S. where reprocessing for nuclear weapons production has occurred, is an environmental disaster area where $50 billion in cleanup work has been done and more than $100 billion more is needed to deal with millions of gallons of liquid waste stored in underground tanks.

So while the basic idea behind reprocessing may sound like sort of a nuclear version of recycling aluminium cans or plastic bottles, it’s actually not environmentally friendly and is prohibitively costly.

…… it’s a dangerous idea, not only from a health and environmental standpoint but from a political one, as well.Yucca Mountain proponents in other states would love to see a crack in Nevada’s longstanding official opposition to the repository. If they sense that the reprocessing concept has caused Nevadans to warm to the idea of bringing the nation’s waste to the state, you can bet they’ll exploit it.

That’s especially true given President Donald Trump’s support of the project, for which he placed $120 million in funding to restart the licensing process in his budget. Congress rebuffed him by not including the funding in this year’s omnibus spending bill, but there’s been no indication that Trump will stop pressing.

It’s important for Nevadans to remain galvanized in their opposition to Yucca Mountain. Regardless of whether the site is used for storage or reprocessing, bringing the nation’s 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste to a site just 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas would be a disaster waiting to happen. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2018/may/06/recycling-nuclear-waste-is-not-the-win-win-it-seem/

May 7, 2018 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | 1 Comment

Resuscitated as “Orano”, failed nuclear corporation Areva pins its hopes on reprocessing in Ukraine

 

Reuters 3rd May 2018 , French uranium mining and nuclear fuel group Orano, formerly called Areva,
said it had signed a fuel reprocessing deal with Ukraine. Orano and the
Ukrainian utility EnergoAtom signed a contract for assessing the
feasibility of reprocessing services of spent fuel assemblies of Ukrainian
VVER-1000 nuclear reactors in Orano la Hague facility Orano said the
contract, signed in the presence of Oleksander Shavlakov, First
Vice-President of EnergoAtom and Pascal Aubret, Senior Executive Vice
President of Orano’s Recycling Business Unit, marks a new step towards
the treatment of Ukrainian used fuels VVER 1000 at the Orano la Hague site.
https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFFWN1SA18N

May 7, 2018 Posted by | France, reprocessing, Ukraine | 1 Comment

The end for Japan’s expensive Monju nuclear fast breeder dream

Japan prepares to shut troubled ‘dream’ nuclear reactor https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Japan-prepares-to-shut-troubled-dream-nuclear-reactor

Decades-old plant has cost almost $10bn and hardly ever operated    

TOKYO — Japan is set to start decommissioning its troubled Monju fast-breeder reactor after decades of accidents, cost overruns and scandals. It is the beginning of the end of a controversial project that exposed the shortcomings of the country’s nuclear policy and the government’s failure to fully explain the risks and the costs.

In July, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency will begin decommissioning what was hailed as a “dream” reactor that was expected to produce more nuclear fuel than it consumed. The government has so far spent more than 1 trillion yen ($9.44 billion) on the plant, which has barely ever operated.

The plan approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 28 to decommission the reactor, located in central Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, calls for the extraction of spent nuclear fuel to be completed by the end of the fiscal year through March 2023. Full decommissioning is expected to take about 30 years.

 Total costs to shut down the reactor are currently estimated at 375 billion yen, but that could climb, as the full technical requirements and the selection of the nuclear waste sites are not well understood.

Japan does not have the technological ability to manage the decommissioning process on its own, and must enlist the help of France, which has more experience with fast-breeder reactors. Among the technical challenges is handling the plant’s sodium coolant, which is highly reactive and explodes on contact with air.

Many of the problems with Japan’s nuclear policy were brought to light by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster caused by the tsunami and earthquake of March 2011. Such problems have included the high costs of plants, the selection of nuclear disposal sites, and the threat of shutdowns due to lawsuits. Japan’s nuclear policy has largely been gridlocked since the disaster.

But the Monju project had many problems before the Fukushima catastrophe.

Planning for the project began in the 1960s. Its fast-breeder technology was considered a dream technology for resource-poor Japan, which had been traumatized by the oil crisis of the 1970s. The reactor was supposed to generate more plutonium fuel than it consumed.

The reactor finally started operating in 1994, but was forced to shut down the following year due to a sodium leak. It has been inoperative for most of the time since. The decision to decommission it was made in December 2016 following a series of safety scandals, including the revelation that many safety checks had been omitted.

Recent experience suggests the government’s estimated cost of 375 billion yen to decommission Monju could be on the low side. In 2016, the estimate for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant ballooned to 8 trillion yen from an initial 2 trillion yen in 2013, largely due to inadequate understanding of the decommissioning process.

