On 15 May 2009, Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action (Kyoto) and Hideyuki Ban of Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo) spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan about the shipment of MOX fuel then in transit from Europe to Japan.
Click here for Aileen Smith's presentation slides. (4.3MB)
Click here for Hideyuki Ban's presentation slides. (264KB) The text accompanying Mr Ban's slides is copied below.
Click here for a background paper about Japan's MOX program and nuclear proliferation prepared for the Press Conference.
Hideyuki Ban's presentation: text accompanying power-point presentation
In 1956 AEC Japan formed the Nuclear Basic Plan. That plan described Japan's aim to have a domestic breeder reactor.
Since then AEC has reviewed its plan as the Long Term Program every 5 to 7years.
The vertical line shows target year for constructing a commercial FBR. The horizontal line shows the year in which the target year was revised.
This slide shows that the target year of commercialized FBR has been pushed back year after year.
Now, in the plan revised in 2005, the target year is around 2050.
On the other hand, Tokai reprocessing plant started in 1981. (In 1979, Japan got permission from the US for temporary operation for just 2 years)
In the 1980s, Japanese utilities made contracts with France and the UK to reprocess Japanese spent fuel.
Rokkasho reprocessing plant entered active tests in 2006.
The intention was that plutonium extracted from spent fuel would be used for FBR development in the long term, while MOX use in light water reactors would be temporary until FBR commercialization. However utilities were reluctant to use MOX in their reactors. They just carried out tests using only 2 MOX assemblies in one BWR in 1986-2000 and 4 assemblies in one PWR in 1989-91. They didn't carry out proper demonstration tests in one BWR and one PWR.
In 1993 Japan shipped 1.5tons of Pu as a form of powder for the Monju prototype FBR. It received a lot of criticism from other countries and citizens all over the world. In 1994, in the revised Long Term Program Japan expressed clearly that it would not have excess Pu.
After the Monju sodium leak and fire accident in Dec. 1995, it became clear that Japan's Pu was excess. Utilities were forced to announce MOX use plans for their LWR plants. They said they would start MOX use from 1999 and be using it in 16 to 18 reactors by 2010.
But this plan didn't go well as Aileen will explain later.
Japan had around 38 tons of Pu in France and the UK and 8.7 tons were stockpiled domestically at the end of 2007.
Now three utilities are shipping 1.7tons of Pu in 65 MOX assemblies from France.
Information about the arrival date has not been made public.
If utilities can get acceptance of MOX use from local authorities, MOX shipments will take place more than 20 times hereafter.
If it goes smoothly, utilities can reduce their Pu abroad. However, if the Rokkasho Reprocessing plant works well, Pu stockpiled in Japan will increase to around 60-80 tons.
This calculation was conducted by AEC in 2004. As a result it shows reprocessing is 0.5-0.7 yen/kWh more expensive than the once through cycle.
After China's nuclear explosion test, a secret Ministry of Foreign Affairs report produced in 1969 stated "The policy for the time being is not to have nuclear weapons, but the economic and technical potential to produce nuclear weapons will always be retained and care will be taken not to accept any restrictions on this."
It is very difficult to treat spent MOX fuel. If spent uranium fuel needs to be stored for 50 years prior to disposal, spent MOX fuel has to be stored for 500 years.
For all the reasons I have mentioned, Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy should be reversed.
However starting the MOX shipment means that Japan will be entrapped into its nuclear fuel cycle policy.
Go to MOX Shipments page
Go to MOX and Pluthermal page