Japanese NGOs send petition to IAEA
5 January 2006
Urge International Body to Take Action to Ensure Japan Upholds International Commitment to not Produce Surplus Plutonium
5 January 2006 (Kyoto, Japan)
Japanese NGOs today sent a letter to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and the Board of Governors urging the inter-governmental body to discuss and take action to ensure Japan upholds its 1997 commitment made to the international organization not to produce surplus plutonium.
Testing scheduled to take place next month at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will separate out 4 tons of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. This will violate the commitment Japan made to the IAEA because the plutonium cannot be consumed.
The petition sent to the IAEA by Green Action, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center and Greenpeace Japan states, "Japan originally made this commitment in the interests of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a field in which it is a valuable leader. Given the heightened political tension around disarmament and non-proliferation in North East Asia, and its role as Chair of the IAEA Board of Governors, Japan should not renege on this commitment."
Green Action director Aileen Mioko Smith stated, "Japanese utilities will shortly be going public with a fabricated plutonium utilization plan. The Japanese government is intending to approve it. Instead Japan should keep its promise to the IAEA and indefinitely postpone testing at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant."
Japan already has over 42 tons of surplus plutonium in Europe and Japan.
Green Action, Aileen Mioko Smith Cell: 090-3620-9251
Citizens' Nuclear Information Center Tel: 03-5330-9520
Petition urging IAEA Action:
Ensure Japan Upholds its International Commitment To Not Produce Surplus Plutonium
The government of Japan made a written and unequivocal pledge to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December 1997 to uphold the "principle of no surplus plutonium."*1
Despite this commitment, Japan will separate out 4 tons of plutonium at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, if active testing using spent nuclear fuel begins as scheduled in February 2006. The stark fact is that the Japanese nuclear power program has no use for this plutonium, now or in the foreseeable future.
The Plutonium Utilization Plan of Japan presented to the IAEA in 1997 stated that mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel in light water reactors would be the "principle way of utilizing plutonium in Japan over the next few decades." The program, however, has never gotten off the ground due to public opposition, data falsification scandals in 1999 and 2002 and the fatal accident at the Mihama nuclear power plant in 2004. Today, not a single electric utility has the go ahead to consume MOX fuel.
Furthermore, a fundamental technical problem exists. Japan lacks the capability to turn any plutonium produced at Rokkasho into MOX fuel. There is only a government "expectation" that a MOX fuel fabrication plant be fully operational by fiscal 2012.*2 Therefore, if active testing begins at Rokkasho this year, any separated plutonium will languish at the facility.
Moreover, a massive cache of Japanese plutonium already exists: thirty-seven tons sit in Europe. Japan's Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy issued in October 2005 gives priority to the consumption of this plutonium in Europe over any produced at Rokkasho *3.
Japan allowed the stockpile in Europe to grow even after the MOX program fell apart, although it was clear the plutonium could not be consumed. Now, it is set to accumulate more plutonium, this time in Japan.
Simply put, Japan already has tons of plutonium and no way to burn it. Further stockpiling is not only irresponsible but also a clear break with Japan's pledge to produce no surplus plutonium.
Japan originally made this commitment in the interests of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a field in which it is a valuable leader. Given the heightened political tension around disarmament and non-proliferation in North East Asia, and its role as Chair of the IAEA Board of Governors, Japan should not renege on this commitment.
For these reasons, Japan should indefinitely postpone active testing at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.
To ensure that Japan does not breach its international commitment to the "principle of no surplus plutonium", we urge the IAEA Secretariat and Board of Governors to immediately discuss this matter and quickly take appropriate action before active testing begins at Rokkasho and plutonium is accumulated.
