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Letter sent to IAEA re Japan Atomic Energy
Commission approval of faulty Plutonium
Utilization Plan

3 February 2006

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
Director General,
International Atomic Energy Agency
IAEA Secretariat
Headquarters Offices
A-1400 Vienna, Austria

IAEA Board of Directors
c/o Ambassador Yukiya Amano
Chairperson,
IAEA Board of Directors
Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna
Andromeda Tower, Donau-City Strasse 6, A-1220
Vienna, Austria

Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Testing and Operation will Breach Japan's International Commitment Concerning Plutonium

Japan Atomic Energy Commission Accepts Faulty Plutonium Utilization Plan of Japanese Electric Utilities

Dear Director General ElBaradei and IAEA Board of Governors

In our Petition of 5 January and follow-up letter of 11 January, we urged the IAEA Secretariat and Board of Governors to quickly take appropriate action before active testing begins at Japan's Rokkasho reprocessing plant and plutonium is accumulated. This was to ensure that Japan does not breach its international commitment made to the IAEA in 1997 which pledged that "plutonium beyond the amount required to implement the program is not to be held, i.e. the principle of no surplus plutonium."

The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) of Japan published its "Utilization Plan for Plutonium Recovered at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant"*1 on 6 January, the day after we sent our petition to you. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) considered the plan and announced its response on 24 January.*2

JAEC's 24 January response is at variance with the commitment made by the Japanese government in 1997. This is because the FEPCO Plan announced on 6 January does not meet the conditions stipulated in the JAEC Decision of 5 August 2003, the "Basic Principles for the Utilization of Plutonium in Japan."*3 The Basic Principles were issued to meet Japan's commitment to transparency and "no surplus plutonium."

According to the 2003 JAEC Decision, "The uses of plutonium should specify the quantities of plutonium involved, the places where plutonium will be used, approximate time of start [of] using plutonium, and an approximate period of time required to use the material."

The 6 January FEPCO Plan fails to meet the "Basic Principles" of the 2003 JAEC Decision:
-- Head of FEPCO, Tokyo Electric, does not say which plant will use the plutonium, yet states that it will consume the plutonium.
-- None of the nuclear power plants specified under the FEPCO Plan has approval from local authorities to use plutonium (MOX) fuel.
-- Moreover, the Plan includes nuclear power plants for which the utilities have not yet even applied to local authorities for approval.
-- The Plan also includes the Ohma "full-MOX" nuclear power plant which does not exist and for which no reactor installation license has been granted.
-- The approximate start date for plutonium use is not listed.
-- There is no clear indication of by when the plutonium will have been used up.
-- The FEPCO Plan is supposed to be about obtaining permission to separate plutonium at Rokkasho and is accordingly titled, "Utilization Plan for Plutonium Recovered at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (Fiscal years 2005-2006). The title, however, is misleading since in small print the Plan says, "There are cases where the amount of plutonium to be used includes plutonium recovered overseas."

In the recent 24 January response, the JAEC effectively admits the FEPCO Plan does not meet JAEC's Basic Principles, by saying that companies have "not yet reached the stage of producing detailed utilization plans..." Nevertheless it responded that the Plan was appropriate.

A table comparing key elements of Japanese / JAEC documents from 1997, 2003, and 24 January 2006 is appended to this letter.

It appears that, on the strength of JAEC's response, active testing could begin around April at Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited's (JNFL) Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The plant would then begin to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. On the basis of JNFL's reprocessing schedule and FEPCO's 6 January plutonium utilization plan, it is clear that Japan's inventory of separated plutonium will grow rapidly.

Our calculations indicate that implementation of current plans for reprocessing at Rokkasho would result in approximately 35 tons surplus plutonium in Japan by 2012.*4 (2012 is the earliest date plutonium separated at Rokkasho could be used.)

Since there are also no concrete plans to consume the 43 tons of plutonium Japan has already accumulated in Europe and Japan (37.4 tons in Europe and 5.7 in Japan*5), Japanese surplus plutonium may total 78 tons by 2012. This is comparable to the US military inventory (including military excess) of 99.5 tons of separated plutonium, and the UK military and civilian inventory of 77.8 tons.*6

Judging from announcements by power companies to date, little if any of the 37 tons of plutonium currently held in Europe will be used before 2012. The pluthermal plans -using plutonium uranium MOX fuel in thermal reactors- of the two largest power companies Tokyo Electric and Kansai Electric are in disarray. Local and prefectural consent was withdrawn for Tokyo Electric's plans and Kansai Electric reiterated on 31 January that "concrete pluthermal plans are undecided and we continue to not be in a state for discussing the matter."*7 Only four of the smaller power companies have announced plans to use plutonium before 2012, and none of them has yet obtained the consent of local and prefectural authorities.

