Sunday, June 3, 2012

Japan and Plutonium: Update

Japan to make more plutonium despite big stockpile. Japan Today. By Eric Talmadge

[Except] “Nuclear industry officials say they hope to start producing a half-ton of plutonium within months, in addition to the more than 35 tons Japan already has stored around the world…
“It’s crazy,” said Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, a leading authority on nonproliferation issues and a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology. “There is absolutely no reason to do that.”
Japan’s nuclear industry produces plutonium—which is strictly regulated globally because it also is used for nuclear weapons—by reprocessing spent, uranium-based fuel in a procedure aimed at decreasing radioactive waste that otherwise would require long-term storage...

...From 2006 until three years ago, the nuclear industry said the plutonium-consuming MOX fuel would be used in 16-18 conventional reactors “in or after” 2010. In fact, only two reactors used MOX that year. By the time of the earthquake and tsunami last year, the number was still just three—including one at the Fukushima plant. 

MAJIA HERE: The question:  Why is Japan persisting in stockpiling plutonium when the prospect of using plutonium enriched fuel is practically nil after the Fukushima disaster?

What possible use could Japan have for its stockpiled plutonium? The article states that Japan wants the "recycled" fuel for its plans to build and use reactors that close the fuel cycle.

Japan has wanted to close the nuclear fuel cycle since the 1980s. The country has also been stockpiling plutonium since that time.   
Japan's breeder reactor program has been a disaster and the Mox fuel used in unit 3 produced the largest explosion of the 3 reactor explosions at Fukushima that were seen in the media. 

I highly doubt the Japanese public will support more mox or other plutonium-based fuel.
Background information on Plutonium Production in Japan available here:

The Japanese media have been very active in criticizing the secret decision-making over this issue. 

I’ve posted on the secret panel that met to recommend re-starting enrichment of nuclear fuel. The committee was stacked with nuclear experts and paid off university professors:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012: Latest Update on Japan's Proposal to Re-Start Re-Processing of Nuclear Fuel:

The first story I covered was this one:
Asahi: Panel backs nuclear fuel reprocessing after talks with industry officials May 24 2012

I then examined an editorial in the Mainichi criticizing the closed and secret nature of the committee meeting that made the recommendation:
Mainichi: Yoroku: Dismantling the 'black boxes' of Japanese nuclear power
(sorry cannot find link now, but covered at my blog

May 29 Mainichi: Atomic Energy panel members call for independent probe into secret meetings

[excerpt] "Some members of a Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) panel working out new nuclear energy policy have called for a third-party probe into revelations that business operators in favor of the nuclear fuel cycle project were invited to secret meetings before an assessment was altered to help promote the project..."

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