Don’t Reprocess Fugen’s Spent Nuclear Fuel!
Continue Storing it and Work toward Direct Disposal
–Stop the Irresponsible Deferment Policy and Shift away from Reprocessing–
6 November 2018
Decommissioning work has proceeded on the Fugen Advanced Thermal Reactor (ATR), which was halted on March 29, 2003, the needed approval having been gained for decommissioning on February 19, 2008 from the former Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
On February 26, 2018, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) consulted with Governor Issei Nishikawa of Fukui Prefecture and Mayor Takanobu of Tsuruga to clarify a change in plans for transporting the spent fuel being stored there outside the prefecture, deferring it by nine years from the original plan for completion by the end of fiscal 2017. In addition, they described specific plans for its transport in the first half of fiscal 2018. In response, JAEA filed an application for the proposed changes in March, gaining approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority on April 25.
The October 27 edition of the Fukui Shimbun daily noted that JAEA had concluded a contract with Fugen and Orano NC (formerly Areva) of France to prepare for transporting the spent fuel. They are to begin transporting it in fiscal 2023 and complete the transportation of 466 spent fuel rods by the summer of 2026. In its budget request, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), estimated 6 billion yen will be needed for preparation expenses in fiscal 2019 for things such as production of transport containers.
Regarding Fugen’s spent fuel, JAEA gained MEXT’s assent on the grounds that it will have the entire amount reprocessed either in Japan or by reprocessing businesses in countries that have concluded agreements with Japan for cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear power, so it is expected that Orano will carry out the reprocessing. In this case, the 265 spent fuel rods from Fugen being stored at the Tokai reprocessing plant will probably also be reprocessed. Not only that, if they insist on reprocessing the entire amount, the spent fuel from nearby Monju will inevitably wind up being reprocessed in France too.
In the future, concluding contracts for reprocessing will probably be inescapable. If it comes to that, plutonium, recovered uranium and high- and low-level radioactive wastes will wind up being returned to Japan. No plans have been presented for their use, management or disposal. This will force Japan’s citizens to bear an enormous burden.
As Monju’s decommissioning shows, Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy has failed. Yet those involved cling irresponsibly to the policy of reprocessing the entire amount when they ought not be resorting to makeshift measures yet again.
Fugen’s spent fuel should not be reprocessed, but storage facilities should be created within Japan and research should proceed on its direct disposal. The same holds for Monju’s spent fuel.