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Aomori wants reassurance that it won’t be final nuclear waste site

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Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura (left) and Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato (right) attend a meeting of a council for nuclear fuel cycle policy held at the Prime Minister’s Office Wednesday.

Oct 21, 2020

Aomori Prefecture on Wednesday urged the government to reconfirm its policy of not building in the prefecture a facility for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the nation.

The request was made during a meeting of a council for discussions on issues related to the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy between relevant Cabinet ministers and officials of the prefecture, where a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility is under construction. It was the first meeting of the council since November 2010.

At the day’s meeting, the Aomori side called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet, launched last month, to maintain the promise not to make the prefecture a final disposal site, upheld by past administrations.

Participants in the meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, included Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama from the central government, and Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura.

“It’s necessary for the state and the operator (of the reprocessing plant) to make the utmost efforts to promote, with support from Aomori, the nuclear fuel cycle policy, including the launch of the plant,” Kato said at the start of the meeting.

Mimura told reporters after the meeting that he asked the central government to abide by the promise and promote the nuclear fuel cycle policy, in which uranium and plutonium are extracted from spent fuel and reprocessed into fuel for use at nuclear power plants.

Mimura indicated that Kato showed the state’s understanding of his requests.

In July, the central government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that the basic design of the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori village of Rokkasho meets the country’s nuclear safety standards, which were crafted after the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. aims to complete the plant in fiscal 2022. The NRA spent over six years screening the Rokkasho facility’s design.

Following the NRA’s conclusion, the Aomori side asked the state to hold a meeting of the nuclear fuel cycle policy council.

Aomori has agreed to accept spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants across the country on the condition that a final disposal facility is not constructed in the prefecture.

The central government regards the nuclear fuel cycle as a pillar of its nuclear energy strategy.

Besides the reprocessing plant, a facility to make mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel from extracted uranium and plutonium is also under construction at the same site in Rokkasho.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/21/national/japan-aomori-nuclear-waste-disposal/

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Rokkasho plant should be shut down in energy policy shift

jjljlJapan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in 2018

July 31, 2020

Japan’s nuclear watchdog has effectively endorsed the safety of a controversial nuclear reprocessing plant being built in a village along the Pacific coast in northern Japan.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on July 29 approved an outline of safety measures for the trouble-plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. is building in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

The NRA said the outline meets the new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The NRA’s decision marks a major step forward in constructing the plant for recovering plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel, the core facility for the government’s program to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system.

NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa, however, stressed that the body’s decision does not mean an endorsement of the nuclear fuel recycling policy per se, saying in a news conference that it is a “policy issue” whether there is enough of a rationale for pursuing the policy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration should confront the reality that the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has completely changed the environment surrounding nuclear power generation and make a fundamental review of the government’s nuclear energy policy.

Nuclear fuel recycling involves recovering plutonium from spent nuclear fuel to be reused in reactors. The government has been promoting recycling separated plutonium back into the fuel of reactors since the 1950s under the rationale that Japan, a nation poor in natural resources, needs to make more efficient use of nuclear fuel.

More than half a century on, the share of nuclear power generation in Japan’s overall electricity production is now very small as most of the reactors that were shut down in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns have yet to be restarted.

It is also nearly impossible to find a site for building a new nuclear plant. As aged reactors will be decommissioned one after another in the coming years, the importance of nuclear power generation for Japan’s energy supply will steadily diminish.

Over the long term, Japan needs to phase out nuclear power generation to remove public anxiety about a large-scale accident. 

Nuclear fuel recycling can have no great significance in this new era when Japan has to start shifting away from atomic energy. Many industrial nations have long given up nuclear reprocessing as economically unviable.

Another big problem with reprocessing the spent fuel is that it produces plutonium, a material that can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

Japan has a stockpile of some 46 tons of plutonium, stored both at home and abroad, an amount enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs. It is fueling fears and drawing criticism internationally.

Japan Nuclear Fuel’s plant in Rokkasho is designed to have the capacity of reprocessing 800 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually to recover 7 tons of plutonium.

But the plan to develop a fast neutron reactor that can “consume” plutonium by transforming it into other forms of nuclear waste, the key technology for plutonium consumption, has gone awry with the decision to decommission Japan’s “Monju” prototype sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor.

