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New Nuclear Policy-Planning Council

to reprocess or not to reprocess: four scenarios

This page deals with the New Nuclear Policy-Planning Council's Interim Report Concerning the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Policy released on 12 November 2004. This report relates to Japan's reprocessing plan. For more recent developments check CNIC's English newsletter Nuke Info Tokyo.


Background on New Nuclear Policy-Planning Council

The New Nuclear Policy-Planning Council (Planning Council) was established by the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan (AEC) in June 2004. CNIC was represented on the Planning Council by its Co-Director, Hideyuki Ban.

The Planning Council submitted its final report to AEC on 29 September 2005. That report was approved by AEC on October 11th and endorsed by Cabinet on October 14th as Japan's official nuclear policy. The Atomic Energy Commission has published a 'tentative translation' of this policy, entitled Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy.

Interim report on Japan's reprocessing plan
On 12 November 2004 the Planning Council handed down an interim report on Japan's reprocessing plan. CNIC translated this report. However before reading the report it is probably wise to read the following comments, because the report itself is very turgid reading.

For some time, the deliberations of the Planning Council centered around four scenarios. Scenario 1 was for full reprocessing of all of Japan's spent nucear fuel. Scenario 2 was for reprocessing that portion that could be handled by the reprocessing plant currently being built at Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture. Scenario 3 was for direct disposal by deep burial. And Scenario 4 was for temporary storage and postponing the decision about reprocessing until a later date. These scenarios were considered in terms of several criteria. Originally a table with criteria for evaluating these scenarios was provided by the committee's secretariat (NNP Sec.). Later NNP Sec. produced a new table evaluating each scenario against the criteria presented in the earlier table. This became the appendix to the interim report.

In the final meetings leading up to the publication of the interim report the four scenarios were condensed into two scenarios: to reprocess or not to reprocess, that was the question. The Planning Council came down in support of reprocessing, but it didn't clarify whether the full quantity of spent nuclear fuel produced by Japan's reactors would be reprocessed, nor whether a second commercial reprocessing plant would be built. Essentially, Scenarios 1 and 2 have been conflated, so NNP Sec's comments on the four scenarios are thus out-dated. Nevertheless, they give a guide to the thinking of the Atomic Eenergy Commission and the pro-reprocessing camp.

CNIC presented the arguments against reprocessing throughout. That isn't to say we are in favor of the direct disposal alternative per se. We are in favor of giving up nuclear energy altogether and in this context would support direct disposal. CNIC's views, as presented in the evaluation table, are tailored to address the scenarios offered. No scenario for abandoning nuclear energy was offered, so our ability to present this view in this table was constrained. We presented submissions to each meeting of the committee and our views are elaborated in more detail in those submissions. Unfortunately, it is not possible to translate all those submissions, so we ask readers to view our comments in the second table as no more than one aspect of our total submission.

Comment on the Translations
In addition to the interim report and the above tables, CNIC also translated some details of the costing for the direct disposal option. The documents were all translated at different times, so the language is not always completely consistent. The only inconsistency that is likely to cause any confusion relates to an environmental phrase with no agreed English translation, so we have prepared a specific explanation of this phrase. We have added our own comments after the secretariat's comments in the second table. People should also check previously published costing details for the back end of the nuclear cycle.

These translations are CNIC's own work. They do not have any official recognition from AEC or the Planning Council. However, CNIC takes no responsibility for the complexity of the sentences. Many of the paragraphs in the original documents are made up of a single sentence, so please bear in mind that the long and complex sentences in the English versions are shorter than the sentences in the Japanese. As the saying goes, it's a case of 'garbage in, garbage out'.

Philip White
International Liaison Officer

New Policy-Planning Council Interim Report

Appendix to Interim Report (Evaluation of 4 scenarios plus CNIC's comments)

Evaluation Criteria

Costings for direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel

Previously published costs for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle



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