Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rokkasho and Nuclear (In)Security

The Asahi Shimbun is reporting that participants at the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs called for an end to plans to reprocess nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant:
Pugwash scientists demand Japan end troubled nuclear fuel recycling program November 07, 2015 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japan has been urged to scrap its nuclear fuel recycling program by a group of influential scholars at the 61st Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international advocates body working for a nuclear weapons-free world.

The paper by the 31-member group, presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, specifically calls on the government to abandon the construction of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, a key facility in its trouble-plagued nuclear fuel recycling program....

In my book, Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk (available at any online bookseller or it can be ordered for your local library) I address the risks posed by the Rokkasho facility. Here are some excerpts that include a framework of interpreting why Japan's LDP remains committed to reprocessing nuclear fuel despite the proven risks:

Nuclear is essential to the LDP security matrix, as illustrated by its efforts to resume nuclear enrichment processes at Rokkasho because of the ‘deterrent force it offers’.[i] Indeed, LDP members and Japan’s nuclear agency acted surreptitiously in 2012 to link reprocessing with national security. The Asahi Shimbun explained in an editorial:
A revision to the Atomic Energy Basic Law adding an appendix stating that nuclear power should ‘contribute to national security’ has passed the Diet. Those words, which could provoke suspicions that Japan is planning to develop nuclear weapons, should be deleted in the next Diet session. Nuclear law's 'national security' clause must be dropped.[ii]

The Mainichi speculated that the clause was designed to save the Rokkasho plant after the breeder reactor program closure and shutdown of Japan’s commercial nuclear energy reactors:
It probably comes down to the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant,’ said a bureaucrat with whom I've been acquainted for years. ‘If the country moves toward the abandonment of nuclear power, that facility will lose meaning. If it is legally granted legitimacy as a facility for the military use of nuclear materials, then it can continue to exist. I believe that there were LDP lawmakers who thought of that, and bureaucrats who supported them.[iii]

The Mainichi described the clause as allowing ‘the possibility of nuclear armament open to interpretation,’[iv] and called for its deletion:
The amendment has fueled speculations about its true aim. Some wonder whether the interpretation of the clause could be stretched to open the way for nuclear weapons development. Others question whether the clause is aimed at underscoring the effectiveness of the development and use of atomic power for nuclear power plants and other purposes....[v]
Japan’s energy security and military security were officially joined in September of 2012 when Japan’s Minister of Defense, Satoshi Morimoto, asserted that ‘nuclear plants give us deterrent force.’[vi] The LDP aggressively promoted this stance after taking office in 2013.

The LDP announced in January of 2013 it would continue the policy of fuel reprocessing,[vii] despite warnings in December of 2012 by two professors of geomorphology at Tokyo University that a 100 kilometer fault running directly under this plant was likely active, and could produce an 8-magnitude quake.[viii]

The risks from a problem at the Rokkasho reprocessing facility are significant and have generated international attention.[ix] Rokkasho currently stores 240 cubic meters of radioactive liquid waste that must be cooled continuously. An earthquake could disrupt cooling of that waste.

The German nuclear industry calculated that an explosion at the Rokkasho facility could ‘expose persons within a 100 kilometer radius from the plant to radiation 10 to 100 times the lethal level, which presumably means instant death.’[x]

The New York Times reported April 7, 2011 that fuel reprocessing at Rokkasho and a nuclear power plant at Higashidori in Aomori Prefecture were running on emergency diesel generators after losing external power.[xi]
The LDP commitment to reprocessing at Rokkasho is truly a death wish.


[i] Cited and translated by Mochizuki (September 2012) ‘Minister of Defense: Nuclear Power Plants Give Us Deterrent Force’, Fukushima Diary, Original source: Minister of Defense, Satoshi Morimoto, ‘Nuclear plants give us deterrent force’ quoted from interview ‘Before becoming defense minister, gave a lecture on ‘deterrent capability to neighboring countries’ maintain primary’ Translated by Google translator.

[ii] ‘Nuclear Law's 'National security' Clause Must be Dropped’ (22 June 2012), The Asahi Shimbun,, date accessed 22 June 2012.

[iii] ‘Atomic Energy Law's Sly Alteration is Abuse of Legislative Process’ (26 June 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 26 June 2012.

[iv] ‘Atomic Energy Law's Sly’.

[v] ‘National Security Clause Must be Deleted From Law on Atomic Energy’ (23 June 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 25 June 2012.

[vi] Japan Sees Nuclear Power Plants as Powerful ‘Deterrent’ Against Foreign Attacks’ (6 September 2012), Newstrack India,, date accessed 9 February 2013.

[vii] ‘Industry Minister to Continue Nuclear Fuel Cycle Policy’(18 January 2013), The Asahi Shimbun,, date accessed 19 January 2013.

[viii] K. Hasegawa (19 December 2012) ‘Quake Risk at Japan Atomic Recycling Plant’, Pys.Org,, date accessed 25 December 2012.

[ix] J. Solomon and M. Inada (2 May 2013) ‘Japan’s Nuclear Plan Unsettles US’, The Wall Street Journal, A9.

[x] H. Takashi and C. Lummis (23 May 2011), ‘The Nuclear Disaster That Could Destroy Japan’, The Asia-Pacific Journal, 9.21(2),

[xi] T. Hiroko and A. Pollack (7 April 2011) ‘Japan is Struck by Powerful Aftershock’, The New York Times,, date accessed 9 April 2011.


  1. Its hard for me to red this majia

    1. There has been a trend of nuclear projects being not completed or taken off the drawing board. Do you think the chinese will take their absurd nuclear program off the drawing board? The Japanese Rokkasho plant and other plants are not sane. sad


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.