There are clearly also limitations to the plan to burn so-called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel, which is usually plutonium blended with natural uranium, in existing nuclear reactors.

The government has promised the international community to reduce the nation’s surplus plutonium. That means the reprocessing operation at the Rokkasho plant will have to be restricted so that the amount of plutonium recovered will not exceed consumption.

It simply does not make sense to spend as much as 14 trillion yen ($134.33 billion) on building the plant to recover a small amount of plutonium.

Given that this huge cost will be passed onto consumers through higher electricity bills, it is impossible to win broad public support for the project.

If the government decides to pull the plug on the fuel recycling program, it will have to face tough policy challenges it has long avoided tackling, such as how to dispose of spent fuel. But the nation cannot make the inevitable leap into the new age of energy if it continues spending huge amounts on nuclear power generation, which is beset by so many problems.

There is a growing global trend toward renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This is the time for the government to make a radical shift in its energy policy.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13594167

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

8 cases of inappropriately stored nuclear waste found at northern Japan reprocessing plant

kjlklmlmThe Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, is seen in this May 14, 2020 file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft

 

July 15, 2020

TOKYO — Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) had been inappropriately storing nuclear waste at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in northern Japan, including keeping waste in undesignated areas, the country’s nuclear regulatory body has revealed.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) had instructed JNFL to make improvements in its practices in 2017, but the company had left some of its nuclear waste in places where they were not supposed to be. There has been no confirmation that any of the radioactive substances leaked. There have been a series of shoddy practices uncovered at JNFL, which is likely to call into question the company’s attitude.

At the fuel reprocessing plant, uranium and plutonium are extracted from spent nuclear fuel for reuse in nuclear reactors. Highly radioactive waste liquid that is generated in the process becomes nuclear waste when it is solidified in glass. According to the NRA and others, JNFL had been keeping nuclear waste in a building different from the one the waste is meant to be stored in. As for the approximately 160 kilograms of shards of radioactive waste liquid solidified in glass, an appropriate storage method had not been stipulated. There were eight cases of inappropriate storage, some of them spanning the past 19 years.

Inspectors from the NRA Secretariat confirmed inappropriate storage of nuclear waste in August 2017. The regulatory body asked that JNFL correct its practices by August 2019, but only two of the eight cases had been remedied by the end of June 2020.

At a meeting concerning the safety inspection of the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant this past May, the NRA had determined that the plant had effectively met the government’s new criteria. JNFL explained that it had intended to consult with the NRA Secretariat once the inspections had taken place. The NRA, meanwhile, says that the situation is exempt from safety inspections under the government’s new criteria.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200715/p2a/00m/0na/002000c?fbclid=IwAR1ohnwU8wykHwF939fJOtLzQvZrujUk0p9op3mdPs1ujPVtBjfNRjNgcCk

 

 

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Government, nuclear industry badly in need of a reality check

hkjlklJapan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture

May 15, 2020

In his 1991 book “Rokkashomura no Kiroku” (Record of Rokkasho village), journalist Satoshi Kamata documented the displacement of residents for a planned large development project in the northern village.

Kamata reproduced an essay written by an elementary school pupil, whose school was earmarked for closure because of the megaproject.

“I detest development more than I could ever say,” the youngster wrote.

The villagers were promised a rosy future, with rows of factories turning their rural community into a vibrant urban center. But none of that happened, and the school closed in 1984.

“All that talk about the factories was a lie,” the child lamented. “I truly hate being made to feel so sad and lonely.”

Instead of this development project that never materialized, the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture ended up hosting a facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

A series of delays held up the project for years, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority finally ruled the plant’s safety measures acceptable under its new standards on May 13.

The Rokkasho plant was meant to be the “nucleus” of the nation’s nuclear fuel recycling program of the future, with the purpose of minimizing nuclear waste by reusing spent fuel.

The reprocessed fuel was to be burned in fast-breeder reactors, but efforts to develop a viable fast-breeder reactor have gone nowhere. Attempts to use the reprocessed fuel in conventional nuclear reactors have also stalled.

The whole project has effectively become a proverbial pie in the sky.

But neither the government nor utilities would acknowledge this reality and review the project, apparently because they fear the issue of nuclear waste will become the focus of attention.

