News Watch 122 (January/February 2008) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 122
2008 Nuclear Energy Budget
On 27 December 2007the Atomic Energy Commission settled the 2008 draft budget for nuclear energy related matters. At 451.6 billion yen, it is 2% less than the previous year. 264.1 billion yen (58%) is allocated to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The majority of that goes to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. 179.5 billion yen (40%) is allocated to the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, most of which is for subsidies to regions which host nuclear facilities. The remaining 2% is divided up between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet Office and so on.39.7 billion yen is allocated to the fast breeder reactor (FBR) cycle. Of that, 18.1 billion yen is for development of the Monju Prototype FBR. Over 1 billion yen was cut from the previous year’s budget, because modification work on the reactor has been completed. The majority is for electric power to heat the molten sodium to prevent it from solidifying. Besides this, a fund has been established to promote research and development for the FBR cycle and subsidies worth 1.1 billion yen and 0.4 billion yen respectively are allocated for the regions where Monju and the Joyo Experimental FBR are located.
19.3 billion yen is allocated for nuclear fusion. At 10.3 billion yen, the budget for ITER is about double the previous year. Of this, 4.7 billion is for the main ITER facility to be built in France, while 5.6 billion is for the so-called “broad approach”, including facilities to be built in Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture.
Kazakhstan to carry out re-conversion for Kansai Electric
On 26 December 2007, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), Sumitomo Corporation and Nuclear Fuel Industries signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazatomprom to carry out uranium re-conversion (post-enrichment conversion of UF6 to UO2) in Kazakhstan. An official contract will be signed after confirmation of the technical capability of the Kazatomprom-owned Ulba Metallurgical Plant. The plan is to begin reconversion around 2010.It is difficult to operate the Ulba Metallurgical Plant on a commercial basis, because it uses Soviet era methods. The Japanese companies therefore intend to provide technology to modify the plant and to invest around 70-80 billion yen in these modifications.
They are also considering expanding the business to include fabrication of the reconverted uranium into nuclear fuel. In that case the investment would be in the order of several 100 billion yen. Apparently there are even thoughts of taking uranium recovered from reprocessed spent fuel, converting and enriching it in Russia and France, reconverting and fabricating it into new fuel in Kazakhstan, then exporting it to a third country, thus bypassing Japan completely.
Also, in January 2006 KEPCO and Sumitomo became involved in a Kazatomprom project to develop new uranium mines in Kazakhstan.
HLW dump site selection schedule extended
On 18 December 2007, the subcommittee of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy dealing with radioactive waste called for public comments on a draft to amend the plan for a final repository for high-level radioactive waste (HLW). The draft included an alteration to the schedule for selection of a HLW dump site.Public invitations to site a HLW dump began in December 2002, but so far document studies haven’t begun for any site (see previous News Watches). The selection process involves document studies, followed by outline studies, followed by detailed studies. The new draft does not change the plan to select sites for outline studies in 2008, but selection of sites for detailed studies and final selection are delayed by “a few years”. However, the plan stubbornly sticks to a date of around 2037 for commencement of disposal, cutting the time allocated for the studies and construction. Selection of a site for outline studies in 2008 is patently impossible and the schedule as a whole is probably unrealistic as well.
FNCA issues statement calling for nuclear be accepted as CDM
On 18 December 2007, the Japan-led Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) held a ministerial meeting in Tokyo. Besides Japan, the meeting was attended by the ministers responsible for nuclear energy from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.The joint communique signed by delegation leaders of nine countries proclaimed the efficacy of nuclear energy as a response to global warming and called for it to be accepted as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Australia did not sign the communique, because of policy deliberations after the change of government.
Plan for second reprocessing plant “downgrades” reprocessing to development stage
The “Five-party Council on Smooth Transition to a Fast Breeder Reactor Demonstration. Process” (Five-party Council) is comprised of the Ministry of Education Culture Sports Science and Technology, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, the Federation of Electric Power Companies, the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. On 11 December 2007 it reported to the Atomic Energy Commission on the status of preliminary considerations concerning the second reprocessing plant. Formal consideration of the second reprocessing plant is scheduled to begin around 2010. Besides designating the Japan Atomic Energy Agency as the core agency, the Five-party Council said that it would promote links with AREVA.Reprocessing was supposed to have become commercial with the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, but in this report reprocessing is “downgraded” to development status so that it can be subsidized with taxpayer money. Foreign technology is needed because of insufficient investment by the Japanese electrical power industry, which, if it spoke its mind honestly, would say that demonstration of the fast breeder reactor cycle is futile.
On 7 December 2007, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AREVA launched the jointly owned company ATMEA to develop and market the 1,100 MW ATMEA-1 nuclear reactor. Its head office is in Paris and it is capitalized at 66 million Euros, with each parent company having a 50% stake.