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News Watch 101

(July/August 2004)

Further Developments re Spent-Fuel Storage Facility

Municipalities Surrounding Saga Town Oppose High-Level Waste Dump

Municipalities around Genkai Town Oppose Pluthermal Plan

Rokkasho Safeguards: What are they thinking about?

Map of places mentioned in this News Watch

Further Developments re Spent-Fuel Storage Facility

Battles over the pros and cons of spent-fuel storage facilities (SFSF) continue. Here is an account of some of the developments since the previous issue of NIT.

On June 23rd in Nango Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, the Town Council adopted a petition from local residents calling for the withdrawal of the invitation to site a SFSF in their town. Another petition demanding the enactment of an ordinance to ban the establishment of a SFSF was also adopted. Furthermore, some council members submitted a draft resolution demanding that the Mayor retract his proposal. This also was approved.

In early June it was discovered that the Mayor of Nishinoshima Town, Shimane Prefecture was trying to lure a SFSF to the town. A campaign against this move was immediately launched by local residents. On June 11th the Mayor announced that he had abandoned this plan and presented a draft ordinance to ban the establishment of the facility. This was passed by the Town Council on July 1st and an ordinance banning the establishment of all nuclear facilities was approved.

In Gobo City, Wakayama Prefecture, a special investigative committee on administrative and financial problems had been established in March, but the committee was abolished on June 9th without having had any debate on whether or not to establish a SFSF. However, on June 22nd some members of the Federation of Neighborhood Associations presented a petition asking for a research study on the facility. Their petition was approved by the City Council on June 30th. In response to this move, a draft proposal to establish a special committee to carry out the study was submitted by some councillors and this proposal was approved.

In a new move, on July 14th Mihama Town Council, Fukui Prefecture, passed a resolution to invite the establishment of a SFSF. Then on the 15th the Mayor approached Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to begin studies for this purpose. Mihama Town is the home of KEPCO's Mihama nuclear plant and this is the first move nationwide by a municipality where a nuclear power plant is located to invite a SFSF. The mayors of Takahama Town and Ohi Town, both also in Fukui Prefecture, have said that they are considering establishing a SFSF, but these were not official statements. These towns are home to KEPCO's Takahama and Ohi Plants respectively.

Meanwhile, Fukui Prefecture firmly maintains its stance of not approving a SFSF within the prefecture.

Municipalities Surrounding Saga Town Oppose High-Level Waste Dump

A petition submitted by a group of local residents to Saga Town Council in Kochi Prefecture requesting that an invitation be issued to site a High-Level Waste dump in their municipality, is still being deliberated (see News Watch 100).

One after another of the municipalities around Saga Town have passed resolutions against the petition: Ogata Town Council on June 17th, Nakamura City Council on the 23rd, Tosa-Shimizu City Council on the 26th and Kubokawa Town Council on the 30th. All of these resolutions were passed unanimously.

Ogata Town and Kubokawa Town are located immediately to the south and north of Saga Town respectively. Nakamura City is south of Ogata Town and Tosa-Shimizu City is a famous tourist center further south again.

Municipalities around Genkai Town Oppose Pluthermal Plan

Neighboring municipalities have begun to voice their opposition to Kyushu Electric Power Company's plan to use MOX fuel in its Genkai-3 (PWR 1,180 MW).

Statements of opposition were unanimously passed by the Nanayama Village Council on June 11th, then by the Chinzei Town Council on the 23rd. Both of these municipalities are located in Higashi-Matsuura County, Saga Prefecture, as is Genkai Town, home of the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant. Chinzei Town is adjacent to Genkai, but Nanayama Village is about 25 kilometers away. If the pluthermal plan were to be implemented at the Genkai Plant, Chinzei Town would receive more subsidies from the government, but in spite of this, the town still made clear its opposition to the plan.

Rokkasho Safeguards: What are they thinking about?

On 19th January this year Japan and IAEA signed an agreement regarding the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant to be appended to their Safeguards Agreement. The document is not publicly available, but it covers details relating to inspections of the facility, etc. Following on from this, on 17th March Japan notified the US Government of its wish to add Rokkasho to the list of reprocessing facilities accepted under the reprocessing agreement between the two countries. This agreement and the list of acceptable reprocessing facilities are in the Implementing Agreement made pursuant to the Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. On the same day they obtained the approval of the US Government.

The Japanese Government takes the view that, as a result of this, "Active tests* are now possible under the Japan-America Agreement." (June 4 Cabinet Reply to a question by Tetsuo Inami, Member of the House of Representatives.) However, it believes that "the agreement of the parties to the Japan-America Agreement and other such Agreements is not necessary" for the uranium tests*. Other countries with which Japan has nuclear energy agreements that are mentioned in the Cabinet Reply are Australia and Canada. The necessary formalities haven't been completed with these countries, but the Japanese government doesn't expect that they will take long.

However, even if Rokkasho gets the go ahead in a formal sense, the spirit of the IAEA safeguards system is being treated with contempt. In a paper given at the 2001 Meeting of the Japan Chapter of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, Toru Haginoya made the following comment. "The most important technical objective of the [IAEA] safeguards system is 'the timely detection of the diversion of a Significant Quantity'. Unfortunately, I have never seen any paper that claims that 'the timely detection of a Significant Quantity' is possible in the case of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Furthermore, when this question is put to the IAEA and to people involved in the safeguard process in Japan, no clear response is provided."

A Signficant Quantity (1 SQ) of plutonium is 8kg. Haginoya calculates that, based on 1987 IAEA standards, a diversion of as much as 263.2kg could go undetected at Rokkasho. Based on H. Aigner et al International Target Values 2000 for Measurement Uncertainties in Safeguarding Nuclear Materials (STR-327 April 2001), which takes into account technological advances since then, the figure comes down to around 50kg, but this still means that a diversion of over 6 SQ worth of plutonium might escape detection.

To give a concrete example, take the Tokai Reprocessing Plant, which commenced operations in 1981. Since then, while 1000 tons of spent fuel have been reprocessed, the difference between the plutonium that went in as spent fuel and the plutonium that came out is over 200 kilograms. Of this around 60 kilograms is completely unaccounted for. The plan is to reprocess 800 tons of spent fuel per year at Rokkasho, so one would expect a much larger discrepancy to emerge there than at Tokai.

So what are they thinking about when they say that safeguards are in place for Rokkasho?

by Baku Nishio

*Active tests use spent fuel, whereas uranium tests use depleted uranium.

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