5 January 2006
Hideyuki Ban (Co-Director)
Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC)
3F Kotobuki Bldg., 1-58-15 Higashi-nakano
Nakano-ku, Tokyo, 164-0003, Japan
Phone: +81 3 5330 9520
Aileen Mioko Smith (Director)
Suite 103, 22-75, Tanaka Sekiden-cho
Sakyo-ku Kyoto, 606-8203, Japan
Phone: +81 75 701 7223
Atsuko Nogawa (Nuclear Campaigner)
N F bldg. 2F 8-13-11 Nishi-Shinjuku
Shinjuku, Tokyo, 160-0023, Japan
Phone: +81 3 5338 9800
BACKGROUND BRIEFING MATERIAL
(Compiled 5 January 2006 by Green Action)
Statements on Rokkasho, Surplus Plutonium and MOX Fuel
Fukushima governor Eisaku Satos statement to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission about the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and surplus plutonium:
"Why rush to operate a new reprocessing facility when there is still no solution for disposing the 40 tons of plutonium Japan already possesses?"
(Submission to Public Comment on draft of Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy, August 2005)
Of the 430 tons of spent nuclear fuel to be reprocessed during the active testing scheduled to start at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in February, 310 tons belong to the two largest electric utilities in Japan - 170 tons from Tokyo Electric and 140 tons from Kansai Electric. Neither utility, however, can consume the plutonium that will be produced at Rokkasho.
All seventeen Tokyo Electric nuclear power plants are located in two prefectures, Niigata and Fukushima. As a result of public opposition and Tokyo Electric's safety data falsification in 2002, both prefectures withdrew authorization for MOX fuel use. Their opposition remains adamant.
Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida:
The Pluthermal (MOX fuel utilization) issue is not even at a stage for discussion. It would be deplorable and damage the trust of the public and Niigata regional authorities if the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant site were to be included in plutonium utilization plans and announced to the public.
(Excerpt from December 2005 letter submitted to Tokyo Electric president Tsunehisa Katsumata. Source: Kyodo Niigata Governor Lodges Warning to Tokyo Electric Regarding Pluthermal (MOX utilization) Plans 26 December, 2005)
In the middle of all of this, we have heard that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant site is being listed in the company's Plutonium Utilization Plans....It is deplorable* that the Atomic Energy Commission is calling for public release of plutonium utilization plans at this time... We petition your committee that you understand this situation in our prefecture and take it into consideration in some manner.
(Excerpt from letter submitted to Shunsuke Kondo, Chair, Japan Atomic Energy Commission 27 December 2005)
Fukushima Governor Eisaku Sato:
I do not care what Tokyo Electric says. It is inconceivable that MOX fuel utilization takes place in this prefecture. I believe that Tokyo Electric understands the (prefecture's) position.
(Excerpt from governors regular monthly press conference 26 December 2005. Source: Fukushima Minyu Newspaper (Morning News) Pluthermal (MOX fuel utilization) Inconceivable 27 December 2005)
The governor, in giving his reasons, referred to the statement he had made during the September 2002 prefectural legislative session in which he stated, Prior consent (for MOX fuel utilization) has been withdrawn because the necessary conditions for granting it have collapsed. This statement by the governor was made after revelations in August (2002) that Tokyo Electric had concealed problems at its nuclear power plants. The governor (also) referred to the prefectural legislative assemblys resolution in opposition and stated, We have decided not to have the program implemented in our prefecture in accordance with the collective will of our citizens.
(Excerpt from the Fukushima Minyu Newspaper article Pluthermal (MOX fuel utilization) Inconceivable 27 December 2005)
Meanwhile, due to the 2004 accident at Kansai Electrics Mihama nuclear power plant, the utility itself admits implementing the MOX program is at present impossible.
Kansai Electric on MOX Program Status:
At present we are concentrating fully on Mihama Unit 3 post-accident measures and are therefore not in the position to consider MOX fuel use.
(Kansai Electric Osaka Headquarters 20 October 2005 (Repeated 20 December 2005))
[Thanks to Green Action for putting together the petition, press release and background briefing materials. Informal English translation of news articles and statements are by Green Action.]
Status of Light Water Reactors using MOX Fuel in Japan
No electric utility in Japan has the go-ahead to consume MOX fuel.