核燃料サイクル 国の関与で確実に推進したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Boost nation’s N-fuel cycle project steadily with govt involvement
核燃料サイクル 国の関与で確実に推進したい

A system restructure is needed in order to push the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle program forward.

The government has decided to transfer the management of a project to reprocess nuclear power plants’ spent fuel from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), a private entity, to a new, authorized corporation. The government will submit a related bill to the ordinary session of the Diet next year.

The nuclear fuel cycle is a scheme in which plutonium and uranium are extracted from spent nuclear fuel and reused. The fuel cycle takes on an important role for resource-poor Japan when viewed from the standpoint of its energy security.

Since the government promotes the nuclear fuel cycle as a national policy, it is only reasonable for the government to increase its involvement in the project by transferring the management of the reprocessing project.

With the liberalization of the energy market slated to start next spring, leading utilities will be exposed to competition from new entrants to the market. Should the corporate management of leading power companies come under pressure from the increased competition, forcing them to suspend the supply of human resources and funds to the JAEA, the continuation of the nuclear fuel cycle project will be at risk.

Unless the nuclear fuel cycle is realized, spent nuclear fuel, now kept in storage at nuclear power plants, will have nowhere to go, impeding the operation of nuclear power plants.

In order to avoid such a development, it will be necessary to have the authorized corporation function effectively.

Work has been slow

The authorized entity will supervise the JAEA, which will be entrusted by the entity with the operation of the recycling project. The leading electric power companies will be obliged to contribute financially to the authorized entity.

Under the system that has existed up to now, with the JAEA being the core of the project, the nuclear fuel cycle project did not make the progress that had been hoped for. Therefore, the authorized corporation’s responsibility is heavy.

The leading power companies that own nuclear power plants also need to continue cooperating with the nuclear fuel cycle project.

The biggest concern is that the start of operations of a plant for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, now under construction in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, has been delayed by as much as about 20 years. The construction cost has also swollen from the original estimate of ¥760 billion to over ¥2 trillion.

The authorized corporation will be required to oversee strict management of progress in the work, including the operation of such facilities as a plant to process mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, a blend of reprocessed plutonium and uranium. It is also important to have the JAEA make thorough cost-cutting efforts.

Should plutonium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, be continuously kept in storage, with no prospect of being used for energy, it may arouse concern among foreign countries. The government needs to demonstrate that it will definitely use plutonium as fuel at nuclear power plants.

Together with the operation of the reprocessing plant, it is essential to restart existing nuclear power plants that use the MOX fuel.

Regarding the Oma nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture, which will have a new type of reactor capable of generating power using MOX without other fuel, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) should proceed promptly with its examination toward the start of operation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2015)


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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