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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Government to release map of potential final nuclear disposal sites this summer

n-nukewaste-a-20170503-870x564.jpgSolidified nuclear waste mixed with glass is placed in canisters at a reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in 2012

The government has set the criteria for a map meant to identify potential final disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, paving the way for its release as early as this summer.

The process of finding a host for nuclear waste could face challenges amid public concerns over safety.

Based on the map, the government will approach select municipalities to allow research to be conducted for suitable sites to store waste from nuclear power generation.

For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored at a final depository more than 300 meters underground for up to about 100,000 years until radiation levels fall and there is no longer potential harm to humans and the environment.

The government plans to create a permanent underground repository somewhere in stable bedrock so the canisters can be stored for tens of thousands of years.

The map is likely to classify which areas are geologically suitable for such a structure to be built deep enough underground. This would rule out areas near active faults and volcanoes as well as oil and coal fields.

Based on waste transport criteria, the map is likely to show that zones within 20 km of the coastline are favorable to host final disposal sites.

The government hopes other municipalities — not just the ones located near nuclear power plants — may also become interested in hosting the disposal facilities. It also wants to show that a variety of places nationwide are suitable for nuclear waste management.

The map was originally planned for a 2016 release but the publication date was later postponed, as some local governments were wary that disposal sites would be imposed on them.

About 18,000 tons of spent fuel currently exist in Japan. Including spent fuel that has already been reprocessed, the country’s total jumps to about 25,000 canisters of vitrified high-level waste, all of which needs to be managed.

The process to find local governments willing to host final storage started in 2002, but little progress was made due mainly to opposition from local residents.

In May 2015, the central government introduced a plan announcing that final depository site selection would be based on scientific grounds, rather than waiting for municipalities to volunteer.

Before presenting the map, the government will hold symposiums between mid-May and June at nine cities to explain the map criteria to the public. The cities include Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

Radioactive waste is classified into two categories: The high-level type is generated from reprocessing spent fuel by separating the plutonium and uranium for recycling, while the low level type refers to all other waste.

High-level waste is a byproduct of fission in the reactor core, which is very hot and dangerous. It is mixed with glass and solidified before being placed in robust heat-resistant stainless steel canisters that are 130 cm high, 40 cm in diameter and weigh 500 kg each.

A full canister emits about 1,500 sieverts per hour — an extremely lethal biological level — and has a surface temperature in excess of 200 degrees.

Its radioactivity starts at 20,000 trillion becquerels. It will take about 1,000 years to fall to one-thousandth of that level, and tens of thousands of years to weaken to the same intensity as natural uranium ore, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency says.

Worldwide, only Finland and Sweden have been able to successfully decide on a final depository site for nuclear waste, while many other countries with nuclear plants face difficulties in doing so.

The United States decided in 2009 to call off a plan to build a site to dispose spent fuel in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain due to local opposition, but President Donald Trump earmarked funds to revive the plan in the budget proposal for fiscal 2018 unveiled in March.

In Japan, the selection process is also a touchy issue and has triggered conflicts in the communities around which prospective depository sites have been considered.

In one example, Minamiosumi Mayor Toshihiko Morita in Kagoshima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against a 65-year-old resident for libel, claiming that his allegations that the rural town office had been actively inviting such a facility was not only groundless but also defamation.

The resident handed out flyers to about 500 households in the town in January which said Morita went to Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Horonobe in Hokkaido at the invitation of the private sector involved in the construction of nuclear waste disposal facilities. Both municipalities host nuclear-related facilities.

Morita flatly denied the allegations, telling Kyodo News in writing that he has heard “rumors” that there have been moves aimed at hosting a nuclear waste disposal facility but “I myself haven’t gone anywhere and been treated to anything.”

I would reject any request from the central government” to host one, Morita said. The town approved an ordinance to reject a plan to host a nuclear waste disposal facility the year after the 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

A supporter of the mayor, however, did visit nuclear-related facilities in locations including Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, several years ago, according to the supporter’s admission, and a Tokyo company covered the expenses of the trip.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/02/national/government-release-map-potential-final-nuclear-disposal-sites-summer/

May 3, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Riken to experiment converting nuclear waste into precious metals

The government-backed Riken research institute is set to launch experiments on converting radioactive substances contained in high-level nuclear waste generated at atomic power stations into precious metals starting fiscal 2018, it has been learned.

The method, which is dubbed “modern alchemy,” is said to be theoretically viable but hasn’t been put into practical use. If realized, the formula is expected to contribute to trimming nuclear waste and even making effective use of it.