It is worth noting the historic unreliability of Japanese electric utilities' (FEPCO) plans concerning plutonium consumption. In June 1993 preceding start-up of THORP (UK), Japanese electric utilities took out full-page advertisements in all major UK newspapers stating that they needed the plutonium THORP would separate.*8 To this day, however, not a single gram of plutonium has been consumed. A week preceding the 1993 Japanese electric utilities' advertisement, our organizations predicted that THORP's operation would result in approximately 39 tons of surplus Japanese plutonium in Europe by 2005,*9 and a total 70 tons of surplus Japanese plutonium by 2010.*10 Our predictions are right on track.

The continued lack of transparency concerning when and where Japan will consume its plutonium for electricity generation is highly disturbing.

We contend that plutonium stocks are a proliferation risk in themselves, regardless of the current intentions of the Japanese government. They undermine international efforts to stem the drift toward nuclear proliferation.

JAEC's recent judgment shows that it does not fully comprehend the nuclear proliferation implications and transparency problems of beginning active tests at Rokkasho.*11 *12 The JAEC's failure to live up to its commitment to "no surplus plutonium" threatens to undermine international confidence in Japan's oft-repeated claim that the development and utilization of nuclear energy in Japan "is strictly limited to peaceful purposes."

We therefore urge the IAEA to discuss this matter and to inform the Japanese government that it is not appropriate to begin active tests at Rokkasho.

Yours sincerely,

Hideyuki Ban (Co-Director), CNIC

Aileen Mioko Smith (Director), Green Action

Atsuko Nogawa (Nuclear Campaigner), Greenpeace Japan

Enclosures

Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Green Action, Greenpeace Japan, Chart: "Comparison of 3 Japanese Government / Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Decisions Regarding the Use of Plutonium," compiled 3 February 2006.

Japanese Government, Letter to the IAEA: "Plutonium Utilization Plan of Japan," December 1997.
Available at: http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/1998/infcirc549a1.pdf

Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, Decision: "Basic Principles for the Utilization of Plutonium in Japan" (Provisional Translation), 5 August 2003. (Personal translation by or for then JAEC commissioner Tetsuya Endo. Sent by JAEC to Green Action.) Click here for full transcript.

Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPCO), "Utilization Plan for Plutonium Recovered at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (Fiscal 2005-2006)," 6 January 2006. Click here for CNIC translation.

Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), "Appropriateness of the Purpose of Use Specified in the Plutonium Utilization Plans Announced by Electric Power Companies et al," 24 January 2006. Click here for CNIC translation.

Notes

*1. Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPCO), "Utilization Plan for Plutonium Recovered at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (Fiscal 2005-2006)," 6 January 2006. Click here for CNIC translation.

*2. Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), "Appropriateness of the Purpose of Use Specified in the Plutonium Utilization Plans Announced by Electric Power Companies et al," 24 January 2006. Click here for CNIC translation.

*3. Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, Decision: "Basic Principles for the Utilization of Plutonium in Japan," 5 August 2003. (The English is a personal translation by or for then JAEC commissioner Tetsuya Endo.) Green Action has been told by JAEC that it understands commissioner Endo sent the English translation to the IAEA. Click here for full transcript.

*4. Based on JNFL's 1 September 2005 announcement regarding the amount of spent fuel to be separated from FY2005 - FY2012.

*5: 2004 plutonium inventory figures released by Japan Atomic Energy Commission in 2005. Click here for table showing these figures in English (CNIC translation).

*6. Institute for Science and International Security, Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials: Summary Tables and Charts (July 12, 2005, Revised September 7, 2005), Table 2, Plutonium and HEU Holdings by Country, end 2003 in tonnes.

*7. Statement made to Green Action and Mihama-no-Kai by Kansai Electric on 31 January 2006.

*8. The Ten Japanese Electric Power Companies, "Let's be clear about it. The ten Japanese utility companies want THORP." Full page advertisement in major UK newspapers including The Times (23 June 1993).

*9. Japanese Citizens Concerned About Plutonium, "Why Start THORP If Japan Has No Use For It Anymore?" Advertisement in UK parliament's House Magazine (14 June 1993.) Signers include Jinzaburo Takagi then director of CNIC and Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action.

*10. Letter dated 15 June 1993 to UK Prime Minister John Major from Aileen Mioko Smith (director of Green Action [former organization name Plutonium Action Network - Kyoto]), Yurika Ayukawa (director for International Relations, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center), and Consumers' Union of Japan. Letter states, "Japan's plutonium utilization programme is severely behind schedule. Major problems and chronic delays in the programme will result in an approximate 70 tonne (70,000 kg) gap between actual demand and supply of Japanese plutonium by the year 2010 if current supplies continue."

*11. "A Call on Japan to Strengthen the NPT by Indefinitely Postponing Operation of the Rokkasho Spent Fuel Reprocessing Plant." (May 5, 2005) Statement by 27 eminent scientists, former policy makers and analysts, including four Nobel laureates in physics and two former US Secretaries of Defense. They said, "At a time when the nonproliferation regime is facing its greatest challenge, Japan should not proceed with its current plans for the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant." Click here to see press release and statement.