While “the JAEA will try to keep costs down,” said Hajime Ito, executive director with the agency, the process of extracting sodium, the biggest hurdle, has yet to be determined. Future technical requirements will also involve significant costs.

The Monju reactor is not the only example of failure in Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy — the cycle of how nuclear fuel is handled and processed, including disposing nuclear waste and reprocessing used fuel.

Central to this policy is a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in northern Aomori Prefecture that was supposed to extract plutonium and uranium by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to be reused at nuclear plants.

More than 2 trillion yen has been spent on the plant so far. Construction was begun in 1993, but completion has been repeatedly postponed due to safety concerns. On Wednesday, the NRA decided to resume safety checks on the plant, but if it chooses to decommission it, the cost would be an estimated 1.5 trillion yen.

Had Japan taken into consideration the costs of decommissioning plants and disposing of spent nuclear fuel, it probably would not have been able to push ahead with its nuclear policy in the first place, said a former senior official of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, who was involved in formulating the country’s basic energy plan.

April 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

The uneconomic Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility to be closed- Dept of Energy seeks funding for this


DOE budget seeks money to close MOX http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/2018-02-12/doe-budget-seeks-money-close-mox  February 12, 2018, By James Folker, Staff Writer

The Department of Energy’s budget request for fiscal 2019 asks for money to close the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and says the agency prefers the “dilute and dispose” method to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

“The Budget Request includes $220 million to continue the orderly and safe closure of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and $59 million to pursue the proven dilute and dispose technology,” Lindsey Geisler, press secretary for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement. “The administration has proposed termination of the MOX construction project because it is simply unaffordable. We have a proven method called dilute and dispose that is less expensive, has far lower risks, and can be i “The Budget Request includes $220 million to continue the orderly and safe closure of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and $59 million to pursue the proven dilute and dispose technology,” Lindsey Geisler, press secretary for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement. “The administration has proposed termination of the MOX construction project because it is simply unaffordable. We have a proven method called dilute and dispose that is less expensive, has far lower risks, and can be  implemented decades sooner than the MOX approach.”

The budget request seeks $1.7 billion — $287 million more than last year — to provide support at Savannah River Site for the Liquid Tank Waste Management Program, including “a significant increase” in the production at the Defense Waste Processing Facility and startup of the Salt Waste Processing Facility, according to a DOE fact sheet released Monday.

The MOX project was born from a 2000 non-proliferation agreement between the U.S. and Russia, which called for the removal of 34 metric tons of plutonium from each nation’s arsenal. The MOX project at SRS would convert the plutonium from retired nuclear weapons into a blend with uranium so it can be used in commercial nuclear reactors

February 14, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, politics, reprocessing | Leave a comment

China unlikely to go ahead with AREVA’s nuclear reprocessing plan, despite Macron’s support

Reuters 11th Jan 2018, So close yet so far: China deal elusive for France’s Areva. A deal long
sought by French company Areva to build a $12-billion nuclear waste
reprocessing plant in China looks increasingly unlikely to go ahead despite
a visit to Beijing by President Emmanuel Macron meant to drum up business.

During Macron’s state visit this week, Areva and China National Nuclear
Corp (CNNC) signed a new “protocol agreement” to build the plant but,
not for the first time, no definitive contract was signed.

Since talks began more than a decade ago – when uranium prices UXXc1 were near record
highs – a series of non-committal French-Chinese memorandums of
understanding have been signed for building a reprocessing plant in China
modeled on state-owned Areva’s plant in La Hague, northern France.

The reprocessing of nuclear fuel waste involves separating plutonium from the
spent uranium and reusing it in “Mixed Oxide” (MOX) fuel at nuclear
power stations.

But the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and competition
from renewable energy are weighing on the nuclear sector, and uranium
prices are down 80 percent from a decade ago, making the expensive and
dangerous recycling process less attractive. Chinese nuclear scientist Li
Ning, dean of Xiamen University’s College of Energy and a member of State
Nuclear Power Technology Corporation’s (SNPTC) expert committee, sees
“a fairly low probability” that China will sign a formal contract for
the project.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-areva-china-nuclearpower-analysis/so-close-yet-so-far-china-deal-elusive-for-frances-areva-idUSKBN1F01RJ

January 13, 2018 Posted by | China, France, marketing, politics international, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Japan’s $122 billion nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Rokkasho delayed yet again

 Japanese nuclear fuel reprocessing plant delayed yet again Nikkei Asian Review
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Japanese-nuclear-fuel-reprocessing-plant-delayed-yet-again

Age-related decay plagues Rokkasho project, stalled for 20 years, December 23, 2017 

TOKYO — The Japanese company building a reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel pushed back the planned completion date by another three years Friday, further clouding prospects for realizing the nuclear fuel cycle sought by the energy-poor country.

