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Plutonium found in urine of 5 workers exposed to radiation

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TOKYO (Kyodo) — A small amount of plutonium was found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident earlier this month at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, a hospital operator said Monday.

The result shows that the five workers have suffered internal radiation exposure following the June 6 accident at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center in the coastal town of Oarai.

They had been receiving medication to facilitate the discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies since the accident and will continue to do so, said the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, the operator of the hospital.

The five, although showing no signs of deterioration or notable change in their health, were hospitalized again from Sunday for the treatment.

In the accident, radioactive materials were released into the air in the room where the five were working when one opened a metal container holding plutonium and uranium powder samples and a plastic bag containing the samples inside suddenly ruptured.

Initially, the agency said up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 were found in the lungs of one of the five workers, while up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of the radioactive substance were found in the lungs of three other workers. It said at the time that the four had suffered internal radiation exposure.

But the facility operator has since said a subsequent check by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences has found no plutonium in the lungs of any of the five workers. It has not ruled out the possibility that what was actually detected was radioactive substance left on the workers’ bodies after decontamination.

Also on Monday, JAEA President Toshio Kodama again apologized over the accident, saying at a press conference, “The agency as a whole had problems in the prediction of risks.”

He said he has no intention of resigning for now but will take “appropriate” responsibility depending on the cause of the accident.

The agency submitted a report compiling the causes of the accident and measures to be taken to prevent a recurrence to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the state’s nuclear safety watchdog.



June 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Ibaraki nuclear facility where radioactive leak occurred was slack on safety

The facility handled plutonium but was unaware that a major accident could happen.

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As the facts surrounding the June 6 incident where five workers were exposed to radioactive materials following an accident at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture continue to emerge, it has become clear that the facility’s stance concerning safety management has been simply too soft — especially considering that it handles materials used for nuclear fuel.

The accident in question happened at around 11:15 a.m. on June 6 at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA)’s Oarai Research & Development Center in the coastal town of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture. Uranium oxide and plutonium oxide powder that had been stored in double-wrapped plastic bags inside a sealed stainless steel container were accidentally released across the research laboratory after the bags suddenly burst, thereby exposing all five workers nearby to the radioactive compounds. Prior to the leak, one of the workers — a man in his 50s — was opening the container for inspection.

The check was carried out at an unsealed work station referred to as the “hood.” The radioactive materials had been stored at a pressure level lower than the surrounding area, in an attempt to prevent them from leaking. However, this proved to be ineffective. The compounds flew across the room, in powder form, immediately after the bags burst open.

In addition to the hood, there is also a “glove box” inside the facility, which can be used to handle dangerous materials. However, the facility has no specific rules determining which work station should be used for which purpose, and it has become normal practice at the site for workers to handle sealed nuclear materials — such as those kept inside containers — at the hood work station.

Apparently, during the check of the stainless steel container at the Oarai facility, there was no intention of opening the plastic bags, and therefore, it was judged that, “There was no danger of being exposed to radiation.”

However, the contents of the stainless steel container had not been checked once in 26 years. Commenting on this issue, an executive from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has criticized the JAEA, stating, “How could they even be sure that the contents were kept sealed?” Meanwhile, an executive from the JAEA has said, “It was not anticipated that the plastic bags would burst. It seems that working at the hood work station may have been inappropriate.”

In addition, it has become clear that the five workers were not wearing full-face masks at the time of the accident. Instead, they were wearing masks that only covered their noses and mouths. Also, despite the fact there was a surveillance camera in the room, no footage was recorded, and no one was video monitoring the situation at the time of the accident.

Furthermore, an official from the NRA points out that, “It seems the facility was unaware that a major accident could happen.”

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

Burst nuclear container scattered contaminants

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The operator of a nuclear research facility north of Tokyo has detected contaminants scattered in the same room in which workers were exposed to radioactive substances from a nuclear fuel container.
Five workers were inspecting the container at the facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday. A bag inside the canister suddenly burst, expelling radioactive powder.
The operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, says it has detected radioactive substances from 14 sections of the room’s floor. It says measurements reached a maximum of 55 becquerels per square centimeter.
Photos taken a day after the accident show black flecks scattered on the floor. The agency says they could be plutonium and uranium.
After the accident, the 5 workers were kept in the contaminated room for 3 hours. Agency officials said they did not anticipate an incident of this kind, and needed time to set up a tent outside the room to decontaminate the workers.
The agency earlier said one of the workers had 22,000 becquerels of radioactive substances in his lungs. This level of exposure can cause major damage to health. But it now says the actual figure could be lower. Officials say the testing device may have also measured contaminants on the surface of the man’s body.
The worker has been transferred to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences. The officials say plutonium was not detected in an initial test there.

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium

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According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear workers were quarantined in plutonium-tainted room for three hours after accident: JAEA

n-nuclear-a-20170610-870x555The Oarai Research & Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture is shown on Wednesday. The facility is overseen by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.


The five workers exposed to airborne plutonium at the Oarai Research & Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture were quarantined for about three hours in the room where the accident occurred, a Japan Atomic Energy Agency official said Friday.

Although this action was taken to prevent the plutonium and other radioactive contaminants from spreading to other parts of the nuclear research facility, it probably worsened their internal exposure as they breathed the tainted air.

Internal radiation exposure has been confirmed in four of the five men.

Education and science minister Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference Friday that a specially appointed team in the ministry would question JAEA President Toshio Kodama about Tuesday’s accident in the coastal town of Oarai.

The accident occurred inside an analysis room at the facility’s fuel research building around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday when a worker in his 50s opened a sealed metal container that had a plastic container of plutonium and uranium powder samples inside that was double-bagged in plastic. At some point, the bag ruptured, ejecting powder into the air.

JAEA says the tainted floor of the room is giving off 55 becquerels of radiation per square centimeter in the area in front of the apparatus — believed to be a fume hood — in which the container was placed before it was opened. The acceptable level is 4 becquerels, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The workers waited in the room for 3½ hours after reporting the accident. It was only at 2:44 p.m. that they started being checked for radioactive contamination, JAEA said.

When the accident occurred, the men were wearing masks that covered their noses and mouths, but the checks revealed radioactive material was in the nostrils of each one of them.

Subsequent lung checks showed that the man in his 50s had 22,000 becquerels worth of plutonium-239 in his system, compared with 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels in three of the other four. Four of the five were thus diagnosed with internal radiation exposure.

The metal container, which had not been opened once since it was sealed in 1991, was being checked on the instructions of the NRA. Experts evaluating the accident say it is possible that helium had accumulated in the bag over the years, raising the pressure in the container.

The NRA, the government’s nuclear watchdog, plans to look into the accident, including the manner in which the workers wore their masks.

The metal container in question had never been opened since it was sealed in 1991. The workers were checking the container based on an instruction from the nuclear watchdog. Experts have pointed to the possibility that helium gas had built up inside the bag over the years, raising the pressure inside the container.

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Ibaraki plutonium exposures baffle Japanese nuclear experts


Experts probing the cause of the plutonium-inhalation accident involving five employees at a fuel research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture are trying to determine whether failures in safety equipment or procedures allowed the deadly powder to escape its container.

The accident might have been caused by the long-term buildup of helium emitted by the plutonium, one expert says.

The accident took place at around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday when five men from the Plutonium Fuel Research Facility at Oarai Research & Development Center were taking stock of a radioactive substance in an old storage container. This process usually involves placing the container into a special machine that adjusts the air pressure to prevent the material inside from being blown into the air.

Masked, gloved and donning other protective gear, a worker in his 50s along with a coworker standing by, removed the sealing bolts of a stainless steel container and opened the lid only to see a black powder burst forth.

The plastic bags were thick and we did not expect them to burst,” said an official at Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the facility’s operator. “I have no idea why (the plutonium powder) flew out of the container,” another said.

The powdery substance had originally been encased in a plastic container double-wrapped in plastic. It was then placed inside a stainless steel container sealed with six bolts. The container had not been opened since 1991, and held about 300 grams of uranium oxide and plutonium oxide that had been used in past experiments, JAEA officials said.

The container may have been filled with helium (which can be emitted by plutonium) from extended storage, and that may have increased the pressure inside it,” according to Kazuya Idemitsu, an expert on nuclear fuel engineering and a professor at the Graduate School of Engineering at Kyushu University.

Although masks were covering the workers’ noses and mouths, radioactive material was detected inside the noses of three of the exposed employees.

The agency said Wednesday that internal radiation exposure was detected in four of the five workers and that a fifth is suspected as well.

Up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium were detected in the lungs of the worker in his 50s who opened the lid. Based on that figure, the agency estimates his body has likely has 360,000 becquerels of material inside it overall, they said Thursday.

Under current labor standards, that translates into 1.2 sieverts over a year, and perhaps a 12 sieverts over 50 years, the officials said.

The government allows designated nuclear workers to be exposed to a maximum of 0.05 sievert per year, or 0.1 sievert over five years.

This is an unusually high amount of radiation. We must carefully look into whether the workers took proper steps,” Nobuhiko Ban, an expert on radiological protection and a member of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at an NRA meeting Wednesday.

Plutonium decay can continuously damage cells in the body so it is imperative to make sure workers don’t inhale it, Ban acknowledged.

The main threat from internal plutonium exposure this is bone cancer.

There are very limited cases of treatment for internal exposure to plutonium in Japan,” Kazuhiko Maekawa, an expert on the subject, said.Gen Suzuki, an expert on radiation epidemiology and professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, said the amount of radiation in their bodies can vary based on the size and character of each particle of plutonium.

March 1997: Radioactive material leaks after a fire and explosion at the Ibaraki branch of now-defunct Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp., later absorbed by Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Thirty-seven employees were exposed.

September 1999: A self-sustaining chain reaction is triggered by the use of mixing buckets at uranium processing firm JCO Co. in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. The accident eventually kills two of three employees, after tainting more than 600 residents.

June 2006: A suspected case of plutonium inhalation occurs at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, but a check for internal exposure turns out negative.

July 2008: A worker at Global Nuclear Fuel Japan Co. is exposed to uranium in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, followed by the exposure of four workers to a uranium-tainted liquid a month later.

March 2011: Three workers stepped in to a puddle during the meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, exposing two to high radiation.

May 2013: Thirty-four researchers at JAEA’s Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) in Tokai are exposed to an exotic soup of isotopes during an experiment.

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

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No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

High level of radiation found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

OARAI, Ibaraki — A worker at a research and development (R&D) center here has been found to have a high level of radioactive material — up to 22,000 becquerels — in his lungs following exposure to radiation, the center said on June 7.

The discovery came after five workers at the Oarai Research & Development Center, which belongs to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, were exposed to radioactive materials on June 6.

Radioactive materials are difficult to expunge from the human body, and it is thought that the level of internal exposure in this case will be 1.2 sieverts in one year, and 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The five workers have been taken to the National Institutes of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture, where they are undergoing examinations.

At a Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) meeting on June 7, a committee member said the workers’ situation is “not mild.”

According to organizations such as the NRA, one of the five workers was found to have up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 in his lungs. Two other workers were discovered to have 12 becquerels and 130 becquerels of americium-241 in their lungs, respectively. All five workers were administered medicine designed to reduce the radiation dose of the internal exposure.

The five workers were all wearing protective clothing and face masks at the time of the radiation exposure, the R&D center said. It is currently being investigated whether or not there were any problems at the time the incident happened.

Plutonium and americium are both harmful to human bodies as they emit alpha rays.

Four workers exposed to radioactive materials at Ibaraki nuclear facility

Four workers suffered internal radiation exposure due to inhalation of a large amount of plutonium during an inspection at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In the wake of what appears to be an unprecedented internal radiation exposure accident, the state’s nuclear safety regulator and local labor authorities inspected the scene to see if there were any flaws in safety management.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection on Tuesday.

Up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 were detected in the lungs of a male worker in his 50s. Up to 14,000 becquerels of radioactive materials were found in the three other workers, officials of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the worker with the higher reading has been exposed to an extreme amount of radiation and the situation is considered grave.

While none of the workers have complained of health problems so far, an official with the facility’s operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The agency assumes that the amount of radiation exposure of the male worker in his 50s translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years, well above the legal limit set for workers who deal with radiation.

For its part, the labor office said that it estimates the man with the highest exposure to radiation has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure, which is 50 millisieverts a year and 100 millisieverts in five years.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays over a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to help discharge radioactive materials from their bodies.

I saw such a (high) figure for the first time,” said Makoto Akashi, a senior official at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, referring to the reading of 22,000 becquerels. The institute oversees the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

It is very clear from a scientific viewpoint that the internal exposure to radiation would increase the risk of cancer (for the workers),” Akashi said.

I have never heard of such a large amount as a reading for internal exposure to radiation,” Shunichi Tanaka, who heads the NRA, told a separate news conference.

The workers wore masks but could have inhaled radioactive material from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

Kunikazu Noguchi, an expert on radiological protection and associate professor at Nihon University, said it is hard to conclude the impact of the 22,000 becquerels, as the actual amount of radioactive substances he inhaled is still unknown.

It is possible, however, that the worker could have been exposed to more radioactive materials than the legally allowable maximum limit,” Noguchi said. He said it is necessary to get to the bottom of the incident, especially whether workers followed guidelines, as it is hard to imagine a plastic bag containing nuclear substances could tear in such a facility as the Oarai center.

Worker at Ibaraki facility has up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in lungs

TOKYO – Five workers have suffered internal radiation exposure, with one found with up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in his lungs, following an inspection accident at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In one of the worst accidents involving internal radiation exposure in Japan, up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 have been detected from the other three workers, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection.

A labor standards inspection office in Ibaraki conducted an inspection Tuesday and Wednesday at the building, while the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nuclear safety watchdog, also dispatched an inspector to the scene to check whether there were any violations of safety regulations.

The agency estimates that the amount of radiation exposure of the man with the highest level translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The labor office believes that the man in his 50s has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure of 0.1 sievert in five years set for those who handle radioactive materials.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays for a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has said the operation by the workers was carried out as usual.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said of the incident at a press conference, “Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling.”

“As (a level for) internal radiation exposure it’s an amount unheard of,” he said.

“We shouldn’t downplay the situation,” said NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban, a specialist in radiological protection.

While none of the workers has complained of health problems so far, an official of the facility operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to facilitate the discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies.

Since radioactive materials were found on hands and faces of four of the five workers, they have been decontaminated, said an official of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, an umbrella organization of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

The workers wore masks to cover their mouths and noses but could have inhaled the radioactive materials from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has previously come under criticism for lacking safety awareness, following revelations of a massive number of equipment inspection failures at its Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The Japanese government decided to decommission Monju last year after it has barely operated over the past two decades despite its envisioned key role in the country’s nuclear fuel recycling policy.



June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Plutonium Fuel Shipment Planned for Japan’s Takahama Reactors

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Tokyo, 6 June 2017 – With today’s restart of the Takahama 3 reactor in Fukui Prefecture, Greenpeace revealed that the nuclear operator Kansai Electric and the French nuclear company AREVA are planning a secret plutonium fuel shipment from France to the Takahama plant. Plutonium fuel (MOX) reduces the safety of the reactor, increasing both the risk of a severe accident and its radiological consequences. The shipment is scheduled to depart Cherbourg France on 7 July.

