On 23 February 2007 the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) published a compilation of Japan's electric power companies' "plutonium utilization plans" for the 2007 Fiscal Year (1 April 2007 - 31 March 2008). CNIC has translated the document into English (see below). The 2007 plan follows the same lines as the plan published on 6 January 2006. (The figures in an updated version published on 3 April 2006 were slightly different from the 6 January version.)
Once again no indication is given of by when the plutonium separated at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will be used up. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the plutonium separated at Rokkasho will simply increase the size of Japan's already huge plutonium stockpile (43.1 tons at last count).
At first glance the last column of the table below appears to address this issue. However a more careful reading reveals that in fact no start and finish dates have been established. The table indicates that 2012 is the very earliest that companies might start using the plutonium separated at Rokkasho. However, the reality is that they could not possibly use the plutonium separated at Rokkasho before this date, even if they wanted to. That is because this plutonium cannot be used until it has been turned into MOX fuel at the Rokkasho MOX fuel fabrication facility. According to the current schedule, this plant will not be operational until October 2012. Even then, plutonium returned in MOX fuel from overseas will be used first. It is worth noting in this context that no plutonium utilization plans have been published for plutonium held overseas. That is another major problem with Japan's plutonium program. However, in regard to the information provided in the table below, the main points to understand are that (1) there is no chance that power companies will begin in 2012 to use the plutonium separated at Rokkasho, and (2) no final date has been established by which that plutonium must be consumed.
The biggest difference from last year's plan is that the amount of spent fuel projected to be reprocessed in FY2006 (up to 31 March 2007) is greatly reduced:
6 January 2006 projection for FY2006: 258 tons U (273 tons U including FY2005)
3 April 2006 projection for FY2006: 238 tons U (none in FY2005)
23 February 2007 projection for FY2006: 140 tons U
This reduction is the result of delays in starting the active tests and subsequent delays caused by problems which arose in the course of the tests. The projection for FY 2007 is 392 tons U. It is intended that spent fuel will be reprocessed faster as the active tests proceed.
The document is called a "utilization plan". In reality it is just a statement of how much plutonium has been separated so far, how much is projected to be separated in FY2007 and how it will be allocated between the various companies. The idea of actually using this plutonium is still at the level of theory rather than practice.
The only electric power companies with all the necessary central, prefectural and local government approvals to use MOX fuel are Kyushu Electric and Shikoku Electric. Others are at various stages along the way towards obtaining those approvals. However, the new revelations of data fabrication and falsification which have emerged in the last couple of months are likely to make it more difficult for electric power companies to obtain the consent of prefectural and local governments. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), in particular, faces major hurdles, as more and more information emerges about how it misled the governments' safety inspectors.
To date the power companies have produced nothing which deserves the name of a "plutonium utilization plan". There are no grounds for confidence that the plutonium separated at Rokkasho will actually be used. It will simply be added to Japan's plutonium stockpile. By rights active tests at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant should never have been started. At the very least Japan Nuclear Fuel Company, the owner of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, should not be allowed to reprocess any spent fuel belonging to TEPCO. TEPCO is so deeply mired in scandal that it is hard to foresee it ever using its allotted plutonium. (Indeed, it is doubtful that it even wants to, but that's another story.)
International Liaison Officer
2 March 2007
Plutonium use plan published on 23 February 2007 (PDF 248 KB).
Return to NIT 117 Contents