*12. Letter sent to the Japanese Ambassador by six Democrat members of the US Congress calling on Japan "to suspend plans to conduct active testing of Rokkasho...as part of a global initiative to reduce world-wide stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile materials." Click here to see press release and letter.


Compiled: 3 February 2006

Has Japan Honored its 1997 Commitment to the IAEA Concerning Implementation of its Plutonium Program?

Comparison of 3 Japan Government/Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Decisions Regarding the Use of Plutonium

Compiled by Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Green Action, and Greenpeace Japan

1997
2003
2006
Japanese government's December 1997 Letter to the IAEA

"Plutonium Utilization Plan of Japan" (INFCIRC/549/Add. 1
31 March 1998) Section 2, Enhancing the Transparency of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Program

(English original)

JAEC's 5 August 2003 Decision

"Basic Principles for the Utilization of Plutonium in Japan" (Provisional translation by JAEC commission) (Footnote)

JAEC's 24 January 2006 Decision

"Appropriateness of the Purpose of Use Specified in the Plutonium Utilization Plans Announced by Electric Power Companies et al"
(CNIC translation)

The nuclear fuel cycle is promoted based on the principle that plutonium beyond the amount required to implement the program is not to be held, i.e. the principle of no surplus plutonium. Nuclear materials are also strictly managed, so as not to give rise to any international doubts concerning nuclear proliferation. Japan intends to ensure transparency of the plutonium utilization program through these efforts.

Projections of plutonium supply and demand in Japan through 2010 have been published by the AEC, as appropriate, based on the progress of related programs, in order to demonstrate that the nuclear fuel cycle program follows the principle of no surplus plutonium.

Japan has made an important pledge to the international community to utilize plutonium solely for peaceful purposes. However, in order to avoid doubts both at home and abroad about the utilization of such a sensitive substance, it is important that Japan should achieve enhanced transparency regarding the utilization of plutonium and thereby gain an improved understanding of the nation as well as the international community. To this end, AEC has laid down the principle of not holding surplus plutonium, i.e. plutonium for no specific purpose...

With the commercial operation of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, a large amount of plutonium will be separated and recovered. Accordingly, AEC considers it necessary to define the purposes for which this plutonium will be used and thereby to achieve further transparency as to the anticipated utilization of the substance.

Electric power companies will be required to announce every year plans for the utilization of plutonium before separating plutonium, setting forth the names of owners of plutonium, the amount of plutonium in their possession, and the purposes for which plutonium will be used. The uses of plutonium should specify the quantities of plutonium involved, the places where plutonium will be used, approximate time of start using plutonium, and an approximate period of time required to use the material. Moreover, in order to achieve enhanced transparency, electric power companies should provide details of the uses as the actual plans progress.

In August 2003 AEC promulgated the decision 'Basic Principles for the Utilization of Plutonium in Japan' ('Basic Principles'). This showed that Japan's concept is that in addition to publishing information on the status of plutonium management, in order to further enhance transparency, as a uniquely Japanese measure, companies must publish a plutonium utilization plan showing the purpose of use, before they can separate plutonium at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Until now, considering the experience accumulated in Japan and overseas, detailed decisions about the end use of plutonium recovered at reprocessing plants and the time of use may come after the plutonium has been stored for quite a while. However, regarding the recovery within Japan by civilian companies of the sensitive substance plutonium, even if companies have not yet reached the stage of producing detailed utilization plans, since by each year clarifying the plutonium utilization plan, including the plan for the plutonium to be recovered the following year, the most recently published utilization plans will step by step become more and more detailed, AEC believes this to be appropriate from the point of view of maintaining a high level of transparency regarding utilization...
We expect electric power companies, under appropriate risk management, in accordance with progress made, from the next fiscal year to make positive efforts to make their utilization plans more detailed. Further, where circumstances arise, as a result of the progress status of plu-thermal plans and the operational status of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which might affect utilization plans, we expect electric power companies to review the utilization plans announced this time, based on the 'Basic Principles.'

(Emphasis ours.)

The English translation of the JAEC 5 August 2003 Decision was provided to Green Action by JAEC. It is a personal translation by or for then JAEC commissioner Endo. Grammatical errors in the original are preserved. Green Action has been told by JAEC that it understands the translation was sent by commissioner Tetsuya Endo to the IAEA. Click here for full transcript


Other links

CNIC translations of Federation of Electric Power Companies 6 January 2006 Plutonium Utilization Plan and the Atomic Energy of Japan's 24 January 2006 judgment on this plan.

Rubber Stamp for Inappropriate and Untransparent Plutonium Utilization Plan (24 January 2006)

The eyes of the world are watching - Will Japan uphold its international commitment to not produce surplus plutonium (18 January 2006)
English (pdf 472 KB) Japanese (pdf 548 KB )

Press release and letter sent to International Atomic Energy Agency (11 January 2006)

Press release and petition sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (5 January 2006)

Status of light water reactors using MOX fuel in Japan

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