Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rokkasho in the News Again

I've been following Japan's Rokkasho nuclear re-processing facility since the 3-11 nuclear disaster.

Rokkasho is being built by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, which is a private consortium.

The plant has been under construction for decades, with an opening date delayed since 1997.

Rokkasho was going to solve Japan's energy needs by "closing the nuclear fuel cycle," an elusive dream that has continued to escape realization as the costs are exorbitant and the risks existential.

Although Rokkasho is a faded dream, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd moves forward with the plant's construction, even after discovering a fault under the site believed capable of producing a very large earthquake.

Reprocessing nuclear fuel is very hazardous. You can see my description here in my book on Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk here.

In addition to the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear reprocessing facilities in an earthquake zone, Japan's reprocessing bothers its neighbors because of the accumulation of plutonium that goes hand-in-hand with nuclear "recycling":

Motoko Rich (2018, September 22). Japan has enough nuclear material to build an arsenal. Its plan: Recycle. The New York Times,

Japan clearly wants its nuclear supply chain to include fissile fuel. The reasons are obvious:

Iran, Pakistan, Israel and every other aspiring Cold Warrior nation want the same. The US and Russia are leaders in this madness.

Sometimes when I think about the nuclear arms race and atmospheric testing I think we are a failed kind of being marked by our deliberate self-destruction.

How sad.


  1. They use other people, as disposable slaves to process the most toxic crap known.

    The people in the wake of the nuclear waste and nuclear accidents, are in industrial sacrifice zones. Those sacrifice zones include most the northern hemisphere. Think of all the open air testing, failed reactors, nuclear warships that are roaming and beached with reactons and nuclear fuel. Think of the accumulating and dumped waste.

    We are also poisoning the world to death with massive amounts of other poisons. FRACKING, PROCESSING,Burning quadrillions OF GALLONS, of fossil petroleums and coal yearly, is dumping tons of uranium, radium, thorium, polonium into our drinking water, soil and food.

    1. The chinese trade war nonsense is really doing nothing. It is for a few select things the trump family is making money on the the us. All seems like a game to justify more cold-war tension.

      Aletho News

      IPPNW to Prime Minister Abe: “Cancel Rokkasho”
      The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s co-presidents have sent the following letter to the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, urging him to halt plans for nuclear fuel reprocessing, calling the program “unnecessary and hazardous” and “not consistent with Japan’s stated support for achieving a world freed from nuclear weapons.”

      Your Excellency,
      We write on behalf of physicians in 62 countries to express our concern at Japan’s intention to start commercial operation of the Rokkasho spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant next year, and to urge your government not to proceed with the operation of the Rokkasho plant.

      The goal of our federation is to safeguard global health from the threat of nuclear annihilation, which the World Health Organization has identified as “the greatest immediate threat to human health and welfare”. In 1985 IPPNW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for performing “a considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.”

      Nuclear weapons could not exist without fissile materials – highly enriched uranium and plutonium. If humanity is to enjoy a healthy and sustainable future, we must achieve a world freed from nuclear weapons, before they are ever again used. We are in a race against time to ensure this. Achieving a world free of the extreme humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons will require not only disarmament, but also minimising and wherever possible eliminating further production of fissile materials, and wherever possible eliminating existing stocks. Extreme levels of security are required for any remaining fissile material. This will be a massive task that cannot be undertaken too soon. The authoritative International Panel on Fissile Materials estimated global stockpiles in January 2013 to be 1390 tons of highly enriched uranium, with 31 countries possessing at least 1 kg; and 490 tons of separated plutonium. Each US nuclear weapon is known to contain on average just 4 kg of plutonium.

      Japan already possesses 44 tons of plutonium – enough for more than 5000 nuclear bombs, even allowing a high quantity of 8 kg of plutonium per weapon. Japan is the only country without nuclear weapons to be separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel. Further accumulation of nuclear weapons-usable material is a concern for the international community, particularly for Japan’s North-east Asian neighbours. These concerns are accentuated by the lack of forseeable uses for this large and growing quantity of plutonium. Some Japanese politicians over the years have indeed drawn attention to the potential nuclear weapons arsenal that could be produced from such a plutonium stockpile within just a few months. Whatever the Japanese government’s current stated intention, which we have no reason to doubt, political intentions can change very quickly in comparison to the half-life of plutonium. Further, the mere existence of such a stockpile poses a risk of diversion and theft, and fuels fissile material production programs and the drivers for nuclear proliferation in other countries.

    3. Japan’s policy of separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel represents a dangerous precedent for other states to push for similar programs. The inherent technical difficulties of adequately safeguarding nuclear reprocessing plants, and risk of diversion of separated plutonium adds to these risks.

      This facility is especially concerning in the context of the North-east Asian region, where the proliferation of nuclear weapons is already a serious concern.

      We understand that on 31 January 1997 the Japan Atomic Energy Commission promised that Japan would not hold surplus plutonium, and that this decision was endorsed by the national Cabinet on 4 February 1997. Further, on 5 August 2003, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission required electric power companies to publish plans for use of plutonium prior to separating plutonium from spent fuel. The commencement of commercial operation at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant would run counter to these decisions and thereby raise questions about Japan’s consistency and reliability.

      As the people and government of Japan well know, any future use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. For this reason, IPPNW is working with other partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for a global ban treaty to correct the anomaly that the worst of all indiscriminate weapons are the only ones not yet subject to explicit legal prohibition. As a State Party to the conventions on cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, we hope Japan would support efforts to ban nuclear weapons as well.

      Given Japan’s already huge stockpile of nuclear weapons-usable material, the opening of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant appears both unnecessary and hazardous. Adding to an already large plutonium stockpile is not consistent with Japan’s stated support for achieving a world freed from nuclear weapons.

      We encourage your government to reconsider its decision to start commercial operations at Rokkasho and to declare that such operations will not proceed. Such a decision would be widely welcomed around the world and would support rather than undermine global health.

      Yours sincerely,

      Tilman Ruff, Co-President

      Ira Helfand, Co-President

      Robert Mtonga, Co-President

      Vladimir Garkavenko, Co-President

    4. It takes high burnup fuel 20 years to cool, in pools before it can even begin to be managed properly. It can overheat and cause fires. Now trumps nrc, wants to ship it around, on freeways unregulated. Isn't donny trump a great guy!

  2. "And did the Countenance Divine,
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills?"
    --Wm Blake

    Dark Satanic Mills quite perfectly characterizes nuclear power plants--even for atheists the Devil surely exists.

    However, the social and political split is as follows: one half more or less feels obliged to respect facts and reason whereas the other half treats emotions as of primary importance.

    "I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In Englands green & pleasant Land."
    --Wm Blake

  3. We definitely should not overlook the "nuclear family".

  4. As human beings we are both fragile and tough. And at any moment we may meet death. So whether we do so en masse due to some environmental disaster or individually due to bad eating habits over decades the result is the same. Whether you belong to the group that believes when you are dead you are dead or the after life group does not seem from the point of view of death to make a lot of difference. Or does it? Say you are now among the dead and you look down on earth and see wide spread disaster, at least that means your family & friends will be with you. Otherwise, oblivion. Psychologically it seems to me that end of the world prophesy is not really much of a lever to change behavior unless you accept the Christian idea of Purgatory and/or Hell. If the latter, then you might be punished for promoting nuclear things. But since it is scientists that promote the nuclear power angle, and they are mostly atheists, that is not going to move them to any repentance. My point is that it has to get quite personal before people will even try to change. A loved one who gets cancer from radiation. A father who dies young and who worked in the nuclear industry. We hear of these things from time to time. But they rarely lead anywhere.

    Here is something that would work. If one of the Obama daughters suffered radiation sickness? Wouldn't that be a big game changer with Michell and Barack going around giving talks on how dangerous the nuclear was? Especially if the illness was from some supposedly innocuous exposure. Surely this is the best way for things to happen--just one person with prominent parents! But after a while people would distract from that; the NYT would have articles saying that changes have been made and that all is again well.

    1. There is some good food, you should buy from Japan William. President Trump would be thrilled, for you to start buying their sake, and other products. It will be good for your portfolio and a patriotic thing to do according to president Trump. It comes from Fukushima. Why do you not show us what a tough little patriotic white guy ya are and start stocking up!


    2. 1h
      No one shpuld questiontrue nature of Trump's foreign policy after he tapped Bolton for National Security Advisor. John Bolton was a washed-up war criminal. He helped destroy iraq.   Now it is  unfolding.  Supporting Japans military and nuclear aramament.  Not letting north and south korea unite. Escalating the middle east. Lying about serin in syria. Providing escalating aid and weapons in yemen with saudis and israelis. Pushing iran into a corner with sanction and breaking the treaty. This guy is all lies and malicious propaganda, of the worst sort.  Trump got laughed at, bragging in the United Nations. The sickening effrontry, this creep is isolationist. Like every thing else, lies and deception of the worst sort. 

  5. Neither comment in reply seems to have anything to do with my comment which was about why people continue to do dangerous things; and why reform is so very difficult. What my comment had to do with Trump and food from Japan is very unclear. Presumably most people fear death and try to avoid it. It took thirty years from the time it was known that DDT was environmentally a very bad thing until Congress banned it. I am not aware that there is anything in print that can equal Silent Spring--and this best seller was out for ten years before Congress acted. Maybe just focusing on death is too hard for most and thus the attempt to distract to Trump and Japanese food?

    1. Nuclear power shills push nuclear energy willy. People do not have to allow themselve to be subjected to poisoning. The number of people in the USA, who are against nuclear power are closer to 60 percent.
      Thwre was history before Obama too willy! We can see how your mean little racist brain operates. Never one to miss a polically motivated racist smear, when u can slip one in. No matter how stupid it is.

      From article from Interview with Gordon Edward about what to do with nuclear waste

      Loved this passage "Take a simple example like Polonium 210 which was used to murder Alexander Litvinenko, and which will breed into the irradiated fuel as time goes on… According to the Los Alamos nuclear laboratories (it’s on their website), this material is 250 billion times more toxic than cyanide. That’s a staggering concept. In fact, nobody can wrap their mind around that, really. 250 billion times more toxic?! Theoretically that means that if you had a lethal dose of cyanide, and you had the same amount of Polonium 210, the cyanide could kill one person. The Polonium 210 could kill 250 billion persons. That’s amazing. How do you possibly wrap your mind around that?"

      This is what I have been saying, as a toxicologist for years. How is it so hard, for so many, to get this through their heads? It goes across such a wide spectrum of radionuclides that are acutely lethal to billionths of grams?

      Do people have to view endless rigorously screened-peer-reviewed articles to understand the horrendous simplicity and gawdaful implications of these statements. Do you have to take 10 years of nuclear physics? Hell no! It is right there, as blunt, and awful and real as looking at the birth-defects that resulted from the depleted-uranium at fallujah. As ugly and graphic as the reels of Alexander Litvinekos emaciated , scabbed face and body, laying in a hospital bed in London.

  6. It has been entertaining how my actual comments are somehow removed without my knowing it. On this site they appear as I wrote them, but the responses reveal thngs that have not been in them. That I promote nuclear power. That I never miss a chance to make a racist jab. Etc. This is a new one. So I simply have to ignore responses to "my comments" since counterfeit ones are what the responses are aimed at. It took me a while to figure this out.


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