This also presents serious security issues, both as it is a potential terrorist target and that the plutonium in the MOX fuel is direct use nuclear weapons material. Due to these risks, the U.S. State Department and other agencies are required to approve the security plan for plutonium shipments to Japan under the terms of the US – Japan Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement of 1988. The Trump administration has approved this shipment, despite the increasingly unstable conditions in the region.

The last thing Northeast Asia needs at this time, or at any time, is more nuclear weapons-usable material. Last year, the U.S. removed 331 kilograms of  plutonium from Japan due to security risks, while ignoring the 10 tons of material that remained. One year later, at least 500 kg more plutonium is being approved for delivery to Japan. Plutonium is not your normal cargo to be traded as a commodity. It can be used as nuclear bomb material. Japan’s bankrupt plutonium program, and its endorsement by the Trump administration, is a further threat to the peace and security of this troubled region,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany in Tokyo.

The shipment comes at a time when Northeast Asia is already destabilized due to threats on the Korean peninsula, the spectre of military conflict, and the increasing risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. Japan’s decades long and multibillion dollar plutonium program has failed to ensure energy security for Japan, but it has led to the nation accumulating over 48 tons of plutonium, 10 of which is stored in Japan, and the rest in the UK and France.

This shipment will consist of at least 16 plutonium fuel (MOX) assemblies, which are planned to be loaded into the Takahama 4 reactor during its next refueling, expected in 2018. The amount of plutonium in the shipment due to leave France next month is estimated to range from between 496-736kg – as little as 5kg is sufficient for one nuclear weapon.

Two lightly armed British vessels, the Pacific Egret and Pacific Heron, are scheduled to leave the French port of Cherbourg on 7th of July, and are expected to arrive in Takahama between mid-August and early September, depending on the route chosen. One of the ships will transport the plutonium fuel, and the other will act as ‘armed escort’.

Both Takahama 3 and 4 already have plutonium MOX fuel in their cores, with 24 and 4 MOX assemblies loaded into each reactor respectively.

KEPCO’s unjustified restart of the Takahama 3 reactor is made worse by the fact that they are planning a secret plutonium shipment which will increase the amount of dangerous plutonium MOX in their reactors. The Takahama reactors already pose an unacceptable threat to the people of Fukui and Kansai region. This will be compounded by the even greater usage of plutonium MOX fuel,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist with Greenpeace Germany (currently based in Japan).

Due to the severity of the impacts of a nuclear disaster involving MOX fuel, citizens groups, including Greenpeace, have demanded that AREVA release vital safety data on the MOX fuel produced for Japan, including for the Fukushima Daiichi 3 reactor and the Takahama reactors, due to evidence of flawed production and quality control during manufacture.(1) To date, AREVA has failed to release any of the safety data. AREVA also refused to release the same data for MOX fuel loaded into the Fukushima Daiichi reactor 3 in 2000. The AREVA company which has suffered a near meltdown of its business in recent years, is desperate to secure more MOX fuel contracts with Japan, which suffered as a direct consequence of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident leading to the shutdown of the Japanese reactor fleet.

Of the five reactors now operating in Japan, three are operating with varying amounts of plutonium MOX fuel. There is a possibility of additional MOX fuel being in the shipment for other Japanese reactors – Ikata 3 is operating with MOX fuel, and the Genkai 3&4 will operate with MOX fuel if they restart before March 2018.

1 – Letter to AREVA Japan Calling for Disclosure of MOX Fuel Quality Control Data, 2016-01-28, and FUNDAMENTAL DEFICIENCIES IN THE QUALITY CONTROL OF MIXED-OXIDE NUCLEAR FUEL, Fukushima City, Japan, March 27th 2000

2 – Tokai plutonium shipment March 2016

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Commercial plutonium a bomb material

p8-gilinsky-a-20170601-870x580.jpgThe Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant under construction in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture. Japan currently possesses 48 tons of reactor-grade plutonium

Reprocessed nuclear fuel can be used to make effective and powerful nuclear weapons

You would think that by now, in discussing the future of Japan’s plutonium stockpile, one fact would be incontrovertible: Commercial plutonium — often called reactor-grade plutonium — can be used as an effective nuclear explosive material in weapons. We are not talking about simple or primitive nuclear weapons, but modern weapons comparable in sophistication and performance to those held in the arsenals of the major nuclear powers.

Yet despite the availability of public information and repeated statements by knowledgeable officials, the advocates of commercial plutonium use as fuel still refuse to acknowledge the point. The respected Council for Nuclear Fuel Cycle (CNFC) prominently displays on its website an article that dismisses concerns expressed by nuclear experts over stockpiles of Japanese plutonium separated from power reactor fuel. The Tokyo-based CNFC specifically criticizes expert statements at meetings in Japan in 2015. As we were among those experts expressing concern at those meetings, we think it is important to explain why CNFC is wrong.

It is understandable that CNFC defends commercial use of plutonium. The organization believes that plutonium use is essential to long-term reliance on nuclear energy. It has been devoted for many years, in its own words, to “promotion of peaceful uses of plutonium.” It has relied on the assumption that plutonium from Japan’s nuclear power reactors — of the so-called light water reactor (LWR) type — cannot be used for bombs. The fact that it is now clear such plutonium is useful for bombs threatens the foundation of CNFC’s thinking. It is difficult to convince the public that a plan to use many tons of nuclear explosives to fuel power plants is an entirely peaceful one when 1 ton could be used to produce over 100 nuclear warheads. The usability of reactor-grade plutonium for weapons thus threatens the whole nuclear fuel-cycle concept of CNFC. This includes not only extraction of plutonium by reprocessing and recycling it in LWRs, but also the planned use of plutonium from LWRs to fuel a future generation of fast breeder reactors — the ultimate goal of plutonium advocates.

CNFC is naturally looking for some way to protect its traditional position on the necessity to use plutonium fuel in the face of undeniable facts about plutonium’s weapon usefulness. The council has been forced to concede that it is indeed possible to use reactor-grade plutonium for a nuclear “device.” But it seizes on the difference between weapon-grade plutonium and reactor-grade plutonium, the latter coming from spent fuel that has been irradiated for a much longer time than weapon-grade plutonium produced in military production reactors. The reactor-grade material contains an admixture of undesirable plutonium isotopes (other forms of plutonium). CNFC insists the use of it for an explosive device poses difficult technical problems. Such a device, in its view, would be too heavy and bulky and dangerous to be a practical weapon. No country has created an arsenal of such weapons, from which CNFC concludes it would be “absurd” to think any country would do so in the future. It goes on to flatly predict: “Nuclear weapons will never be made from plutonium extracted from LWR fuels.”

The problem is that CNFC’s thinking regarding the technical characteristics of nuclear weapons is 70 years out of date, and simplistic as a result. The additional plutonium isotopes in reactor-grade plutonium increase the radioactivity, and therefore also the heat output, of the material. But nuclear- weapon designers have found ways to keep the devices from overheating, without significantly adding to the weight. And fabricators can easily cope with the additional radioactivity.

Some of the additional isotopes spontaneously release neutrons. In the first nuclear- weapon designs this neutron background would tend to initiate a chain reaction too early and thus tend to reduce the yield of the explosion and make it less predictable. But this is an irrelevant consideration for the weapons use of this material by an industrially advanced country.

Quoting from the U.S. Department of Energy Publication — Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Storage and Excess Plutonium Disposition Alternatives dated January 1997: “Advanced nuclear weapon states such as the United States and Russia, using modern designs, could produce weapons from reactor-grade plutonium having reliable explosive yields, weight, and other characteristics generally comparable to those of weapons made from weapons-grade plutonium.”

Until now, CNFC has apparently been unaware of this. This should make CNFC aware of the essential equivalence of reactor grade and weapons grade plutonium for modern nuclear weapons use. One of us, having extensive experience in nuclear explosives design, can attest to the truth of this U.S. government statement.

We would urge CNFC and others who hold similar views to reflect on this and to reconsider their position on the weapon usability of reactor-grade plutonium. It may have been tenable years ago, but no longer. It would be a shame if those who guide Japan’s nuclear energy policy disregarded this fact out of suspicion that it is presented for political purposes. It is undeniable that reactor-grade plutonium — extracted from spent reactor fuel by reprocessing — can be used for effective and powerful nuclear weapons.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima prognosis and how radioactivity affects the body: Medical facts from Dr. Helen Caldicott

biological effect of radiation.jpg


With specific information on Tritium, Strontium 90, Cesium 137, radioactive Iodine 131, and Plutonium.

By Helen Caldicott, Volume 4, Issue 2 2014, Australian Medical Student Journal

…Fukushima is now described as the greatest industrial accident in history.

The Japanese government was so concerned that they were considering plans to evacuate 35 million people from Tokyo, as other reactors including Fukushima Daiini on the east coast were also at risk. Thousands of people fleeing from the smoldering reactors were not notified where the radioactive plumes were travelling, despite the fact that there was a system in place to track the plumes. As a result, people fled directly into regions with the highest radiation concentrations, where they were exposed to high levels of whole-body external gamma radiation being emitted by the radioactive elements, inhaling radioactive air and swallowing radioactive elements. [2] Unfortunately, inert potassium iodide was not supplied, which would have blocked the uptake of radioactive iodine by their thyroid glands, except in the town of Miharu. Prophylactic iodine was eventually distributed to the staff of Fukushima Medical University in the days after the accident, after extremely high levels of radioactive iodine – 1.9 million becquerels/kg were found in leafy vegetables near the University. [3] Iodine contamination was widespread in leafy vegetables and milk, whilst other isotopic contamination from substances such as caesium is widespread in vegetables, fruit, meat, milk, rice and tea in many areas of Japan. [4]

The Fukushima meltdown disaster is not over and will never end. The radioactive fallout which remains toxic for hundreds to thousands of years covers large swathes of Japan and will never be “cleaned up.” It will contaminate food, humans and animals virtually forever. I predict that the three reactors which experienced total meltdowns will never be dissembled or decommissioned. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) – says it will take at least 30 to 40 years and the International Atomic Energy Agency predicts at least 40 years before they can make any progress because of the extremely high levels of radiation at these damaged reactors.

This accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive elements, eat radioactive food and drink radioactive beverages. In 1986, a single meltdown and explosion at Chernobyl covered 40% of the European land mass with radioactive elements. Already, according to a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences, over one million people have already perished as a direct result of this catastrophe. This is just the tip of the iceberg, because large parts of Europe and the food grown there will remain radioactive for hundreds of years. [5]

Medical Implications of Radiation

Fact number one

No dose of radiation is safe. Each dose received by the body is cumulative and adds to the risk of developing malignancy or genetic disease.

Fact number two

Children are ten to twenty times more vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults. Females tend to be more sensitive compared to males, whilst foetuses and immuno-compromised patients are also extremely sensitive.

Fact number three

High doses of radiation received from a nuclear meltdown or from a nuclear weapon explosion can cause acute radiation sickness, with alopecia, severe nausea, diarrhea and thrombocytopenia. Reports of such illnesses, particularly in children, appeared within the first few months after the Fukushima accident.

Fact number four

Ionizing radiation from radioactive elements and radiation emitted from X-ray machines and CT scanners can be carcinogenic. The latent period of carcinogenesis for leukemia is 5-10 years and solid cancers 15-80 years. It has been shown that all modes of cancer can be induced by radiation, as well as over 6000 genetic diseases now described in the medical literature.

But, as we increase the level of background radiation in our environment from medical procedures, X-ray scanning machines at airports, or radioactive materials continually escaping from nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps, we will inevitably increase the incidence of cancer as well as the incidence of genetic disease in future generations.

Types of ionizing radiation

  1. X-rays are electromagnetic, and cause mutations the instant they pass through the body.
  2. Similarly, gamma radiation is also electromagnetic, being emitted by radioactive materials generated in nuclear reactors and from some naturally occurring radioactive elements in the soil.
  3. Alpha radiation is particulate and is composed of two protons and two neutrons emitted from uranium atoms and other dangerous elements generated in reactors (such as plutonium, americium, curium, einsteinium, etc – all which are known as alpha emitters and have an atomic weight greater than uranium). Alpha particles travel a very short distance in the human body. They cannot penetrate the layers of dead skin in the epidermis to damage living skin cells. But when these radioactive elements enter the lung, liver, bone or other organs, they transfer a large dose of radiation over a long period of time to a very small volume of cells. Most of these cells are killed; however, some on the edge of the radiation field remain viable to be mutated, and cancer may later develop. Alpha emitters are among the most carcinogenic materials known.
  4. Beta radiation, like alpha radiation, is also particulate. It is a charged electron emitted from radioactive elements such as strontium 90, cesium 137 and iodine 131. The beta particle is light in mass, travels further than an alpha particle and is also mutagenic.
  5. Neutron radiation is released during the fission process in a reactor or a bomb. Reactor 1 at Fukushima has been periodically emitting neutron radiation as sections of the molten core become intermittently critical. Neutrons are large radioactive particles that travel many kilometers, and they pass through everything including concrete and steel. There is no way to hide from them and they are extremely mutagenic.

So, let’s describe just five of the radioactive elements that are continually being released into the air and water at Fukushima. Remember, though, there are over 200 such elements each with its own half-life, biological characteristic and pathway in the food chain and the human body. Most have never had their biological pathways examined. They are invisible, tasteless and odourless. When the cancer manifests it is impossible to determine its aetiology, but there is a large body of literature proving that radiation causes cancer, including the data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  1. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen H3 and there is no way to separate tritium from contaminated water as it combines with oxygen to form H3O. There is no material that can prevent the escape of tritium except gold, so all reactors continuously emit tritium into the air and cooling water as they operate. It concentrates in aquatic organisms, including algae, seaweed, crustaceans and fish, and also in terrestrial food. Like all radioactive elements, it is tasteless, odorless and invisible, and will therefore inevitably be ingested in food, including seafood, for many decades. It passes unhindered through the skin if a person is immersed in fog containing tritiated water near a reactor, and also enters the body via inhalation and ingestion. It causes brain tumors, birth deformities and cancers of many organs.
  2. Cesium 137 is a beta and gamma emitter with a half-life of 30 years. That means in 30 years only half of its radioactive energy has decayed, so it is detectable as a radioactive hazard for over 300 years. Cesium, like all radioactive elements, bio-concentrates at each level of the food chain. The human body stands atop the food chain. As an analogue of potassium, cesium becomes ubiquitous in all cells. It concentrates in the myocardium where it induces cardiac irregularities, and in the endocrine organs where it can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. It can also induce brain cancer, rhabdomyosarcomas, ovarian or testicular cancer and genetic disease.
  3. Strontium 90 is a high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 28 years. As a calcium analogue, it is a bone-seeker. It concentrates in the food chain, specifically milk (including breast milk), and is laid down in bones and teeth in the human body. It can lead to carcinomas of the bone and leukaemia.
  4. Radioactive iodine 131 is a beta and gamma emitter. It has a half-life of eight days and is hazardous for ten weeks. It bio-concentrates in the food chain, in vegetables and milk, then in the the human thyroid gland where it is a potent carcinogen, inducing thyroid disease and/or thyroid cancer. It is important to note that of 174,376 children under the age of 18 that have been examined by thyroid ultrasound in the Fukushima Prefecture, 12 have been definitively diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 15 more are suspected to have the disease. Almost 200,000 more children are yet to be examined. Of these 174,367 children, 43.2% have either thyroid cysts and/or nodules.In Chernobyl, thyroid cancers were not diagnosed until four years post-accident. This early presentation indicates that these Japanese children almost certainly received a high dose of radioactive iodine. High doses of other radioactive elements released during the meltdowns were received by the exposed population so the rate of cancer is almost certain to rise.
  5. Plutonium, one of the most deadly radioactive substances, is an alpha emitter. It is highly toxic, and one millionth of a gram will induce cancer if inhaled into the lung. As an iron analogue, it combines with transferrin. It causes liver cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, or multiple myeloma. It concentrates in the testicles and ovaries where it can induce testicular or ovarian cancer, or genetic diseases in future generations. It also crosses the placenta where it is teratogenic, like thalidomide. There are medical homes near Chernobyl full of grossly deformed children, the deformities of which have never before been seen in the history of medicine.The half-life of plutonium is 24,400 years, and thus it is radioactive for 250,000 years. It will induce cancers, congenital deformities, and genetic diseases for virtually the rest of time.Plutonium is also fuel for atomic bombs. Five kilos is fuel for a weapon which would vaporize a city. Each reactor makes 250 kg of plutonium a year. It is postulated that less than one kilo of plutonium, if adequately distributed, could induce lung cancer in every person on earth.


In summary, the radioactive contamination and fallout from nuclear power plant accidents will have medical ramifications that will never cease, because the food will continue to concentrate the radioactive elements for hundreds to thousands of years. This will induce epidemics of cancer, leukemia and genetic disease. Already we are seeing such pathology and abnormalities in birds and insects, and because they reproduce very fast it is possible to observe disease caused by radiation over many generations within a relatively short space of time.

Pioneering research conducted by Dr Tim Mousseau, an evolutionary biologist, has demonstrated high rates of tumors, cataracts, genetic mutations, sterility and reduced brain size amongst birds in the exclusion zones of both Chernobyl and Fukushima. What happens to animals will happen to human beings. [7]

The Japanese government is desperately trying to “clean up” radioactive contamination. But in reality all that can be done is collect it, place it in containers and transfer it to another location. It cannot be made neutral and it cannot be prevented from spreading in the future. Some contractors have allowed their workers to empty radioactive debris, soil and leaves into streams and other illegal places. The main question becomes: Where can they place the contaminated material to be stored safely away from the environment for thousands of years? There is no safe place in Japan for this to happen, let alone to store thousands of tons of high level radioactive waste which rests precariously at the 54 Japanese nuclear reactors.

Last but not least, Australian uranium fuelled the Fukushima reactors. Australia exports uranium for use in nuclear power plants to 12 countries, including the US, Japan, France, Britain, Finland, Sweden, South Korea, China, Belgium, Spain, Canada and Taiwan. 270,000 metric tons of deadly radioactive waste exists in the world today, with 12,000 metric tons being added yearly. (Each reactor manufactures 30 tons per year and there are over 400 reactors globally.)

This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one million years – but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain, inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and genetic diseases for the rest of time.

This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights and computers or make nuclear weapons. It was Einstein who said “the splitting of the atom changed everything save mans’ mode of thinking, thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

The question now is: Have we, the human species, the ability to mature psychologically in time to avert these catastrophes, or, is it in fact, too late?

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and perspectives presented in this article are those of the author alone and does not reflect the views of the Australian Medical Student Journal. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors or omissions.


[1] Caldicott H. Helen Caldicott Foundation’s Fukushima Symposium. 2013; Available from:

[2] Japan sat on U.S. radiation maps showing immediate fallout from nuke crisis. The Japan Times. 2012.

[3] Bagge E, Bjelle A, Eden S, Svanborg A. Osteoarthritis in the elderly: clinical and radiological findings in 79 and 85 year olds. Ann Rheum Dis. 1991;50(8):535-9. Epub 1991/08/01.

[4] Tests find cesium 172 times the limit in Miyagi Yacon tea. The Asahi Shimbun. 2012.

[5] Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, Nesterenko AV, Sherman-Nevinger JD. Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment: Wiley. com; 2010.

[6] Fukushima Health Management. Proceedings of the 11th Prefectural Oversight Committee Meeting for Fukushima Health Management Survey. Fukushima, Japan2013.

[7] Møller AP, Mousseau TA. The effects of low-dose radiation: Soviet science, the nuclear industry – and independence? Significance. 2013;10(1):14-9.
Originally published:

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Small Plutonium Dust in the Lung

Translation from french by Hervé Courtois (Dun Renard)

1, What does a small grain of invisible dust of plutonium arrived in a lung?

2) Why are the lungs of French people at risk?

3) and their wallets?

The small grain of plutonium in a lung

The following text * was written by Maurice Eugène ANDRÉ, commandant, honorary instructor in NBCR, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical and Radiological, of the Royal Air Force of Belgium.

He made a great effort of pedagogy:

“The technical aspect developed below shows that a plutonium dust with a diameter of the order of a micron (millionth of a meter) kills by simply lodging in a lung: this dust in fact delivers more than 100 000 rad [see at the end the notes about units] in one year to a lung area surrounding the dust, a very small area delimited by a sphere with a diameter of the order of one tenth of a millimeter having radioactive dust as the center.

I believe that I must reveal the artifice of calculation used by pronuclear scientists to deceive scientists from other disciplines and the public. Before exposing the calculations themselves, I would give an example of this artifice of calculation by applying it to a domain where the vice of reasoning is more apparent.

Here is the example: one can argue that a rifle bullet is not dangerous. It is sufficient to disregard the point of impact (which, of course, absorbs all the kinetic energy of the projectile) and to assume that all the kinetic energy of the ball will be absorbed by a larger area, as for example the whole surface of the body, in which case it is demonstrable that no point of rupture of the flesh will be found. In this example, you will immediately understand the flaw of reasoning which is to disregard the actual fact that the bullet attacks a specific location and not the whole body or a whole organ. It forces rupture at a point because it concentrates all its energy on a small surface or area, and, with equal energy, the smaller this zone, the more certain is the rupture.

Thus, in the case studied for plutonium dust, they seriously deceive the public if they suppose, in the calculations, that the energy released in a determined time by the radioactive dust is diffused throughout the lung, when in reality, it attacks with great precision a well-defined zone of the lung and is therefore very dangerous because it can cause death.

Lus add for non-scientists that, in the case of Pu 239 dust with a diameter of the order of one micron, lodged in a lung, the area to be considered (the small sphere of flesh surrounding the dust) is injured at the rate of one particle shot (ejection of a nucleus of helium projected into the flesh at about 20,000 km per second) every minute (more exactly 1414 shots per one thousand minutes).

Under these repeated conditions of aggression, the body is unable to restore the area, however small it may be, constantly destroyed. Everything happens, in fact, as if they were asking masons to build a house around a submachine gun that would shoot in any direction, and without warning, about a shot every minute.

In this example, it will be understood that the “masons” are the biological materials drained by the body towards the destroyed zone in order to carry out repairs, while the “house to build” is the area of the lung to be restored. Finally, it will be understood that the role of the “submachine gun” is brilliantly held by the radioactive dust of plutonium which can shoot, without interruption, at the same rate, many years (a plutonium dust only decreases its rate of fire very slowly reaching half that rate only after the enormous period of twenty-four thousand years, a very long period in relation to the duration of a man’s life). […] The phenomenon of the considered intensive and uninterrupted shooting is played on a very small scale, but this does not change the reality, which leads, no more and no less, to the onset of lung cancer.

It is the finding that a local and repeated irradiation is harmful and presents necrosing effects: The cancer will proliferate throughout the body from the area, however small it may be, subjected to intense ionization for a sufficient time. In fact, it is a question, on the part of the body, of a reaction to the exhaustion of the faculty of reparation in a very precise place which has been destroyed a very large number of times. “

* It was published in “Studies and expansion”, Quarterly, No. 276, May-June 1978, and reproduced in the book of Wladimir Tchertkoff, “The Crime of Chernobyl-The Nuclear Gulag”, Actes Sud, 2006, p. 83-5.


An autoradiographic study (auto because it is the sample that produces the radiation itself) was done on alveolar macrophages extracted by pulmonary lavage of rats exposed to MOX Massiot et al., 1997, “Physico-chemical characterization of inhalable powders of mixed oxides U, Pu)O2 from the COCA and MIMAS processes “ , Radiation protection vol. 32, No. 5: 617-24; To ± save La Hague and Areva, this powder consisting of 3 to 12% plutonium is used in the atomic reactors ~ 900 Megawatt of EDF.

It was found that “a great heterogeneity of the dose distribution within the pulmonary tissues after inhalation” (Figure 1)


Stars Traces alpha Pu emissions, lung cells © Massiot et al 1997, ffig. 3

 Fig. 1. Autoradiography of rat alveolar macrophages extracted by pulmonary lavage after MOX powder inhalation; exposure time 24h; (Massiot et al 1997, figure 3).The small lines starting from the particles are the traces of alpha disintegrations which destroy the biological tissue on their route.

The authors write: “Autoradiographic analysis confirms the presence of hot spots (Figure 3) whose activity is compatible with the presence of pure PuO2 particles and shows the presence of numerous particles with Low specific activity (1 to 2 traces per day). ” (…) Thus, in terms of radiotoxicology, the problem posed is not limited to the presence of hot spots, but to their association with a much more homogeneous irradiation due to particles of low specific activity. It should be emphasized here that no experimental data are currently available to assess the risks associated with such exposure.” (Massiot et al., 1997, pp. 622-23). This remark was made two years after the opening of MELOX. The future may leave us some funny surprises …

Melox, tons of fine plutonium powder

MELOX, a project carried out since 1986 by the powerful member of the “corps des mines” Jean Syrota, started in 1994-95 and has the right to produce 115 tons of MOX oxide per year (about 100 tons of heavy metal) for France, for Germany (1/3 of the production of MELOX in 2001), Switzerland and before Fukushima for Japan … which also store plutonium at La Hague.
Indeed, plutonium, which is produced in all reactors, can only come from a chemical reprocessing plant of the La Hague type. It must be extracted: fuming nitric acid, massive discharges of krypton-85 etc. MELOX is in some ways the obligatory after-sales service of such a factory. It takes the two or nothing.


MELOX chimney© Areva

Fig. 2. One of the two chimneys of MELOX in Marcoule. The air extracted from the depressurized workshops handling the ultra-fine Uranium and the plutonium powder, is expelled through cascade filters by these chimneys

The plutonium powder (80 μm, mass area 3.5-5 m2 / g) comes from La Hague and the uranium powder from Pierrelatte. There are on-site buffer storages. A primary mixture of 30% PuO2 is put into ball mills for 90 minutes and go thru a 15 μm granolumetry. Posterior fit with uranium powder. The powder is therefore very thin and fluid to be able to be poured like a liquid in tiny dices of one centimeter. It is eminently dispersible by any breath. There were echoes during the dismantling of the Marcoule AT-Pu which preceded MELOX: “The entire internal surface of the machine is covered with a thin black film,uranium and plutonium powder. with grains of a few microns, the highly volatile plutonium and uranium powder was deposited everywhere. On the surfaces of the boxes, on, under and inside the equipments, in all interstices. “ (Libération 28/10/09, S. Huet). In October 2009, after hiding it for several months,The CEA announced that the plutonium fuel dust that had slipped through the interstices over the years was not about 8 kg As they had “estimated” but “about” 39 kg.There was a theoretical risk, that the CEA was unaware, of a criticity accident (the “critical mass” announced being about 16 kg) for its staff.

Such plants must be completely sealed and it is imperative that the expelled air (air drawn from the workshops to be depressurized) to be filtered with great finesse. The cascading filters presented in the flyers like the top of the top, are an absolute, the least, of necessity. That said if (or when) it flees nobody knows it if the operator does not say it. It is completely impossible for an individual, and even many laboratories, to identify plutonium.

MELOX uses about 7 tons of plutonium per year that passes in powder form and therefore any situation of non-containment represents an enormous risk on the Cotes du Rhône and the Valley (Aircraft, explosion, earthquakes with very probable liquefaction on such a site with sandbanks, breaking the waterproofing, etc.). This would require the evacuation of very large areas (Wise-Paris : p.6)..

The CEA-Astrid project, three handfuls of billions

While Phenix in Marcoule still has a part of its irradiated fuel in the belly under its storage shed, its sodium heated by electrical resistances (until 2030), The CEA wants to build another Superphenix (with the same metallic sodium), project which it renamed Astrid.

This one, they want it with a fuel more and more “hot”: 25% of plutonium.

Unfortunately Areva-MELOX being very automated can not do that … So they need another MELOX. The National Commission of Evaluation, CNE, set up by the Bataille-Revol-Birraux laws of 1991 and 2006 was tasked to help with the task. In its 2010 report (Appendix p.28) the CNE wrote: “The construction of the Astrid reactor must be accompanied by the commissioning of a Mox fuel fabrication plant (AFC) in La Hague …” And the first page of the summary of its 2013 report for decision-makers: “In a tense economic context, the Commission considers a top priority … Astrid as well as the fabrication plant for the manufacture of its fuel”.

Then after that ? What should be done with this very “very hot” irradiated fuel from an Astrid? Areva-La Hague, UP2-800 and UP3 can not handle it.

The 2011 CNE Report (p.14): “… Astrid reactor and a reprocessing pilot that allow to test the different operations related to the recycling of plutonium and americium … Demonstrate that the dissolution of irradiated fuel … with much higher levels of actinides than in PWR fuel is controlled “And in its 2012 report, chapter on Astrid p.13: “Passage to the realization of the project … it is essential to conduct the following actions: – Construction of a reprocessing pilot … “; And CNE 1st page of last report (Nov 2013): “In a tense economic context … In a second stage a reprocessing plant for the fuel Mox irradiated in Astrid”. Yes, what could not go wrong…

In fact the “Astrid project of the CEA” is simply that it wants to reconstructs its entire cycle in brand new.

It would not in any way of any use for the wastes that the nuclear industry of the moment manufactures which are glasses, bitumens and concretes. For proof, for those the government sends to Bure the mobile gendarmes. The CEA needs for its triple project, three handfuls of billions of euros: one for the Melox-Astrid, one for the Astrid reactor and one for the reprocessing-Astrid. The CEA eagerly seeks, and thanks to one of their own, they may have already found a part of it via the “CO2 tax of the IPCC” on the households (Astrid would be “non-carbon”, so “clean”, he-he … But a bundle of billions is needed, And they are also looking for the japanese taxpayers of Fukushima (France wants Japan to share 570 billion yen ASTRID reactor development cost
Reminders :

1, A plutonium 239 dust with a diameter of 1 μm weighs 0.000 000 000 015 gram or 15 picograms. Invisible but quite destructive …

2, Units: Gray (rad) Sievert

The rad (which is mentioned once in the small text of Maurice Eugene ANDRÉ at the head of this post) is an energy unit that has been replaced by a larger unit, the gray, Gy (100 rad = 1 Gy).