  Japan Nuclear Fuel said it now expects to finish the facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in the first half of fiscal 2021, citing problems with aging equipment that forced the suspension of safety checks by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The deadline has been postponed 23 times from the original target of 1997.

Executive President Kenji Kudo apologized Friday to Aomori Vice Gov. Ikuo Sasaki and said his company would work as one to follow the new timetable at all costs.

Sasaki warned that the series of problems at the plant, stemming from age-related deterioration and insufficient inspections, “could cause residents to lose trust in the facility’s safety.”

The reprocessing plant is meant to extract uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse in reactors, making it a key link in the envisioned nuclear fuel cycle. Work on the Rokkasho facility began in 1993, but it has sat idle for more than two decades, and many parts are deteriorating with age. Rainwater leaked into a building housing an emergency power supply, and corrosion ate holes in exhaust pipes at a uranium enrichment facility.

The cost of the Rokkasho plant, including operating expenses, has climbed to 13.9 trillion yen ($122 billion), and repair costs may push the total even higher. The necessary funds are provided by the big power companies that are Japan Nuclear Fuel’s main shareholders, feeding growing criticism that the burden falls indirectly on consumers.

The government decided last year to scrap the Monju experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor, another part of the fuel-cycle plan.

Kudo acknowledged the excessive number of delays and said he would accept the criticism levied at his company. “We want to complete [the facility] at the earliest possible date,” he said.

But it remains unclear whether three additional years will be enough to bring the plant in line with tough new standards imposed after the Fukushi

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

International concern over Japan’s super expensive nuclear reprocessing project

Japan’s MOX program faces tough questions as recycling costs balloon for spent atomic fuel, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/17/national/japans-mox-program-faces-tough-questions-recycling-costs-balloon-spent-atomic-fuel/ DEC 17, 2017, Kyodo

 Japan is the only non-nuclear weapons state in the world that still engaged in a commercial spent-fuel reprocessing program. While it struggles to keep its nuclear power program sustainable by burning the recycled hybrid fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX, this has resulted in a stockpile of nearly 50 tons of plutonium.This stockpile, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, has caused international concern.

The MOX fuel is produced by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium as fresh fuel. Japan’s utilities send their spent nuclear fuel to France for reprocessing. The problem is that only a few reactors in Japan are currently using MOX.

According to data from the Finance Ministry and other sources, the price of one MOX fuel unit imported in 1999 by Tokyo Electric (now Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.) was ¥230 million ($2 million).

The price of the recycled fuel that Kansai Electric Power Co. bought in September 2016, however, exceeded ¥1 billion.

While power firms do not disclose MOX costs, sources familiar with the fuel recycling business said the price includes the cost of transport, private security and insurance.

With many nuclear plants shut due to the safety concerns raised by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, only three plants — two Kansai Electric reactors and one Shikoku Electric Power Co. reactor — now use MOX in the so-called pluthermal power generation program.

Since the pluthermal project is the only way for the nation to consume its plutonium stockpile, it has declined only slightly since the three reactors were started.

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Failure of Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor leaves Japan with a huge spent fuel problem

Japan Times 6th Dec 2017, The operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor submitted
a plan Wednesday to decommission the trouble-plagued facility located in
Fukui Prefecture. The most recent plan presented to the Nuclear Regulation
Authority lays out a 30-year time frame to complete the project despite a
number of problems that remain unresolved, including where to store the
spent nuclear fuel.

The government had originally hoped the Monju reactor
would serve as a linchpin for its nuclear-fuel-recycling efforts as it was
designed to produce more plutonium than it consumed. But it experienced a
series of problems, including a leakage of sodium coolant in 1995 and
equipment failures in 2012. The plant has only operated intermittently over
the past two decades.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/06/national/nuclear-reactor-operator-submits-30-year-plan-scrap-trouble-prone-monju-facility/

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan and USA to continue agreement on nuclear fuel reprocessing

Nikkei Asian Review 25th Sept 2017, Japan and the U.S. will likely let their existing nuclear cooperation
agreement renew automatically when the pact expires next July, enabling
Tokyo to continue reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

President Donald Trump’s administration has no intention of ending or renegotiating the deal, a
spokesperson at the U.S. State Department told The Nikkei Saturday. Since
the Japanese government has been seeking the pact’s renewal, there is now a
good chance that the treaty will simply remain in force without any
modifications.
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/US-to-renew-nuclear-pact-with-Japan

September 30, 2017 Posted by | Japan, politics international, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment