MOX fuel should not be loaded into reactors but disposed of as waste Nuke Info Tokyo No. 155

Statement issued by the NPO Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center
Co-directed by Yukio Yamaguchi, Baku Nishio, and Hideyuki Ban

MOX fuel should not be loaded into reactors but disposed of as waste

Independent Study for Determining Early-stage External Radiation Exposure and Thyroid Exposure due to Inhaled Radioiodine

We protest against Kansai Electric Power Company’s recent transportation of uranium-and-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel to Japan. The electric power company should withdraw from spent fuel reprocessing and plutonium utilization in this country. Regarding the plutonium already extracted from spent fuels, the company should discontinue the pluthermal project, which loads MOX fuel into reactors, and pursue the treatment and disposal of plutonium as waste.

The recent MOX fuel transportation to Japan was once postponed “in consideration of the conditions following the earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku” (Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) press release). We suspect that the reason why KEPCO has changed this policy and carried out the transportation is that Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new regulation standards are scheduled to take effect soon, in July, and the company intends to push for the restart of its Takahama Nuclear Power Station, where MOX fuel is planned to be loaded. However, agreements necessary to restart Takahama have not yet been signed. It would be egregious and totally unacceptable if the company restarted Takahama in an unreasonable, high-handed manner, as it did when restarting the Ohi Nuclear Power Station without settling the dispute concerning faults.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident nullified past safety evaluation results and the agreements with local governments concerning the pluthermal project. We believe that the project should be discontinued, but if KEPCO intends to continue it, the company should request the reimplementation of the safety evaluations, and obtain agreements from local governments based on the new evaluation results. The pluthermal project should be properly positioned in the renewed safety measures strengthened after the Fukushima accident, and severe-accident countermeasures should be established in consideration of loaded MOX fuel.

That KEPCO shows no sign of taking these minimal actions, but is proceeding with the pluthermal project in the conventional manner, is proof that the company regards the Fukushima Daiichi accident as someone else’s problem and is making no attempt to learn from the accident. What KEPCO is doing is an act of barbarism.

In addition, the method for treating and disposing of spent MOX fuel emanating from the pluthermal project is unknown. Constructing a second spent fuel reprocessing plant in addition to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is utterly unimaginable. The spent MOX fuel will need to be disposed of without reprocessing. MOX fuel disposal is also more difficult than spent uranium fuels and would need to be placed under control for far longer than spent uranium fuels. As a company that will produce such spent nuclear fuels, KEPCO is required to handle the cumbersome spent MOX fuel under its own responsibility, but no such intention can be seen from the company’s attitude. In fact, KEPCO is even attempting to pass the responsibility on to the Japanese government in a repeat of truly irresponsible behavior

If KEPCO took the unprecedented nuclear accident of March 2011 seriously and made a cool assessment of the countermeasures to be taken and the responsibilities faced in the case of a severe accident of a reactor loaded with MOX fuel, KEPCO should understand that the loading of MOX fuel is a totally irrational act. The loading of MOX fuel into nuclear reactors is something that should never happen.

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