Often one speaks in Sievert, Sv, or in milliSievert (mSv, thousandths of Sv). The Sievert is a measure of “damage” (gross translation of the gray on the living). We pass from one to the other by a factor Wr:

Dose in Gy × Wr = dose in Sv

The factor Wr is 1 for the X and gamma radiations. For the alpha radiation (Pu, U, Am …) it was 10, I think it became 20 at least for some. It is also increasing for beta (was 1, an English institute switches to 2 for tritium for example). This means that their deleterious effects were underestimated.

3, Another reminder: For the public the current standard, it is by its definition of a limit between the admissible and the inadmissible, of an added artificial dose (total of all the anthropic exposures, except medical) of 1 mSv / year. It is an arbitrary choice based on the principle that all human activity has consequences.

This value indicates from the official factors that this dose received by 1 million people must produce 50 fatal cancers, 13 serious genetic abnormalities and 10 curable cancers. It is not as one sometimes reads a dose of safety.


January 10, 2017 Posted by | radiation | | 2 Comments

Monju and the nuclear fuel cycle

fast breeder reactor monju npp.jpg


Media reports that the government is finally weighing whether to pull the plug on the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, due to the massive cost needed to restart the long-dormant facility, should come as no surprise. Once touted as a “dream reactor” for an energy-scarce country that produces more plutonium than it consumes as fuel, Monju has been a nightmare for national nuclear power policy for the past two decades. The sole prototype reactor for this kind of technology has been in operation a mere 250 days since it first reached criticality in 1994. It has mostly been offline since a 1995 sodium coolant leak and fire. Its government-backed operator has been declared unfit by nuclear power regulators to run the trouble-prone reactor, and the education and science ministry, in charge of the project, has not been able to find a viable solution.

More than ¥1 trillion in taxpayer money has so far been spent on Monju, and maintenance alone costs ¥20 billion a year. Restarting the reactor under the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new safety standards would cost another several hundred billion yen, including the expense of replacing its long-unused fuel as well as its aging components — though there would still be no guarantee that it would complete its mission of commercializing fast-breeder reactor technology.

The Abe administration may think that writing off the ill-fated costly project, even with the projected ¥300 billion cost of decommissioning the facility over 30 years, will help win more public support for its policy of seeking to reactivate the nation’s conventional reactors — most of which remain idled in the wake of the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima No. 1 plant — once they’ve cleared the NRA screening. Public concerns over the safety of nuclear energy remain strong after the Fukushima disaster, with media surveys showing a large portion of respondents still opposed putting the idled reactors back online.

If it is going to decide to decommission the Monju reactor, however, the government should also rethink its pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — in which spent fuel from nuclear power plants is reprocessed to extract plutonium for reuse as fuel. Monju, which runs on plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, has been a core component of the program. As Monju remained dormant for more than 20 years, the government and power companies have shifted the focus of the policy to using MOX fuel at regular nuclear power plants. The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, which resumed operation in August, runs on MOX fuel. The government apparently thinks the Monju program is no longer essential to the policy.

But the nuclear fuel cycle itself has proven elusive, and some say the policy has already collapsed. It is still nowhere in sight when the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture — another key component in the program and whose construction began in 1993 — will be ready for operation.

After its scheduled completion in 1997 has been delayed by more than 20 times due to a series of technical glitches and other problems, its construction cost has ballooned three times the original projection to ¥2.2 trillion.

If indeed the Rokkasho facility is completed and starts reprocessing spent fuel from power plants across the country, the Ikata power plant is currently the only one in operation that consumes plutonium-uranium fuel. It’s not clear how many more will be up and running in the years ahead given the slow pace of restarting the idled reactors, and the Rokkasho facility operating without a sufficient number of reactors using MOX fuel would only add to Japan’s stockpile of unused plutonium — which has already hit 48 tons.

If it’s the cost problem that’s finally spelling doom for the Monju project, the government and power companies should also consider the cost-efficiency of the nuclear fuel cycle program, including the extra cost of reprocessing spent fuel into MOX fuel. They should also think about whether the program is compatible with the government’s stated policy — though its commitment may be in doubt — of seeking to reduce Japan’s dependency on nuclear power as an energy source.

Monju has drifted on for years after its future was clearly in doubt. A decision now to terminate the project seems sensible. Such a decision should also prompt the government to stop and consider whether its nuclear fuel cycle still makes sense.

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Plutonium from Japan to be disposed of underground in New Mexico

U.S.-bound plutonium that has recently been shipped out of Japan will be disposed of at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico after being processed for “inertion” at the Savannah River Site atomic facility in South Carolina, according to an official of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“The plutonium will be diluted into a less sensitive form at the SRS and then transported to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal deep underground,” said Ross Matzkin-Bridger in charge of the operation at the NNSA, a nuclear wing of the Department of Energy.

“The dilution process involves mixing the plutonium with inert materials that reduce the concentration of plutonium and make it practically impossible to ever purify again,” he told Kyodo News in a recent phone interview.

The official made the remarks ahead of the latest Nuclear Security Summit, sponsored by President Barack Obama, which began Thursday in Washington.

The fourth such meeting of world leaders is focused on how to secure weapons-usable nuclear materials all over the globe. The summit started after Obama’s 2009 speech in Prague, in which he called for “a world without nuclear weapons” and for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

At the previous summit in the Netherlands in March 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to return plutonium and highly enriched uranium upon request from the Obama administration, which is seeking to strengthen control of nuclear materials.

The removal of 331 kilograms of plutonium and hundreds of kilograms of HEU from the Fast Critical Assembly, a research facility located in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, was completed before the Nuclear Security Summit kicked off.

Japan received the plutonium and HEU fuels from the United States, Britain and France from the late 1960s to early 1970s for research purposes in the name of “Atoms for Peace.”

The nuclear fuel delivery, however, has generated controversy in South Carolina since it was reported that it was en route to the U.S. government-run SRS facility in the state.

South Carolina is “at risk of becoming a permanent dumping ground for nuclear materials,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, calling for the freight to be stopped or rerouted.

The final disposal at the WIPP, as described by Matzkin-Bridger, may defuse these local concerns in South Carolina.

The WIPP is a repository — about 660 meters underground — for permanently storing nuclear waste created by the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program.

“The Department of Energy has signed a Record of Decision to implement our preferred option to prepare 6 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the SRS for permanent disposal at the WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico,” Matzkin-Bridger explained. “This includes all foreign plutonium that we bring to the United States under our nonproliferation programs.”

The HEU from Japan’s FCA will be “down-blended” to low enriched uranium at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, according to the official. In the future, LEU will be used for research purpose at research reactors both in the U.S. and Japan, possibly including the FCA.

“This project was accomplished on an accelerated timeline well ahead of schedule, thanks to the hard work and strong cooperation from both sides,” said a U.S.-Japan joint statement released Friday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit.

“It furthers our mutual goal of minimizing stocks of HEU and separated plutonium,” the document added, emphasizing the importance of the operation in strengthening nuclear security.

In the statement, the Japanese government made a new pledge to remove and transfer HEU fuels from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), another Japanese research institute, to the United States for down-blending and “permanent threat reduction.”

“If the KUCA’s HEU reactor is successfully converted to a LEU unit, it will have a significant meaning for other reactors in the U.S. and European nations, which are pursuing to convert reactors for LEU,” Hironobu Unesaki, a professor at Kyoto University, said. “The KUCA could provide academic outputs for future LEU conversion process worldwide.”

Officials and specialists in both nations have praised the bilateral cooperation, which aims to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism through securing sensitive materials.

However, the materials recently transferred from Japan are only the tip of the iceberg. Currently, Japanese utilities possess over 47 metric tons of separated plutonium, which is equivalent to about 6,000 nuclear bombs.

At the last Nuclear Security Summit two years ago, Abe restated the nation’s international promise not to possess any plutonium that it has no use for. But the country’s stockpile of the nuclear material has since slightly increased.

A recent court injunction to suspend the operation of two plutonium-consuming reactors in Fukui Prefecture has made a solution for the plutonium problem more elusive.

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan doles out over ¥16 billion in subsidies for slow-moving MOX projects

The government has used taxpayer money to provide over ¥16.2 billion in subsidies to local governments for promoting so-called pluthermal power generation using mixed oxide fuel (MOX), a survey has shown.
The subsidies, financed with revenue from a tax for power-resources development imposed on electricity users, have been distributed to local governments that accepted pluthermal power generation at facilities in their regions.
The Jiji Press survey released Saturday illustrates that a large amount of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the pluthermal project in order to win support from local governments.
The project, a key part of the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy, uses MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.
So far, just four reactors in Japan have used MOX fuel, including reactor 2 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The reactor, set to be decommissioned, experienced a core meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan hopes to eventually raise the nation’s total number of reactors carrying out pluthermal generation to somewhere between 16 and 18.
However, pluthermal projects have failed to progress as expected, prompting critics to urge the central government to conduct an immediate review of its policy.
The other three reactors that have run on MOX fuel are the No. 3 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture, the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. The Takahama plant reactor is set to be rebooted later this month using MOX fuel.
The survey found that seven of the nine prefectural governments and all of the 10 other municipalities entitled to the subsidies — one to promote the fuel-cycle policy and the other to support host municipalities — have actually received the payments.
The exceptions, Hokkaido and Shizuoka prefecture, have refrained from applying for the subsidies. While the Fukushima disaster has spurred safety concerns among citizens, a series of scandals — including attempts to influence public opinion — in favor of pluthermal projects — have eroded trust in the plan, sources said.
In Hokkaido, the No. 3 reactor at Hokkaido Electric Co.’s Tomari plant has been designated for pluthermal power generation. In Shizuoka Prefecture, the No. 4 reactor at Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant has also been tapped for the pluthermal project.
Of the four prefectures where pluthermal generation has been carried out, Saga received ¥6.097 billion in state subsidies and Ehime was given a total of ¥6.059 billion by the end of fiscal 2014.
Fukui, meanwhile, has received ¥2.486 billion as of the end of 2013 and is expected to get more subsidies through fiscal 2015.

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | 2 Comments

Japan’s Plutonium Problem

OXFORD, England — When Japan marked the 70th anniversary of Nagasaki’s obliteration by a plutonium bomb on Aug. 9, its own cache of weapons-usable plutonium was more than 47 metric tons — enough to make nearly 6,000 warheads like the one that flattened Nagasaki.

Japan, an industrial powerhouse but resource-poor, has long depended on nuclear energy. Before the earthquake and meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, it was generating nearly one-third of its electricity from nuclear power, and had plans to increase that share to 50 percent by 2030. Japan’s 48 standard reactors burn uranium fuel, a process that yields plutonium, a highly radioactive and extremely toxic substance.

These reactors were shut down after Fukushima. But Japan still stores nearly 11 tons of plutonium on its territory (the rest is abroad for now), and stockpiling plutonium remains hazardous: There is seismic instability, but also the risk of theft by terrorists. Yet just this week, Japan put one reactor back online, and another four have been approved for restart by the end of FY2015.

For this, one can thank a powerful network of utility companies, conservative politicians and bureaucrats in Japan, who peddle the notion that plutonium constitutes a sort of thermodynamic elixir. A byproduct of burning uranium, plutonium itself can be processed in so-called fast-breeder reactors to produce more energy. That step also yields more plutonium, and so in theory this production chain is self-sustaining — a kind of virtuous nuclear-energy cycle.

In practice, however, fast-breeder technology has been extremely difficult to implement. It is notoriously faulty and astronomically expensive, and it creates more hazardous waste. By the 1990s, many countries that experimented with fast-breeder reactors, including the United States, had phased them out.

But Japan doubled down. The government invested heavily in Monju, a prototype fast-breeder reactor, and the nuclear industry went on a charm offensive. It introduced Mr. Pluto, a puckish animated character, who claimed plutonium was safe enough to drink. It set up so-called PR centers next to nuclear plants: An exhibit at the one near Monju declared that the reactor was “necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years.”

The exhibit did not say Monju was a failure. The reactor became operational in 1994, but was shut down the next year after a leak caused a coolant to catch fire. Then came a botched cover-up, more than a decade of repairs, a failed restart and another accident. Monju has cost about $12.5 billion so far and produced only a tiny amount of energy.

In 1993 Japan also started spending a fortune on a reprocessing facility at Rokkasho, which would transform nuclear waste into fuel by separating plutonium and usable uranium from other waste. The process also is extremely expensive, and it, too, creates huge amounts of waste. Scheduled to begin operations in 2016, the plant could add as many as eight tons of plutonium to Japan’s stockpile each year.

While Japan’s record with nuclear waste is abysmal, no other state has found a safe or economically sustainable way to reuse such substances, especially not plutonium. Britain has announced it will abandon its costly and highly toxic reprocessing efforts by around 2020. The United States has a program to recycle nuclear byproducts into a mixed-oxide fuel known as MOx, a blend of uranium and plutonium. But the Obama administration has put it on stand-by because of ballooning costs.

France, which is at the forefront of MOx conversion efforts, has also struggled and is expected to phase out its MOx program by 2019. Instead, it has announced plans to start building in 2020 a new kind of fast-breeder reactor, known as ASTRID. This reactor is designed to generate energy by converting high-level nuclear waste into less dangerous residues, which require storage for several hundred years rather than many thousands of years, as is the case with plutonium. But this project has been delayed until at least 2030.

By far the best way to handle plutonium is to store it in secure long-term repositories underground. Having long banked on conversion, neither France nor Britain has permanent facilities; they keep plutonium in interim storage at reprocessing plants. Only two states have begun building viable long-term storage. Finland is constructing a vast facility blasted out of granite, which should be usable as of 2020. In the United States, underground chambers that can accommodate 12 metric tons of plutonium have been dug in New Mexico.

Considering Japan’s many vulnerabilities, particularly seismic activity, nuclear waste should no longer be stored there. The Japanese government should pay its closest allies to take its plutonium away, permanently.

Britain already holds about 20 tons of Japan’s plutonium, and France, about 16 tons, under contracts to reprocess it into usable fuel. Under current arrangements, this fuel, plus all byproducts (including plutonium), are to be sent back to Japan by 2020. Instead, Japan should pay, and generously, for that plutonium to stay where it is, in secure interim storage. And it should help fund the construction of secure permanent storage in Britain and France.

The Japanese government should also pay the United States to take the nearly 11 tons of plutonium currently in Japan. This proposal will seem controversial to some Americans, but the two states already have arrangements for the exchange of nuclear material. (With Finland, however, the proposition is a political nonstarter.) But it will take many years to build additional permanent storage in the United States — and overcome likely opposition in Congress — so in the meantime, Japan’s plutonium should be stored in interim facilities at American plants.

Handling Japan’s plutonium would be a great burden for receiver countries, and Japan should pay heftily for the service. But even then the expense would likely amount to a fraction of what Japan spends on its ineffectual plutonium-energy infrastructure: By the most conservative estimate, the Rokkasho facility is expected to cost $120 billion over its 40-year lifetime.

The benefits of this policy would extend far beyond Japan. An earthquake near Rokkasho could trigger an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe; preventing such an accident is in the whole world’s interest. And by funding the construction of long-term storage facilities overseas, Japan wouldn’t just be solving its plutonium problem. It would also be helping other states mitigate their own.

Peter Wynn Kirby is a nuclear and environmental specialist at the University of Oxford. 

Source: The New York Times

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment