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Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Update

The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant has entered the third year since active testing using spent nuclear fuel came to a halt in December 2008 due to problems with the vitrification facility (see NIT 129). Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) is now preparing to carry out tests at a mock up facility (KMOC) at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's (JAEA) Tokai Reprocessing Facility (see NIT 138). JNFL will use the tests to compare data from the vitrification furnace in Tokai with data from its Rokkasho plant.

JNFL blames the failure of testing of the vitrification facility on a failure to accurately measure the temperature within the vitrification furnace. To address this problem it plans to equip the facility with additional thermometers. It also plans to go ahead with tests on vitrification furnace B before completing tests on the damaged vitrification furnace A.

For the purpose of comparison with the mock up facility, instead of using real radioactive liquid waste it plans to recommence tests using imitation liquid waste. Thereafter it will use real radioactive liquid waste to make 20 to 30 glass canisters.

This is the plan that JNFL submitted to the government and which the government approved on December 10, 2010.

In other words, JNFL proposed and the government approved a plan in which the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant can begin 40 years of commercial operation on the basis of 20 successfully produced glass canisters. Obviously they are so desperate to allow the plant to begin commercial operations that they are willing to go to any lengths to minimize the requirements for passing the pre-operational tests.

Masako Sawai (CNIC)

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