The experiment will be part of the Cabinet Office’s program to promote innovative research and development, called “Impulsing Paradigm Change through Disruptive Technologies (ImPACT)” program. In the initial stage of the demonstration experiment, palladium-107, a radioactive material contained in nuclear waste and whose half-life is 6.5 million years, will be turned into nontoxic palladium-106, which is commonly used in dental therapy, jewelry goods and exhaust gas purification catalysts.

Using an accelerator at the Riken Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, the scientists will attempt to convert palladium-107 into palladium-106 by irradiating the former with deuteron beams, in what is called the “nuclear transformation” process. The experiment is set to be the world’s first of its kind on nuclear transformation of palladium, according to Riken officials.

The researchers will compile the outcome of the experiment as early as the fall of 2018 after confirming the ratio of palladium successfully transformed and other results.

As nuclear waste is highly radioactive, the government is currently looking into methods to isolate such waste deep into the ground after sealing it in specially designed containers. If the nuclear transformation process proves viable, it could contribute to reducing nuclear waste and making efficient use of it.

It remains to be seen whether nuclear transformation will prove successful just as in theory and if the process can be turned into practical use at a low cost. In the past, a nuclear transformation experiment was carried out on minor actinides, or “heavy” nuclear waste, at the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, but the upcoming experiment will be the country’s first using fission products, or “light” nuclear waste.

ImPACT program manager Reiko Fujita said, “We are still at the basic research stage and are far from putting it into practical use. We will, however, move a step forward if we manage to obtain data through our experiment.”

 http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170211/p2a/00m/0na/010000c#csidxbf06aa198998809824911f3303dfcb0

February 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Studying Nuclear Waste Burial 5,000 meters Deep on the Pacific Island of Minamitorishima

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An agency affiliated with the Japanese government is to study the possibility of burying nuclear waste at a depth of about 5,000 meters. That’s much deeper than proposed in the government’s current plan.

Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, or JAMSTEC, will carry out a basic survey for the new disposal option after next April.

The survey will be conducted at Minamitorishima, a remote island above the geologically stable Pacific Plate.

JAMSTEC says it will use a research vessel to collect data on the topography and geology of the area.

No technology exists to bury nuclear waste 5,000 meters below ground as there are many technical challenges.

The Japanese government has been planning to bury high-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants at a depth of more than 300 meters in final disposal facilities. Officials are currently looking for candidate sites.

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Nagasaki University Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki is a former member of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission. He says it is too soon to discuss a technology that has yet to be developed, but he thinks basic research by the agency could help to create more options.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161225_17/

December 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

VOX POPULI: A curse that lasts 100,000 years: buried nuclear waste

Homo sapiens sapiens, or anatomically modern humans, emerged on the African continent about 200,000 years ago. They started migrating to various parts of the globe around 60,000 years ago with some eventually reaching the Japanese archipelago.

The Paleolithic era came and went, and rice cultivation began in the Neolithic era.

I started thinking about these prehistoric times after a recent news report mentioned “100,000 years” in connection with radioactive waste that must be disposed of when nuclear reactors are dismantled.

It takes a mind-boggling number of years for nuclear waste, stored deep underground, to decrease in radioactivity to a level that is no longer a health hazard.

With respect to highly radioactive waste such as reactor control rods, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has just set its basic policy, which is that electric power companies will be responsible for the management of such waste for 300 to 400 years, and then the government will take over for the next 100,000 years.

Every precaution must be taken to prevent future humans from accidentally entering sites where the waste is buried and digging the ground. The potential effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the stored waste also has to be considered.

In determining the extent of responsibility to be shouldered by utilities, it was agreed that it would not be realistic to expect them to manage the storage sites for tens of thousands of years to come.

According to “Hyakunen Tsuzuku Kigyo no Joken” (Conditions necessary for businesses to last 100 years) compiled by Teikoku Databank, a corporate credit research and database service company, there are some, but not many, Japanese companies that have remained in business for more than 400 years.

They include Sumitomo Metal and Mining Co., Yomeishu Seizo Co., and Matsuzakaya, which were founded before or during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Are Japan’s electric power companies also destined to join their ranks?

But whether it’s 400 years or 100,000 years from now, nobody in our present generation can remain responsible for all those years. I shudder at this “ultrarealistic” reality.

Incidentally, Japan’s first nuclear reactor commenced commercial operation 50 years ago.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609020033.html

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | 1 Comment

Residents come out in force to protest against Sino-French nuclear project

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Rumours that Lianyungang, Jiangsu province will be site of plant sparks rally in city

Residents in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province ignored police warnings and filled a square for a demonstration over rumours the city would be the site of a Sino-French nuclear project.

