核燃料サイクル プルトニウムの確実な利用を

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 1, 2013
Nuclear fuel cycle must be used in way that ensures proper use of plutonium
核燃料サイクル プルトニウムの確実な利用を(4月30日付・読売社説)

Uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which will be used for the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, is en route from France to Japan by sea. It is expected to arrive in June or later.

This is the first transport of MOX to Japan since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Japan has promoted the nuclear fuel cycle program as part of the nation’s energy policy. The system reuses uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel used at nuclear power plants. The core of the system is the use of MOX fuel.

The nuclear fuel cycle allows effective use of uranium resources and reduces radioactive waste. But because plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons, stockpiling unused amounts of the material could trigger unnecessary suspicions both at home and abroad.

KEPCO needs to ensure it uses all the MOX fuel transported.

Japan has entrusted the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to France and Britain because there is no large-scale reprocessing facility at home. The amount of plutonium extracted so far has exceeded 20 tons.

Using plutonium a duty

Neither France nor Britain can keep such spent fuel for a prolonged period. Japan must receive the reprocessed fuel to maintain its international credibility. We consider it the nation’s duty to use the plutonium.

After the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration halted most of the nation’s nuclear reactors and declared a policy of abandoning nuclear power generation without presenting workable alternatives, causing total confusion. The administration also made the nuclear fuel cycle program a target for drastic review.

Even under the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there has not been any progress in discussions over the matter. If this situation remains unchanged, there will be no prospect for using plutonium.

In Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s reprocessing plant is nearly completed. But plans on its utilization have yet to be fully worked out. The government should consider the issue as soon as possible.

No other country in the world has established high-level nuclear fuel reprocessing technology without developing nuclear weapons. Japan cannot easily abandon the technology it has accumulated.

Reactivating reactors crucial

First and foremost, it is necessary to figure out how many reactors could be reactivated after their safety is ensured. The Nuclear Regulation Authority must expedite the confirmation of the safety of idled reactors.

The nuclear watchdog’s stance on the reprocessing plant is also problematic.

At the Rokkasho plant, only the process used to vitrify highly radioactive liquid waste has yet to be checked to confirm its safety.

It would be much safer to solidify the liquid waste generated in test operations than to keep it in a tank as it is at present. But the authority has put off safety confirmation processes, saying there is no need for the time being to operate the reprocessing plant itself.

We wonder if the authority is fully aware of its roles and responsibilities. Its duty is to steadily proceed with processes to improve nuclear safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 30, 2013)
(2013年4月30日01時17分 読売新聞)


srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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