I wonder how long they are going to keep their heads in the sand without addressing the thorny problem of how to dispose of nuclear waste.

Here’s a riddle: What cannot be seen when your eyes are open, but can be seen when your eyes are closed? The answer is a dream.

Where the nuclear fuel recycling program is concerned, I imagine the nation’s nuclear community must be dreaming or hallucinating.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13375632?fbclid=IwAR0Iqs6kg6vBEyVjYvGHBdk1F7UcNsqhUYr6NpyGbbRL54H8lTMCkbjn5_c

 

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan should end its nonsensical effort to recycle nuclear fuel

jjlklmA view of the under-construction reprocessing plant, seen from the Obuchi-numa swamp in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, on May 12.

May 14, 2020

Japanese nuclear regulators have endorsed the safety of a contentious plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. 

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on May 13 approved a draft report on the safety inspection of the reprocessing plant being built in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

The report says the plant meets the new nuclear safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The NRA’s decision represents a big step forward toward bringing the long-delayed Rokkasho reprocessing plant online.

Japan’s policy program to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system to recover plutonium from spent nuclear fuel to be reused in reactors, however, is already bankrupt beyond redemption. Operating the reprocessing plant simply does not make sense because of the many problems it entails with regard to nuclear proliferation, cost effectiveness, energy security and other important policy issues.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration should change its policy concerning nuclear fuel recycling. It would be irresponsible to maintain this unsustainable national policy aimlessly simply because of the NRA’s verdict that the plant meets the new safety standards.
TROUBLE-PLAGUED PLANT

The government and the electric power industry have been promoting the concept of recycling separated plutonium back into the fuel of reactors as a valuable “semi-homemade” energy source for a nation without much natural resources.

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the core facility for this strategy, was originally scheduled to be completed in 1997, but the deadline has been delayed as many as 24 times due to a series of technological glitches and other problems.

The plant started a trial run in 2006, but the process was plagued by malfunctions and suspended after the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

The NRA, which was created after the accident, spent six years carefully assessing the safety of the reprocessing plant. It was the body’s first safety screening mission for a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.

Despite the nuclear watchdog’s effective endorsement of its safety, the plant still has a long way to go before it becomes ready for full-scale operation. The details of its design will be scrutinized while the work to install required safety measures has yet to be carried out.

It is unclear whether the plant will be completed in fiscal 2021, the new deadline set by the operator. Winning the consent of the local community is another challenge that has to be overcome before the plant can come on stream.

At nuclear power plants across the nation, growing amounts of spent nuclear fuel are waiting to be shipped to the reprocessing plant. At some nuclear plants, there is not much room left in the spent fuel pools. The power industry warns that there could be disruptions in power generation unless the reprocessing plant starts operating.

The Rokkasho plant is designed to reprocess up to 800 tons of spent fuel annually to extract plutonium. It is true that the facility would help prevent a situation where there is no room left in the pools.
UNUSABLE PLUTONIUM

The plant, when it operates at full capacity, could extract as much as seven tons of plutonium from spent reactor fuel a year. The problem is that there will be few plausible ways to use the material.

The plan to develop a fast neutron reactor that can burn and breed plutonium, which was supposed to be the key technology for plutonium consumption, has gone awry after it was decided that Japan’s “Monju” prototype sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactor should be decommissioned following a sodium leak accident.

There is no plan to develop a new demonstration fast-breeder reactor to succeed the Monju.

The Japanese government then considered participating in France’s Advanced Sodium Technical Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) project to build a prototype sodium-cooled nuclear reactor. But the idea was dropped after the French government decided to scale down and possibly pull the plug on the project.

Japan’s plan to burn so-called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel, which is usually plutonium blended with natural uranium, in existing nuclear reactors has also failed to make progress as fast as the government expected. Currently, only four reactors are using MOX fuel, far less than the industry’s target of operating 16 to 18 MOX reactors.

In short, there is little prospect for massive consumption of plutonium in this nation, at least in the near future.

Japan has a stockpile of 46 tons of weapons-usable plutonium, enough for producing 6,000 atomic bombs. Japan has made an international commitment to reducing its plutonium stock.

If Japan starts extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel through reprocessing, the international community will become doubtful of its commitment to reducing its plutonium stockpile despite being the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings.

Japan could even be suspected of harboring an ambition to develop and possess nuclear weapons in the future.

The government plans to limit the amount of plutonium extracted from spent fuel to less than the volume consumed at the MOX reactors.

But reprocessing spent reactor fuel to recover plutonium simply does not make sense in the first place when the amount of material stored in Japan should be slashed.

 

SHIFTING FINANCIAL BURDEN IS UNACCEPTABLE

The nuclear fuel recycling policy is also losing its economic rationale as well due to ballooning costs.

Even ordinary nuclear power generation is losing its competitiveness against other energy sources because of higher costs. The cost of building the reprocessing plant is now estimated at 2.9 trillion yen ($27.13 billion), four times higher than the original estimate. The total amount to be shelled out for the project, including operational and scrapping costs, is projected to be nearly 14 trillion yen.

Most major industrial nations have given up on the idea of nuclear fuel recycling as not being worth the cost. All the other countries that are still pursuing this path, including China and Russia, are nuclear powers. Most of these projects are strategic state-financed efforts that disregard costs.

But the reprocessing and MOX reactor projects in Japan are private-sector businesses. The costs involved have to be passed onto consumers through higher electricity bills.

The government and the industry should not be allowed to continue pursuing this unreasonable nuclear fuel policy at the expense of consumers.

In many other parts of the world, renewable energy sources are fast gaining ground, eroding the share of nuclear power.

In addition to sharp declines in costs, the fact that solar and wind power is a purely “homemade” energy source for any country is accelerating the trend.

If Japan really places a high policy priority on energy security, it would make much more sense for it to expand “purely homemade” energy sources than promote a “semi-homemade” one.

But the government continues sticking to the nation’s traditional nuclear power policy, putting a damper on growth in renewable energy production.

If the government decides to scuttle the nuclear fuel recycling agenda, it will immediately face the sticky challenge of deciding how to dispose of spent nuclear fuel.

But the project should not be kept alive through irresponsible collusion between the government and the power industry to avoid tackling this challenge.

Political leaders should make the tough decision as soon as possible to put the nation on a path toward a new energy future.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13372798

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Regulator confirms safety of Japanese reprocessing plant

Rokkasho-reprocessing-plant-(JNFL)

 

13 May 2020

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) today approved a draft report concluding Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited’s (JNFL’s) reprocessing plant at Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture meets new safety standards. The approval brings the plant, construction of which began in 1993, closer to starting up.

Following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, new safety standards for nuclear fuel cycle facilities came into force in December 2013. The requirements vary from facility to facility, but generally include reinforcement measures against natural threats such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and in some cases tornadoes, volcanoes and forest fires. Reprocessing plants need to demonstrate these as well as countermeasures specifically for terrorist attacks, hydrogen explosions, fires resulting from solvent leaks and vaporisation of liquid waste.

The NRA today approved a draft report saying that the Rokkasho reprocessing plant meets these new safety standards. It set a one-month period to solicit feedback from industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama and other parties concerned.

“We believe the facility’s design ensures high safety margins against possible accidents,” NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa was quoted as saying by Jiji Press. “The [seismic] faults near the facility were sufficiently examined and the screening was conducted adequately.”

At the Rokkasho plant, additional equipment and systems are being installed for the recovery of radioactivity in the event of a severe accident. An evaluation is also being carried out of the impact on control devices and equipment in the event of a leak of high-pressure and high-temperature steam, and the development and installation of relevant countermeasures, if deemed necessary. A new emergency control room is also being constructed at the plant. Additional safety-related countermeasures are also being put in place, such as internal flood protection, strengthening of the seismic resistance of pipework, improving cooling water tower resistance against tornadoes and improving measures against internal fires.

In a statement, JNFL said: “The acceptance of the draft examination is a big step forward for us today, and we will continue to make every effort to pass the examination.”

Construction of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. However, its construction and commissioning have faced several delays. Problems in the locally-designed vitrification plant – where dried out and powdered high-level radioactive waste is mixed with molten glass for permanent storage – have contributed to these delays. JNFL designed the vitrification unit to go with the reprocessing section supplied by Areva. The Rokkasho reprocessing facility is based on the same technology as Orano’s La Hague plant in France. Once operational, the maximum reprocessing capacity of the Rokkasho plant should be 800 tonnes per year, according to JNFL.

JNFL aims to complete the necessary safety countermeasures in the first half of fiscal 2021 (ending March 2022).

https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Regulator-approves-safety-of-Japanese-reprocessing

 

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan vows to cut its nuclear hoard but neighbours fear the opposite

Poor region of Japan is now very dependent on Rokkasho nuclear recycling project
Capture du 2018-09-27 15-27-21
Japan Nucle­ar Fuel Ltd.’­s plant in Rokka­sho, Japan , Aug. 2, 2018.
Japan has amassed a large stockpile of plutonium and neighbours fear that the country may decide to build more nuclear weapons.
25 Sept  2018

More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel.

It was supposed to open in 1997, a feat of advanced engineering that would burnish its reputation for high-tech excellence and make the nation even less dependent on others for energy.

Then came a series of blown deadlines as the project hit technical snags and struggled with a Sisyphean list of government-mandated safety upgrades. Seventeen prime ministers came and went, the Japanese economy slipped into a funk and the initial $6.8 billion budget ballooned into $27 billion of spending.

Now, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, the private consortium building the recycling plant, says it really is almost done. But there is a problem: Japan does not use much nuclear power anymore.

The country turned away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and only nine of its 35 reactors are operational.

It is a predicament with global ramifications. While waiting for the plant to be built, Japan has amassed a stockpile of 47 metric tons of plutonium, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation and Tokyo’s commitment to refrain from building nuclear arms even as it joins the United States in pressing North Korea to give up its arsenal.

In August, North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper accused Japan of accumulating plutonium “for its nuclear armament.”

Japan pledged for the first time this past summer to reduce the stockpile, saying the recycling plant would convert the plutonium into fuel for use in Japanese reactors.

But if the plant opens as scheduled in four years, the nation’s hoard of plutonium could grow rather than shrink.

That is because only four of Japan’s working reactors are technically capable of using the new fuel, and at least a dozen more would need to be upgraded and operating to consume the plutonium that the recycling plant would extract each year from nuclear waste.

“At the end of the day, Japan is really in a vice of its own making,” said James M. Acton, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“There is no easy way forward, and all those ways forward have significant costs associated with it.”

A handful of countries reprocess nuclear fuel, including France, India, Russia and the United Kingdom.

But the Japanese plan faces a daunting set of practical and political challenges, and if it does not work, the nation will be left with another problem: about 18,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel rods that it has accumulated and stored all these years.

rokkasho fuel.pngA stora­ge facil­ity for spent fuel rods at Japan Nucle­ar Fuel Ltd.’­s plant in Rokka­sho, Japan­, Aug 2018.

 

Japan’s neighbours, most notably China, have long objected to the stockpile of plutonium, which was extracted from the waste during tests of the recycling plant and at a government research facility, as well as by commercial recycling plants abroad.

Most of this plutonium is now stored overseas, in France and Britain, but 10 metric tons remain in Japan, more than a third of it in Rokkasho, the northeastern fishing town where the recycling plant is being built.

Japan says it stores its plutonium in a form that would be difficult to convert into weapons, and that it takes measures to ensure it never falls into the wrong hands.

But experts are worried the sheer size of the stockpile — the largest of any country without nuclear weapons, and in theory enough to make 6,000 bombs — could be used to justify a nuclear buildup by North Korea and others in the region.

Any recycling plan that adds to the stockpile looks like “a route to weaponise down the road,” said Alicia Dressman, a nuclear policy specialist. “This is what really concerns Japan’s neighbours and allies.”

Japan maintains that its plutonium is for peaceful energy purposes and that it will produce only as much as it needs for its reactors. “We are committed to nonproliferation,” said Hideo Kawabuchi, an official at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

But the launch of the Rokkasho plant has been delayed so long — and popular opposition to restarting additional nuclear reactors remains so strong — that scepticism abounds over the plan to recycle the stockpile.

Critics say Japan should concede the plant will not solve the problem and start looking for a place to bury its nuclear waste.

“You kind of look at it and say, ‘My God, it’s 30 years later, and that future didn’t happen,’” said Sharon Squassoni, a nonproliferation specialist at George Washington University.

“It’s just wishful thinking about how this is going to solve their myriad problems.”

 

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Has Enough Nuclear Material to Build an Arsenal. Its Plan: Recycle.

merlin_142875483_a91b924d-793a-4f8a-b812-4142e842f98c-jumbo.jpg
After decades of delays, a plant in Rokkasho, Japan, is almost ready to start turning nuclear waste into nuclear fuel, its builders say. But Japan doesn’t use much nuclear power any more.
 
Sept. 22, 2018
ROKKASHO, Japan — More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel. It was supposed to open in 1997, a feat of advanced engineering that would burnish its reputation for high-tech excellence and make the nation even less dependent on others for energy.
Then came a series of blown deadlines as the project hit technical snags and struggled with a Sisyphean list of government-mandated safety upgrades. Seventeen prime ministers came and went, the Japanese economy slipped into a funk and the initial $6.8 billion budget ballooned into $27 billion of spending.
Now, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the private consortium building the recycling plant, says it really is almost done. But there is a problem: Japan does not use much nuclear power any more. The country turned away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and only nine of its 35 reactors are operational.
It is a predicament with global ramifications. While waiting for the plant to be built, Japan has amassed a stockpile of 47 metric tons of plutonium, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation and Tokyo’s commitment to refrain from building nuclear arms even as it joins the United States in pressing North Korea to give up its arsenal.

September 24, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | 1 Comment

Rokkasho Election Results

Unfortunately: pro-nuclear fuel cycle incumbent mayor was reelected…
 
June 24, 2018
The mayoral election took place in Rokkasho, Japan, on Sunday June 24th.
Here are the results :
The number of inhabitants having the right to vote: 8637
The number of votes: 5379
Invalid votes: 35
Voter turnout: 62.28%
M. Mamoru Toda, pro-nuclear fuel cycle incumbent mayor was reelected with 5021 votes.
Ms Junko Endo, anti-nuclear fuel cycle candidate gained 323 votes.
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The results show the extreme difficulty of anti-nuclear movements in local elections. However, thanks to the courage of Junko Endo, 323 voters were able to express their desire to stop the nuclear fuel cycle, and many people in the world became aware of what is happening in Rokkasho Village.
Thank you Ms ENDO for your courage!
Thanks to all of you who sent encouraging messages to Ms Endo that were gratefully forwarded to her.
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Let’s keep on following events in Rokkasho from all over the world!
 
Related article:
 

June 26, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Rokkasho NPP Violated Safety Rules

Nuclear fuel reprocessing operator violated safety rules: regulator
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese nuclear regulators concluded Wednesday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the country’s northeast.
The failure of checks at an underground portion of the plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture for some 14 years eventually resulted in about 800 liters of rainwater flowing into a building housing an emergency diesel generator in August this year. The generator is a crucial device in times of crisis such as the loss of external power.
Japan Nuclear Fuel President Kenji Kudo said at a Nuclear Regulation Authority’s meeting that he will prioritize inspections of all facilities at the plant and suspend its operations to seek a safety approval on the plant to put it onstream.
The utility plans to check its facilities and some 600,000 devices by the end of this year before requesting the authority to resume its safety assessment for the plant.
The body applied for a safety assessment of the plant in 2014 and aimed to complete it in the first half of fiscal 2018, but the goal is likely to be delayed due to the need for inspections.
The envisioned nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a key component of the government’s nuclear fuel recycle policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium fuel and reuse extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.
But the Rokkasho plant has been riddled with problems, with its completion date postponed 23 times since 1997, its initial target. It also had to meet as new, tougher safety standards made in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, triggered by the 2011 deadly earthquake and tsunami.
The authority also said holes and cracks at exhaust pipes discovered at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s uranium enrichment plant in September also violate safety rules. The defects were left undetected for a long time due to a lack of inspection.
A utility compiles safety programs, which need to be assessed and approved by the authority.
If any grave flaws are found, the authority can issue an order to stop the operation of the plants or retract its approval to construct a nuclear plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel “should have a substantial sense of crisis,” a member of the authority said. “We will take necessary measures if an improvement is not seen in ensuring the safety (in operating the plant).”
Nuclear fuel recycling plant screening suspended
Japan’s nuclear regulator says the operator of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northern Japan has violated safety regulations.
The plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, is run by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said at a meeting on Wednesday that the company violated its in-house safety regulations.
In August, rainwater was found to have flowed from piping in an underground tunnel into a building housing an emergency power generator at the plant. The firm was later found not to have conducted necessary inspections of the tunnel for 14 years.
At Wednesday’s meeting, company president Kenji Kudo pledged to address this and other maintenance problems before submitting documents needed for the regulator to conduct safety screening of the plant.
NRA member Satoru Tanaka pointed out that superficial efforts cannot fix the problems because the matter has to do with business operations. He suggested that the company should have a sense of crisis, and warned of tough measures unless safety improves.
The company aims to confirm the safety of all installations at the plant and draw up a management plan this year. Safety screening is required before the plant can fully operate.
Japan Nuclear Fuel appears to face difficulty in completing work on the plant by the first half of fiscal 2018 as planned. The facility is a pillar of the government’s nuclear fuel recycling program.

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

Rokkasho Fuel Reprocessing Plant Faked Safety Records For 14 Years

(Kyodo) Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant…
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Unfinished nuclear fuel reprocessing plant faked safety records: NRA
The firm that owns an uncompleted nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture failed to conduct necessary checks and falsified safety check records relating to the plant, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has reported.
The NRA concluded on Oct. 11 that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) has violated safety measures after it was learned that the firm failed to carry out the required checks and nevertheless continued to write down “no abnormalities” in safety check records. There has been a spate of incidents such as the flow of rainwater into facility buildings at the plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho.
The plant, which is scheduled to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, was on the verge of hosting a final-stage NRA safety inspection, but the checkup is likely to be postponed considerably as JNFL now has to prioritize in-house inspections of all facilities at the plant.
One of the main roles of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is the extraction of reusable uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, making it a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle. However, the Rokkasho plant has been riddled with problems, and its completion date has been postponed 23 times since the initial planned opening date of 1997. Currently, the plant is scheduled to be completed in the first half of fiscal 2018, but this could be difficult.
In August, it came to light that about 800 liters of rainwater had flowed into an emergency electrical power building at the plant. The cause was the leaking of rainwater from an underground facility. This facility, however, has never been checked since its construction in 2003. JNFL nevertheless gave it a false “no abnormalities” appraisal in its daily records. Furthermore, about 110 liters of rainwater also flowed into the underground facility in September.
Apparently, the firm has tried to clarify the issue by saying that, “The (no abnormalities) comment was referring to another underground facility nearby.”
The company plans to complete safety checks at all its Rokkasho plant facilities within the year, and then submit the results to the NRA — with the intention of inviting the NRA to resume safety inspections of the plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel skipped safety checks at Rokkasho plant for 14 years
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, allegedly violated safety rules for over a decade.
Nuclear regulators concluded Wednesday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the country’s northeast.
The failure of checks at an underground portion of the plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture for about 14 years eventually resulted in about 800 liters of rainwater flowing into a building housing an emergency diesel generator in August this year. The generator is a crucial device in times of crisis such as the loss of external power.
Japan Nuclear Fuel President Kenji Kudo said at a Nuclear Regulation Authority’s meeting that he will prioritize inspections of all facilities at the plant and suspend its operations to seek a safety approval on the plant to put it on stream.
The utility plans to check its facilities and some 600,000 devices by the end of this year before requesting the authority to resume its safety assessment for the plant.
The body applied for a safety assessment of the plant in 2014 and aimed to complete it in the first half of fiscal 2018, but the goal is likely to be delayed due to the need for inspections.
The envisioned nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a key component of the government’s nuclear fuel recycle policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium and reuse extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.
But the Rokkasho plant has been inundated with problems, with its completion date postponed 23 times since 1997, its initial target. It also had to meet new, tougher safety standards made in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex, triggered by the powerful March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of the Tohoku region.
The authority also said holes and cracks at exhaust pipes found at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s uranium enrichment plant in September also violated safety rules. The defects had been undetected due to a lack of inspections.
A utility compiles safety programs, which need to be assessed and approved by the authority.
If any grave flaws are found, the authority can issue an order to stop the operation of the plants or retract its approval to construct a nuclear plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel “should have a substantial sense of crisis,” a member of the authority said. “We will take necessary measures if an improvement is not seen in ensuring the safety (in operating the plant).”

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