The rally over a used-nuclear-fuel processing and recycling plant underscored the tension ­between public concern over ­nuclear safety and the growing pressure on China to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

The scene appeared to turn tense on Sunday night, the second night of the protest, with pictures posted on Weibo claiming to show police in riot gear, and messages claiming police scuffled with demonstrators. The claim could not be independently verified.

The Lianyungang city government also issued a statement late on Sunday, saying the site for the project was still being deliberated. The government pledged to ­ensure transparency and consult the public, but also warned it would deal with rumour-mongers severely.

Residents started to gather in a square downtown on Saturday night, with some chanting the slogan “boycott nuclear waste”, videos and photos circulating on mainland social ­media showed.

The government only highlights the mass investment in the project and its economic benefit, but never mentions a word about safety or health concerns,” a local resident surnamed Ding told the Post by phone. “We need to voice our ­concerns, that’s why we went on our protests,” he said.

Police had issued a warning late on Friday saying that the demonstration organiser had not applied for the gathering, and calling on residents not to be misled by information circulating on the internet. Large numbers of police officers were also deployed to the demonstration venue.

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Saturday’s demonstration appeared to be peaceful, with no reported conflicts.

Meanwhile over the weekend, the country conducted its first comprehensive nuclear-emergency drill, which aimed to test and improve responses to nuclear ­incidents, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, Xinhua reported.

Dubbed Storm-2016, the drill had no pre-planned scripts or ­expected results, Xinhua added.

China’s ambition to develop nuclear power was briefly hampered in 2011, after Beijing suspended approval for new nuclear power stations and started to conduct nationwide safety checks of all projects in the wake of the ­disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The moratorium was lifted last year when at least two nuclear power plants, including one in ­Lianyungang, were given the green light for construction.

The nation’s five-year plan covering 2016 to 2020 calls for a dramatic increase in non-fossil-fuel energy sources, with six to eight new nuclear plants to be built each year.

China has 35 nuclear reactors in operation and 20 under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Six provinces – including Guangdong, Shandong , ­Fujian, Zhejiang and Gansu – the only inland province – are listed as candidates for the Sino-French project, according to China Business News.

However, public anger was triggered late last month when comments on a government news website hinted that Lianyungang would be the site of the new project. According to CNNC’s website, the plant was to be the biggest ever project between China and France, and would be built by CNNC using technology from ­Areva, France’s state-owned maker of nuclear reactors.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2000561/residents-come-out-force-protest-against-sino-french

August 11, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , | 1 Comment

Thousands in Eastern Chinese City Protest Nuclear Waste Project

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Jean-Bernard Lévy, left, chief executive of the French power company EDF, with Qian Zhimin, center, president of the China National Nuclear Corporation, and Philippe Knoche, chief executive of Areva, in Paris last year.

BEIJING — China’s efforts to expand its nuclear power sector suffered a backlash in one eastern seaboard city over the weekend, as thousands of residents took to the streets to oppose any decision to build a reprocessing plant in the area for spent nuclear fuel.

The government of Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province, tried to calm residents on Sunday, a day after thousands of people defied police warnings and gathered near the city center, chanting slogans, according to Chinese news reports and photographs of the protests shared online.

They chanted “no nuclear fuel recycling project,” the state-run Global Times reported, citing footage from the scene. “It is unsafe to see another nuclear project coming and besieging us,” one resident told the paper.

Residents used WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging service, to share video footage showing downtown Lianyungang at night crowded with hundreds of people, many of them middle-aged, walking down a broad street in waves and chanting loudly, “Oppose nuclear waste, defend our home.”

The city government responded with the mix of reassurances and warnings that Chinese officials often use in the face of protests over pollution and environmental concerns. “Currently, the project is still at the stage of preliminary assessment and comparing potential sites, and nothing has been finally decided,” the city government said in a statement issued on Sunday.

But officials did not rule out that the site chosen might be somewhere near Lianyungang, and they warned against any more protests. “The relevant departments will use the law to strike hard against a tiny number of lawbreakers who concoct and spread rumors and disturb the social order,” the city government said.

On Monday, there were no signs of renewed demonstrations in the city. But the residents had made their point: Another possible building block of China’s nuclear power expansion had come under passionate public attack, defying the police warnings and government attempts to defuse alarm.

The Chinese government has said that it will accelerate building nuclear power and processing plants to wean the economy more quickly off coal. In March, the national legislature endorsed a five-year plan that promises to push forward with more nuclear power plants and a reprocessing plant for used fuel from China’s growing number of reactors. Japan also has plans to open a reprocessing plant.

But in Lianyungang and elsewhere, fears over the safety of nuclear power — magnified by the Fukushima calamity in Japan in 2011 — could frustrate those plans.

Lianyungang is just 20 miles southwest of a coastal nuclear power plant at Tianwan, which has two units operating, two under construction and approval to build two more. But the idea that used nuclear fuel might be reprocessed in the area seemed to renew anxieties about radiation risks.

A 2010 survey of 1,616 residents in the area already showed widespread apprehension about the Tianwan plant: 83.5 percent of respondents said they “worried about improper handling of nuclear waste.”

Complaints over industrial pollution, waste incinerators, toxic soil and other environmental issues have become one of the biggest causes of mass protest in China. And nuclear facilities have also become a source of worry for many.

In July 2013, officials in southern China shelved plans for a nuclear fuel fabrication plant after hundreds of nearby residents protested. Proposals for new nuclear power stations have also been met by online denunciations and petitions.

The demonstrations in Lianyungang broke out on Saturday after rumors spread that the area had been chosen as the site for a nuclear fuel processing and recycling plant to be built by the China National Nuclear Corporation, in cooperation with a French company, Areva. The companies have said construction will start in 2020 and be finished by 2030.

The companies have not reported settling on a site, nor have they revealed many other details about the proposed plant. But when China’s premier, Li Keqiang, visited France in June of last year, the companies agreed “to finalize the negotiations in the shortest possible time frame.”

Last month, a unit of the China National Nuclear Corporation said on its website that managers had visited Lianyungang to “study the proposed site.” That news appeared to sow alarm among some residents, who, in addition to the street protests, have taken to social media and online forums to voice opposition to the idea.

On Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese site that works like Twitter, messages have sprung up using a picture of a face in a heavy protective mask holding up a nuclear radiation sign with a red X across it. “The people of Lianyungang don’t want radiation,” the picture says.

The China National Nuclear Corporation’s nuclear fuel reprocessing unit said on its website on Saturday that the proposed plant would help the country become a “nuclear strong power.” But it emphasized that a site had not been chosen. It said places in six provinces, including Jiangsu, were under consideration.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/world/asia/china-nuclear-waste-protest-lianyungang.html?_r=0

August 9, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , | Leave a comment

JAPC Applies for Permission to Bury Tokai-1 Waste on Plant Premises

The Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC), under the terms of a local nuclear safety agreement, submitted a plan to Ibaraki Prefecture and Tokai Village to bury extremely low-level radioactive waste (Level III or L3) generated by the current decommissioning of its Tokai-1 Nuclear Power Plant (GCR, 166 MWe), located in the village. At the same time, JAPC also filed an application with the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for approval to bury the waste.
The waste burial is to take place on the premises of the nuclear power plant, which is the country’s first commercial reactor to be decommissioned. This is also the first time in Japan that a commercial NPP operator has submitted an application for an L3 burial plan connected with a reactor’s decommissioning.
The plan calls for the creation of a trench on the Tokai-1 premises that will be 100m long, 80m wide and 4m deep. The L3 waste will be first put in flexible container (flecon) bags and then buried in the trench, where it will remain under control for three to five decades as it becomes less radioactive. The trench will be capable of accommodating about 26,400 cubic meters of waste, with the total amount of waste to be buried expected to be some 16,000 tons. After considering the plan, which includes both management methods and safety measures, both the prefecture and village will decide whether to give their consent, and the NRA will also determine whether to approve it or not. Once the NRA does give it the green light, JAPC will begin work on constructing the trench, targeting FY18 (April 2018 to March 2019) for the onset of operation. 

Source: Japan Atomic Industry Forum 

http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japc-applies-for-permission-to-bury-tokai-1-waste-on-plant-premises/

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Despite pressing need, Japan continues to grope for nuclear waste site

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Welcome to Japan, land of cherry blossoms, sushi and sake, and 17,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste.
That’s what the country has in temporary storage from nuclear plants. Supporters of nuclear power say it’s cleaner than fossil fuels for generating electricity. Detractors say there’s nothing clean about what’s left behind, some of which remains a deadly environmental toxin for thousands of years.
Since nuclear power was first harnessed more than 70 years ago, the industry has been trying to solve the problem of safe disposal of the waste. Japan has been thrown into the center of the conundrum by the decision in recent months to retire five reactors after the Fukushima disaster started in 2011, while the restart process for one reactor was recently approved despite public opposition.
“It’s part of the price of nuclear energy,” Allison Macfarlane, a former chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in Tokyo during an interview on waste. “Now, especially with the decommissioning of sites, there will be more pressure to do something with this material. Because you have to.”
For more than half a century, nuclear plants in more than 30 countries have been humming away — lighting up Tokyo’s Ginza, putting the twinkle into New York’s Broadway and keeping the elevators running up the Eiffel Tower. Plus powering appliances in countless households, factories and offices around the world.
In the process, the world’s 437 operating reactors now produce about 12,000 tons of high-level waste a year, or the equivalent of 100 double-decker buses, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Most countries now agree burying atomic waste deep underground is the best option. Other ideas like firing it into space or tossing it inside a volcano came and went.
The U.S., with the most reactors, spent an estimated $15 billion on a site for nuclear refuse in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Local opposition derailed the plan, meaning about 49,000 tons of spent fuel sits in cooling pools at nuclear plants around the country.
Japan faces another challenge. The crisis at Fukushima No. 1 that started four years ago completely changed the equation.
It will take trillions of yen and technology not yet invented to clean up the shattered facility. How long that will take is disputed. Tokyo Electric Power Co. estimates 40 years. Greenpeace says it could take twice that time.
All 43 operational reactors in Japan have been offline since September 2013 for safety checks after the disaster started. The government has said nuclear power is essential to energy supply and reactors that meet safety standards will be allowed to restart.
The first in line belongs to Kyushu Electric Power Co., which last week said it has finished refueling one of its units in Kagoshima Prefecture. It plans to restart the reactor in August, which means generation of more nuclear waste.
It will be a “failure in our ethical responsibility to future generations” to restart reactors without a clear plan for waste storage, the Science Council of Japan said in April.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, known as NUMO, has been searching for a permanent storage site for years, initially inviting districts to apply as a host.
In 2007, it got one when the mayor of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, submitted interest. Like the residents near Yucca Mountain, the town’s citizens didn’t like the idea and voted him out of office. His successor canceled the plan.
Now facing the accelerated shutdown of some reactors post-Fukushima, NUMO in May ditched the idea of waiting for a volunteer. Instead, scientists will nominate suitable areas.
“We’d like all citizens to be aware and feel ownership of this situation,” said Takao Kinoshita, a NUMO official. “We should feel grateful for the community that’s doing something for the benefit of the whole country and respect their bravery.”
NUMO’s plan for a final underground repository was drawn up in 2007 and would cost ¥3.5 trillion.
It would contain about 40,000 canisters, each weighing half a ton and holding waste at temperatures above 200 degrees. The contents would give off 1,500 sieverts of radiation an hour, a level that would instantly kill a human being.
The canisters need to cool in interim storage for as long as 50 years before heading 300 meters below ground. Their stainless steel inner layer is wrapped in bentonite clay to make sure water can’t leak inside.
“That’s the biggest risk we see, water leaking through,” said Kinoshita.
Finland and Sweden are the only two countries so far to have selected and reached a public agreement on a final site and storage technology for high-level nuclear waste. Finland’s is expected to open in 2020.
Taking apart a reactor, known as decommissioning, produces a few tons of highly radioactive material, usually the used fuel and coolant. The buildings and equipment account for thousands of tons of so-called low-level waste.
In Japan, the central government is responsible for dealing with the most radioactive waste. Each plant operator handles the rest.
“Even in the low-level category there is the relatively higher-level waste and the nation’s technical solutions are not ready,” Makoto Yagi, the president of Kansai Electric Power Co., said at a June briefing in Tokyo.
Shaun Bernie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, said this shows Japan’s reactor program and high-level nuclear waste policy are “in a state of crisis.”
Without a clear disposal strategy, costs to take apart the reactors can end up being double original estimates, said Colin Austin, senior vice president at Energy Solutions, which has worked on every decommissioning project in the U.S.
Another wrinkle in Japan for finding a final disposal site is that the country sits on a mesh of colliding tectonic plates that make it one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Former NRC chief Macfarlane, who is also a seismologist, said that doesn’t make it impossible to bury the waste. A repository hundreds of meters underground is partly protected against quakes in the same way submarines are during high storms, she said.
Leaving nuclear waste on the surface indefinitely means it will get into the environment, so Japan has to solve this, she said.
“An adequate place underground is better than waiting for the best possible place.”
Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/16/national/despite-pressing-need-japan-continues-grope-nuclear-waste-site/#.VaecTaSqpBc

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Japan’s 17,000 Tons of Nuclear Waste in Search of a Home

Welcome to Japan, land of cherry blossoms, sushi and sake, and 17,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste.

That’s what the country has in temporary storage from its nuclear plants. Supporters of atomic power say it’s cleaner than fossil fuels for generating electricity. Detractors say there’s nothing clean about what’s left behind, some of which remains a deadly environmental toxin for thousands of years.

Since atomic power was first harnessed more than 70 years ago, the industry has been trying to solve the problem of safe disposal of the waste. Japan has been thrown into the center of the conundrum by its decision in recent months to retire five reactors after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. It also decided this week to begin the restart process of one reactor despite public opposition.

“It’s part of the price of nuclear energy,” Allison Macfarlane, a former chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an interview in Tokyo on atomic waste. “Now, especially with the decommissioning of sites, there will be more pressure to do something with this material. Because you have to.”

For more than half a century, nuclear plants in more than 30 countries have been humming away — lighting up Tokyo’s Ginza, putting the twinkle into New York’s Broadway and keeping the elevators running up the Eiffel Tower. Plus powering appliances in countless households, factories and offices around the world.

In the process, the world’s 437 operating reactors now produce about 12,000 tons of high-level waste a year, or the equivalent of 100 double-decker buses, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Fukushima Disaster

Most countries now agree burying atomic waste deep underground is the best option. Other ideas like firing it into space or tossing it inside a volcano came and went.

The U.S., with the most reactors, spent an estimated $15 billion on a site for nuclear refuse in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Local opposition derailed the plan, meaning about 49,000 tons of spent fuel sits in cooling pools at nuclear plants around the country.

Japan faces another challenge. Four years ago, the country had a nuclear accident unlike anything seen before. An earthquake and tsunami ripped through the engineering defenses at the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo and caused the meltdown of three reactors.

It will need billions of dollars and technology not yet invented to clean up Fukushima. How long that will take is disputed. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., estimates 40 years. Greenpeace says it could take twice that time.

‘Ethical Responsibility’

All Japan’s 43 operational reactors have been offline since September 2013 for safety checks after the disaster. The government has said atomic power is essential to energy supply and reactors that meet safety standards will be allowed to restart.

The first in line belongs to Kyushu Electric Power Co., which today said it has finished refueling one of its units in southern Japan. It plans to restart the plant in August, which means generation of more nuclear waste.

It will be a “failure in our ethical responsibility to future generations,” to restart reactors without a clear plan for waste storage, the Science Council of Japan said in April.

No Thanks

Japan’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization, known as NUMO, has been searching for a permanent storage site for years, initially inviting districts to apply as a host.

In 2007, it got one when the mayor of a town called Toyo submitted interest. Like the residents near Yucca Mountain in the U.S., Toyo’s citizens didn’t like the idea and voted him out of office. His successor canceled the plan.

Now facing the accelerated shutdown of some reactors post-Fukushima, NUMO in May ditched the idea of waiting for a volunteer. Instead, scientists will nominate suitable regions.

“We’d like all citizens to be aware and feel ownership of this situation,” said Takao Kinoshita, a NUMO official. “We should feel grateful for the community that’s doing something for the benefit of the whole country and respect their bravery.”

Deep Underground

NUMO’s plan for a final underground repository was drawn up in 2007 and would cost 3.5 trillion yen ($29 billion).

It would contain about 40,000 canisters, each weighing half a ton and holding waste at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit). The contents would give off 1,500 sieverts of radiation an hour, a level that would instantly kill a human being.

The canisters need to cool in interim storage for as long as 50 years before heading 300 meters below ground. Their stainless steel inner layer is wrapped in bentonite clay to make sure water can’t leak inside.

“That’s the biggest risk we see, water leaking through,” said Kinoshita.

Finland and Sweden are the only two countries so far to have selected and reached a public agreement on a final site and storage technology for high-level nuclear waste. Finland’s is expected to open in 2020.

Taking apart a reactor, known as decommissioning, produces a few tons of highly radioactive material, usually the used fuel and coolant. The buildings and equipment account for thousands of tons of so-called low-level waste.

Disposal Confusion

Japan’s government is responsible for dealing with the most radioactive waste. The plant operator handles the rest.

“Even in the low-level category there is the relatively higher-level waste and the nation’s technical solutions are not ready,” Makoto Yagi, the president of Kansai Electric Power Co., said at a June briefing in Tokyo.

Shaun Bernie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, said this shows Japan’s reactor program and high-level nuclear waste policy is “in a state of crisis.”

Without a clear disposal strategy, costs to take apart the reactors can end up being double original estimate, said Colin Austin, senior vice president at Energy Solutions, which has worked on every decommissioning project in the U.S.

Another wrinkle in Japan for finding a final disposal site is that the country sits on a mesh of colliding tectonic plates that make it one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

Former NRC chief Macfarlane, who is also a seismologist, said that doesn’t make it impossible to bury the waste. A repository hundreds of meters underground is partly protected against quakes in the same way submarines are during high storms, she said.

Leaving nuclear waste on the surface indefinitely means it will get into the environment so Japan has to solve this, she said.

“An adequate place underground is better than waiting for the best possible place.”

Source: Bloomberg Business

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-10/japan-s-17-000-tons-of-nuclear-waste-in-search-of-a-home

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Experts slam closed-door nuclear briefings

A panel of experts has criticized Japan’s industry ministry for discussing its new policy for disposing of high-level nuclear waste in closed-door sessions.

The ministry-appointed experts said at a meeting on Friday their call for information disclosure on the basic waste disposal policy has fallen on deaf ears.

They also said that holding sessions behind closed doors could have a negative impact on the issue.

The government decided in May to select prospective sites for burying high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and to ask local authorities for their cooperation in building the facilities.

The new policy was implemented following 13 years of failed efforts to solicit candidate sites due to strong safety concerns.

The ministry said it decided to hold closed-door briefings so that local government officials would feel free to speak out.

The ministry had held briefings in 39 prefectures by the end of June. They were attended by nearly 70 percent of local authorities nationwide. But some refused to attend to protest the closed-door policy.

The head of the panel, Hiroya Masuda, said the ministry must convince local authorities that the briefings don’t necessarily indicate candidacy for waste disposal sites. 

Source: NHK 

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150703_31.html

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Fukushima rejects briefing for nuclear waste site

Japan’s industry ministry is holding briefing sessions across the country. It’s struggling to secure disposal sites for high-level radioactive waste generated by nuclear plants.

But it will skip the session in Fukushima Prefecture, at least for now, due to strong opposition there.

The government plans to bury high-level radioactive waste at a depth of 300 meters or more in final disposal facilities. But the effort to solicit candidate sites has made no progress because of strong safety concerns among municipalities.

In May, the industry ministry decided to name appropriate candidate sites instead of waiting for municipalities to voluntarily apply.
Since then, it has been holding briefing sessions in 39 prefectures over how to process the highly radioactive waste and how it will select appropriate sites, to deepen understanding of the facilities.

But officials in Fukushima Prefecture rejected the ministry’s request to hold such a session. They cited the burden of the on-going scrapping of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

They also referred to building of intermediate storage facilities in the prefecture for contaminated soil and other materials from cleaning-up work in Fukushima. 

Source: NHK

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/201507

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Futaba town accepts interim storage facilities

The Japanese government’s plan to build intermediate storage facilities for radioactive waste from the 2011 nuclear accident is set to move ahead, now that the candidate sites have accepted the plan.

The government wants to build facilities for storing contaminated soil and debris on a 16-square-kilometer site straddling the towns of Futaba and Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture. The 2 towns host the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Okuma accepted the plan last month. The mayor of Futaba made the same decision on Tuesday in Iwaki city, where most of the town’s residents have evacuated.

Those in favor of accepting the intermediate storage facilities say they will help speed up decontamination efforts in the region.

But others cite the risk of the intermediate facilities becoming permanent unless the government fulfills its promise to dispose of nuclear waste outside the prefecture.

The government plans to continue purchase negotiations with the site’s landowners. It is also working out safety arrangements with the prefecture and the 2 towns for the transportation of radioactive waste to the facilities.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said acceptance of the government’s plan is an unavoidable part of accelerating post-disaster rebuilding.

Source: NHK

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150113_26.html

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment

Fukushima: Japan has chosen to incinerate tons of radioactive waste

Catastrophe nucleaire de Fukushima, pres de 4 ans apres, travaux de decontamination a l'interieur de la zone contamineeThree and a half years after the tragedy, most of plants and materials will be burned and the ashes stored.

By Marc Cherki Published 11/09/2014
Translation by D’un Renard

In Kawauchi, a small village located on both sides of of 20 kilometers division line around the Fukushima plant, many one cubic meter bags, are filled by the decontaminators with radioactive vegetal waste. Plants, grasses, lichens, shrubs that lined the road are now piled into these big bags.

Thus, the radiation received by persons traveling on this path is reduced. The plants are also removed within 20 meters around houses.

With Date and Minamisoma, Kawauchi is one of the “model villages” exemplified by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the Japanese government.

The committed efforts are huge . In less than a year, since the nuclear accident in March 2011, projects funded by the government were already valued at 10 billion euros only for the decontamination of soils, houses and a microscopic part of the forests.

At present, the kariokiba, the temporary storage sites, are overfull of waste.
About 43 million cubic meters (43 million tons), as plastic bags of blue, black or gray colors depending on the choice of the town, are piling into a thousand temporary sites.

