核燃料サイクル 公正な審査で前に進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 11, 2014
Nuclear fuel recycling must be used to help supply nation with electricity
核燃料サイクル 公正な審査で前に進めたい(1月11日付・読売社説)

A plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and three related facilities in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, are of the utmost importance to Japan’s energy security. It is essential to advance works to check the safety of the facilities both scientifically and fairly.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. has filed for regulatory safety screenings of the Rokkasho facilities with the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is the core facility in nuclear fuel recycling. It is a massive chemical plant that discomposes spent nuclear fuel and extracts uranium and plutonium to use as fuel.

There is little equipment at the facilities that is subject to high temperatures and pressures. Therefore, the risk of an accident, in which the situation suddenly deteriorates during operations and large volumes of radioactive substances are emitted, is believed to be lower than that of nuclear power plants.

The facilities, on the other hand, could trigger tremendous damage in the event of major fires and other accidents, impairing their ability to contain massive volumes of the radioactive substances they store.

It is essential for the NRA to conduct safety screening based on the characteristics of the Rokkasho facilities.

Based on what happened in the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan Nuclear Fuel strengthened anti-quake measures and now has a far bigger earthquake in its disaster scenario. It also plans to improve ventilation equipment at the facilities. It is hoped that the NRA, as a regulatory body, will closely examine if these facilities are sufficiently prepared for natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Nuclear power is necessary

Nuclear power plants have a major role to play in the resource-scarce Japan. The country must utilize a certain portion of nuclear power to secure a stable supply of electricity.

For this, recycling nuclear fuel is a meaningful policy. Rather than discarding spent nuclear fuel, recycling will lead to the effective use of uranium resources and reduce the volume of radioactive waste.

Having begun research on nuclear fuel recycling in the 1960s, Japan has a good pool of technology it has developed. It is the only nonnuclear power that has been internationally sanctioned to use plutonium.

Making light of these achievements, the previous administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan considered abolishing the Rokkasho plant, only to decide to allow its continuation in the face of opposition from the Aomori prefectural government and other parties, which had cooperated with the government’s goal of introducing nuclear fuel recycling.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear the government will go ahead with nuclear fuel recycling.
“Our nation has a high level of technology by international standards,” Abe said at a meeting of the House of Councillors’ Budget Committee in May last year. “We will tackle [nuclear fuel recycling] in cooperation with other nations.”

The government should clearly define the nation’s nuclear power policies, including nuclear fuel recycling, in a basic energy program it plans to compile shortly and advance such policies accordingly.

Unless a certain number of nuclear power reactors go into operation again, there will be no use for recycled fuel. And if the nation stores a considerable amount of plutonium that can be used for nuclear weapons, it could come under criticism from the international community.

The NRA, for its part, should accelerate its safety screening of nuclear power reactors, which are considerably lagging behind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2014)
(2014年1月11日01時39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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