The bags are half filled with plants.
The others contain the contaminated soil removed from the surface of rice fields and schoolyards, materials polluted by radioactive fallout cloud or dust collected in houses gutters,

The Japanese government has pledged to deal with the waste from 1 January 2015. But nobody believes this possible in such a short time. “We’re late,” admits Mr Ozawa, deputy director general of the department of environmental restoration in Fukushima, under the Ministry of the Environment.
As early as our first work, which started in the summer of 2012 and mobilized 17,000 people, “local authorities told us that we were too slow,” he admits.
But it is “like playing chess without having the rules. So we had to make the pieces and invent the rules. ”

At the Otsube storage site in Kawauchi, Youichi Igari, 40, who works for decontamination, admits that the government should not be able to recover the waste in the time promised.
This thorny issue of waste is closely related to the return of populations. Currently, 130,000 people are still displaced, according to the Government, out of which 50,000 out of the Fukushima Prefecture. The family of Youichi Igari family is one of those who left the town of Kawauchi. “My wife is afraid to come back,” admits the technician.

Compared to our own surveys made with a Geiger counter, the measuring of the radioactivity carried by the city is minimized by a third.
A difference that their expert justified by “the margin of error of measurement” … More serious over the bags covered with a green tarp, plants began to grow. Sign that the sealing is no longer guaranteed.
And if in the kariokiba visited in Date the black bags seem tight, the official measurements of radioaction that people can find on the Internet are lower than our measurements.

Divide by ten the number of bags could improve decontamination and encourage the return of the nuclear exiles.
The Japanese government is planning to burn and store its waste on two sites in Futaba and Okuma for those highly radioactive and in Tomiaka for those weakly radioactive (8,000 Bq / kg). Three towns near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The most active ash (100,000 Bq / kg) will be trapped in concrete and stored in an intermediate site for thirty years. Then to be moved after to a final repository to be stored there for more than two centuries and a half.

For already one year the Japanese government has informed the IAEA of its intentions.
“It’s good management, rather than letting the plants rot and release biogas. Burning waste is a method that we already use in France to reduce volumes.
For some of the waste, the operation in France is performed at the Centraco plant near Marcoule, a subsidiary of Socodei, which packages the ash into concrete, “says Bruno Cahen, the Andra industrial director.

This is particularly the case of technical waste containing cesium-137 which radioaction is halved every thirty years. “It is not possible to recover 100% of the fumes.
But technology can improve the collection of emissions to limit emissions into the atmosphere, “says Didier Dall’Ava, deputy director of sanitation and nuclear decommissioning at CEA.
Finally, in the case of the Japanese waste “the safety of the ashes with concrete must be confirmed from a chemical and mechanical point of view,” adds François Besnus, director of waste at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.

Still, the scale of the Japanese project is extraordinary, outside the norm.
The Marcoule site has the capacity to incinerate 3,000 tons of solid waste per year, it is quite low compared to 22 million tons of radioactive waste that the Japanese government wants to eliminate. Even if Japan opts for the best technique (rejection of one radionuclide in 100,000 to 1 million, according to Areva) this operation will lead to significant emissions into the atmosphere. As to incinerate waste will not remove the radioaction . Reconquérir le territoire reste une tâche titanesque. To reconquer that territory from radiation will remain a gigantic task.

Source : Blog de Serge Angeles
http://blog.serge-angeles.com/2014/11/09/japon-2014-fukushima324/

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 10 Comments

Town submits petition opposing waste facility

20141029_33_v_s2Oct. 29, 2014

Residents of Shioya Town, Tochigi Prefecture, have petitioned the Environment Ministry to drop a site in their town from consideration to host a facility for storing radioactive waste.

The site in Shioya, north of Tokyo, is one of five the government wants to build permanent storage facilities on for designated waste. The waste is material from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident that has radiation levels exceeding 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.

The mayor of Shioya and the leader of a group of residents handed their petition to State Minister of the Environment Yasuhiro Ozato at the ministry in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Shioya has a population of about 12,000. But the petition was signed by about 173,000 people from across Japan.

Residents and their supporters claim a permanent storage facility would threaten the town’s water supply and accelerate population decline.

State Minister Ozato said he takes the residents’ and signatories’ concerns seriously. He stressed the importance of smooth communication and exchange of views over those concerns.

The representative of the residents’ group said that he expects the State Minister to understand that the signatures show how strongly people feel about the government’s plan.

The Environment Ministry plans to hold a meeting of the prefecture’s mayors on November 9th to win support for the permanent storage facility.

Shioya is expected to reiterate their opposition to the plan.

Source: NHK

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141029_33.html

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment