「おなか張る」から、亡くなるまで4カ月…生身の人間を苦しめたトロトラスト 知識ゼロから始まった「日本初の薬害」の取材 via 信濃毎日新聞

(略)

1930~40年代を中心に国内で使用された造影剤「トロトラスト」。放射性物質「二酸化トリウム」を主成分とし、注射されると体内にとどまって放射線を出し続け、多くの患者ががんを発症するなどして亡くなった。「そんな恐ろしい薬が使われていたのか」と驚くとともに、全く知らなかったことを恥じた。しかし、周りに知っている人はいない。知人の薬剤師に聞いても「知らない」と言う。

 ■国の支援や補償、全く足りていないのでは

 76(昭和51)年、旧陸海軍病院でトロトラストを注入された戦傷者に健康被害が多数発生していることが全国紙で報道され、国は77年度以降、傷痍(しょうい)軍人を対象に検査を実施。トロトラストが沈着していると判定された246人について恩給を増額するなどの支援をした。清沢さんは、沈着を判定するため国が設置した委員会の委員長だった。

 一方、国は78年の国会答弁で、トロトラストを注入された患者は「2万ないし3万人と言われている」との見方を示していた。「国の支援や補償は全く足りていないのではないか」と疑問が湧いた。

 委員会は2017年、把握する患者が全員死亡したとして解散。厚生労働省にトロトラストの使用実態や国内流通、ドイツの製造元からの輸入経路に関する資料がないか尋ねたが「存在しない」。委員会の議事録も「ない」とされた。被害が歴史から消されかけている―。そう感じた。

 ■見つけた資料

 専門家への取材を重ねると、長崎大原爆後障害医療研究所(長崎市)にトロトラスト患者の資料が保管されていることが分かり、昨年2月に訪ねた。資料保管室にあったのは、今も放射線を出し続けているという患者の臓器の標本や、患者に関する大量の紙の資料。その中に「都道府県別」と書かれたファイルがあった。長野県のページを開いた時に気付いた。「あれ? 女性が1人いる」。女性が傷痍軍人である可能性は低い。県内の13人が載ったリストには、国の支援を受けていないとみられる患者が他にも数人いた。

(略)

■生身の人間を苦しめた被害の実態

 この遺族の父親は従軍中にトロトラストを注入されたとみられるが、国の補償は受けていなかった。「おなかが張る」と不調を訴えてから亡くなるまでわずか4カ月。肝臓の血管に腫瘍ができ、腹水がたまって苦しんだ。若い担当医に「俺はもう助からないから、死んだら解剖して役立てて、立派な医師になって」と声をかけていた―。遺族は「おやじのように苦しんだ人がいると知ってもらえれば、供養になります」と言った。それまでぼんやりとして見えづらかった被害を、「生身の人間を苦しめたもの」として実感できたような気がした。

 昨年10月、国の支援から漏れた患者が多数いた可能性があると報道。遺族の証言なども記事にした。一方、武見敬三厚労相は同月、国として被害を「新たに調査することは考えていない」との姿勢を示した。

全文は「おなか張る」から、亡くなるまで4カ月…生身の人間を苦しめたトロトラスト 知識ゼロから始まった「日本初の薬害」の取材 via 信濃毎日新聞

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福島第1原発で汚染水トラブル連発、経済産業相が東京電力を指導 「覚悟が見えない」地元もバッサリvia東京新聞

2024年2月21日 19時16分

 東京電力福島第1原発(福島県大熊町、双葉町)の汚染水処理設備で水漏れ事故が相次いだことを受け、斎藤健経済産業相は21日、東電の小早川智明社長を呼び、再発防止の徹底を指導した。汚染水を浄化処理した水の海洋放出の開始から24日で半年。風評被害の影響が続く中で起きた放出の基幹設備でのずさんな管理は、リスクを軽視する東電の体質を浮き彫りにする。(小野沢健太)

◆人為的なミスが原因

[…]「単なるヒューマンエラーとして対処するのではなく経営上の課題として重く受け止めていただきたい」と求めた。小早川社長は「私が先頭に立ち、責任を持って再発防止に取り組む」と約束した。

 福島第1原発では、原子炉建屋にたまる汚染水の除染設備で7日、洗浄廃液を建屋外に漏らす事故が発生。昨年10月には多核種除去設備(ALPS)で、洗浄廃液が飛散して作業員2人が被ばくし、一時入院した。

 二つの事故はいずれも、東電や下請け企業に過去の作業経験による慣れがあり、状況確認や防護対策を怠ったことが共通している。

◆開いたままの手動弁から廃液漏れ

除染設備では、屋外の排気口につながる手動弁10カ所が開いたまま洗浄し、廃液が漏れ出た。過去に14回あった同様の作業では、洗浄前の設備点検の際には弁が閉まっていたという。

 今回は、弁が開いた状態だったことの情報共有が東電の部署間で不十分だったため、閉めないまま点検に入った。東電が作成した作業の手順書も、これまでと同様に弁が閉まった前提の手順になっていた。点検した下請け企業の作業員も、弁は閉まっていると思い込み、開閉状況まで確かめなかった。

◆かっぱ着用せずに作業、廃液かぶる

 ALPSでの被ばく事故も、従来の洗浄作業では廃液タンクから周囲に飛び散ったことはなく、作業員2人がかっぱを着なかった。しかし、想定していなかった飛散が起き、廃液をかぶって放射性物質が体に付着した。この事故で、東電は安全管理の意識徹底などの再発防止策を打ち出したが、3カ月ほどでまた事故が起きた。

 これらの設備で処理した水の海洋放出は、昨年8月24日に始まった。これまでのところ、原発周辺の海水の放射能濃度測定で異常は確認されていないが、中国やロシアは日本産水産物の輸入停止を継続。東電は今月14日時点で、約30件の風評被害の賠償請求に対し、計約41億円を支払った。

 放出の影響が続く一方、福島第1原発の事故収束作業は「緩み」が深刻化している。19日の原子力規制委員会の会合で、福島県大熊町商工会の蜂須賀礼子会長は、東電トップの言葉をこう切り捨てた。「社長さんは『(事故収束に)覚悟を持って取り組む』とよく言うけど、覚悟の『か』の字も見えない」

 福島第1原発の汚染水処理 1〜3号機内の溶け落ちた核燃料(デブリ)に触れた冷却水が汚染水となり、建屋に流入する地下水や雨水と混ざって増加。1日当たり約90トンが発生している。汚染水は除染設備で放射性セシウムやストロンチウムを低減した後、多核種除去設備(ALPS)でトリチウムを除く大半の放射性物質を除去して貯蔵タンクに保管。昨年8月24日に処理水の海洋放出が始まり、処理水に大量の海水を混ぜてトリチウム濃度を国の排水基準の40分の1未満にした上で、沖合約1キロの海底から放出している。

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It’s not just toxic chemicals. Radioactive waste was also dumped off Los Angeles coast via LA Times

BY ROSANNA XIA STAFF WRITER 

FEB. 21, 2024 5 AM PT

For decades, a graveyard of corroding barrels has littered the seafloor just off the coast of Los Angeles. It was out of sight, out of mind — a not-so-secret secret that haunted the marine environment until a team of researchers came across them with an advanced underwater camera.

Speculation abounded as to what these mysterious barrels might contain. Startling amounts of DDT near the barrels pointed to a little-known history of toxic pollution from what was once the largest DDT manufacturer in the nation, but federal regulators recently determined that the manufacturer had not bothered with barrels. (Its acid waste was poured straight into the ocean instead.)

Now, as part of an unprecedented reckoning with the legacy of ocean dumping in Southern California, scientists have concluded the barrels may actually contain low-level radioactive waste. Records show that from the 1940s through the 1960s, it was not uncommon for local hospitals, labs and other industrial operations to dispose barrels of tritium, carbon-14 and other similar waste at sea.

[…]

And in the process of digging up old records, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered that from the 1930s to the early 1970s, 13 other areas off the Southern California coast had also been approved for dumping of military explosives, radioactive waste and various refinery byproducts — including 3 million metric tons of petroleum waste.

[…]

The company, now defunct, had received a permit in 1959 to dump containerized radioactive waste about 150 miles offshore, according to the U.S. Federal Register. Although archived notes by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission say the permit was never activated, other records show California Salvage advertised its radioactive waste disposal services and received waste in the 1960s from a radioisotope facility in Burbank, as well as barrels of tritium and carbon-14 from a regional Veterans Administration hospital facility.

Given recent revelations that the people in charge of getting rid of the DDT waste sometimes took shortcuts and just dumped it closer to port, researchers say they would not be surprised if the radioactive waste had also been dumped closer than 150 miles offshore.

[…]

The sobering reality, he noted, is that it wasn’t until the 1970s that people started to take radioactive waste to landfills rather than dump it in the ocean.

He pulled out an old map published by the International Atomic Energy Agency that noted from 1946 to 1970, more than 56,000 barrels of radioactive waste had been dumped into the Pacific Ocean on the U.S. side. And across the world even today, low-level radioactive waste is still being released into the ocean by nuclear power plants and decommissioned plants such as the one in Fukushima, Japan.

“The problem with the oceans as a dumping solution is once it’s there, you can’t go back and get it,” said Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity. “These 56,000 barrels, for example, we’re never going to get them back.”

[…]

“It’s extremely overwhelming. … There’s still so much we don’t know,” said John Chesnutt, a Superfund section manager who has been leading the EPA’s technical team on the ocean dumping investigation. “Whether it’s radioactivity or explosives what have you, there’s potentially a wide range of contaminants out there that aren’t good for the environment and the food web, if they’re really moving through it.”

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仏で保管のプルトニウム 九州電力と四国電力の原発で利用へ via NHK News Web

2024年2月17日 8時01分

電力各社が保有するプルトニウムの利用が滞る中、大手電力でつくる電気事業連合会は、原発の再稼働が進んでいない電力会社が保有し、フランスで保管されているプルトニウムの一部を核燃料に加工し、九州電力と四国電力の原発で利用する計画を公表しました。

使用済み核燃料に含まれるプルトニウムは、核兵器の原料にもなることから、電力各社はイギリスやフランスに送って再び核燃料に加工したうえで、国内の原発で利用する「プルサーマル発電」を進め、保有量の削減を図ってきました。

しかし、イギリスでは核燃料に加工する工場が2011年に閉鎖され、およそ21.7トンのプルトニウムが利用できなくなっています。

一方、フランスにはおよそ14.1トンが保管されていますが、「プルサーマル発電」を実施する九州電力や四国電力は在庫がなくなっていて、ほかの電力会社では再稼働が進まないこともあり、全体として利用が滞っています。

このため、電気事業連合会は、九州電力と四国電力がイギリスで保管しているプルトニウム1.7トンを、再稼働が進んでいない東京電力や中部電力など5社がフランスで保管している分と交換し、核燃料に加工した上で、2027年度から利用を始める計画を明らかにしました。

[…]

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夜廻り猫[第九二五話] SPEEDI

SPEEDI 2024年2月9日

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Congress torpedoes a Biden nominee and casts doubt on nuclear safety via Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

By Allison Macfarlane | February 6, 2024

The Biden administration’s recent abandonment of Jeff Baran for another term as member on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) bodes ill for the independence of the agency—and the safety and security of the country. A longtime commissioner, Baran reportedly did not have enough support from some senate Democrats to win another nomination.

His crimes? Being “an overzealous regulator overtly hostile to nuclear energy.”

Senate Democrats say they would prefer a nominee who is not “too focused on safety.” But the NRC is not a pro- or an anti-nuclear group; it’s an independent regulator, whose mission is to protect public health and safety, ensure security, and protect the environment.

Baran’s opponents in the Senate and in public interest groups cited his track record of being the lone NRC commissioner (of five) to consistently vote in favor of more environmental protection and safety. But with the other four votes typically going in the opposite direction, the decisions favored by the nuclear industry often won out. Baran was hardly a threat to the industry. Does the nuclear industry and its supporters really want the NRC to become an echo chamber instead of a balanced and trusted regulator?

[…]

Many in the nuclear industry are hoping to herald a yearned-for renaissance through the commercialization of small modular and advanced reactors. In the United States, none of these reactor designs has ever been constructed, let alone actually demonstrated. That has not stopped the industry and its promoters from claiming that small modular reactors (SMRs) are safer and cheaper than existing large light water reactors—though because they have not been demonstrated, let alone achieved commercial success, the actual costs and safety issues are unknown. For nuclear power supporters, what is holding the industry back from making a dent in fossil fuel usage is the NRC.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For years, the NRC has worked proactively with the nascent SMR industry, providing guidance as to how to follow the design certification and licensing processes. And recall that Congress structured the NRC as a fee-for-service agency that must recover 90 percent of its budget from fees paid by licensees by law. This means the agency doesn’t get paid until an application is submitted, but regulators have already done a lot of work even before anyone has submitted a license application. And even then, the fees from the agency are a tiny fraction of what it costs to bring a reactor to commercialization. For instance, in the NRC’s Design Certification process, the agency’s fees amount to between 2.5 and 7.5 percent of the total costs of the reactor.

But blaming the NRC for the industry’s woes is a red herring that deflects the real challenges and uncertainties of developing a new technology onto the regulator. Even if the NRC stopped charging fees and gave all license applications a pass on rigorous safety requirements, the SMR industry would still struggle to commercialize its products. That is because the real issue with these reactors is their economics: SMRs are expensive technologies, especially compared to the cheap cost of wind, solar, and natural gas. And costs for renewables keep decreasing every year.

[…]

 To be functional, the NRC must have commissioners who have some technical understanding of nuclear facilities they are supposed to regulate. In the past, commissioners have been drawn from the Navy, academia, and other government agencies.

Over the last 20 years, however, the trend has been to tap congressional staffers—who are by definition political and clearly embody a means for members of Congress to interfere with NRC decision-making—to be commissioners. Such a practice has introduced politics directly into agency processes. The agency performs best, however, when it makes reasonably objective decisions based on expert knowledge of a complex technology. The United States should consider itself lucky compared to other nuclear operating nations because it has a diverse pool of nuclear experts to draw from to sit on the regulatory commission. Sadly, the increasing politicization of the NRC’s Senate confirmation process prevents the agency from benefitting from those experts, which undermines the safety of US nuclear facilities.

[…]

It’s in the industry’s best interests to have an independent regulator. As many in the industry say, “an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere.”

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Advocates demand halt to uranium mine near the Grand Canyon via Salon

By Matthew Rozsa

he Grand Canyon truly lives up to its name, being the largest canyon on Earth and one of the most popular national parks in America. But due to uranium mining in the area, some advocates are warning it could become the site of a future environmental disaster, which threatens to make one Indigenous village “extinct.”

More than 80 groups signed onto a statement on Monday — representing Indigenous communities, scientists and environmental nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity — directed at President Joe Biden and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, demanding they close the Pinyon Plain uranium mine, which is located near the Grand Canyon.

“We have a choice in front of us. Allowing the Pinyon Plain mine to proceed is subjecting this landscape and its interconnected waters to a legacy of devastation and disregarding the rights of the Indigenous peoples on the land,” Sanober Mirza, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in the statement. “Or we can choose a different path — one that holds a promise of protecting the Grand Canyon’s cultural sanctity, its people and natural resources.”

To understand why the mine’s opponents feel so strongly, one can turn to Amber Reimondo, who work as energy director at a conservationist non-profit called the Grand Canyon Trust. Reimondo explained to Salon by email that, on the one hand, Biden permanently banned mining operations on nearly 1 million acres of federal managed lands by creating the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in August 2023. Yet the Pinyon Plain mine was exempt from this prohibition, and Reimondo argues that the impact on the region has been “several fold.”

“The Grand Canyon region as a whole and especially the location of the mine, is deeply significant to Indigenous cultures and is a place where tribal members have conducted ceremonies, collected medicine, hunted, and more, for centuries,” Reimondo said. “The mine also overlies critical and complex [and] not well understood groundwater systems. One aquifer in particular — the Red Wall Muav Aquifer — is the sole source of water for the remote Havasupai Village of Supai inside the Grand Canyon. The mine poses a contamination threat to these groundwater resources not just today, but importantly, after the mine’s mere 28-month operational lifespan has concluded and the mining operator ‘cleans up’ and moves on.”

Supai is so remote, it’s only accessible only by helicopter or an 8-mile mule ride or hike, Reimondo explained, noting that if the newly-oxygenated groundwater comes into contact with nearby rocks, minerals like arsenic and uranium will be dissolved by the groundwater and enter aquifers used by the local community and essential to local ecology, including Havasu Falls. Taylor McKinnon, Southwest Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, expressed similar concerns.

“Ultimately, this mine is going to require political leadership,” McKinnon told Salon in an interview, referring to both the Biden and Hobbs administrations. “Those administration’s agencies have the authority to fix this problem if they so choose, and that’s what they should do.”

[…]

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A million tons of radioactive waste next to the Ottawa River? You Must Be Kidding via Sierra Club Canada

By Ole Hendrickson, Chair of Board of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation

The Sierra Club Canada Foundation is condemning a Government of Canada decision to allow 80 years’ worth of its accumulated radioactive waste to be put in a gigantic landfill surrounded by wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River, 1 kilometer away.

Partially treated leachate from the landfill would be discharged either into the wetlands or directly into Perch Lake, a 45 hectare water body that feeds into the Ottawa River on the edge of the Canadian Shield.

After a nearly 8-year-long assessment under the 2012 version of the Canadian Environmental Act, Rumina Velshi, ex-president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), signed off on the so-called “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF) project on January 9, 2024. Ms. Velshi recently attracted media attention for having spent nearly $100k more on travel than the next closest senior bureaucrat over a 19-month period.

Her signature means that a private consortium contracted by the Harper government in 2015, now made up of two US-based multinationals and AtkinsRealis (formerly SNC-Lavalin), can proceed with construction of Canada’s first-ever permanent disposal facility for nuclear reactor waste, for the convenience of the industry and the benefit of its shareholders.

Under a 10-year federal contract worth more than $10 billion, the consortium was given ownership of a former Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) subsidiary called Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). Under a “Site Operating Company” agreement, CNL must reduce the $8 billion federal nuclear liability as quickly and cheaply as possible. The agreement called for an operating waste facility by 2021, which CNL failed to meet owing to significant opposition from First Nations, citizens’ groups, NGOs, and downstream municipalities. CNL’s owners want shovels in the ground before their contract expires in September 2025.

Wastes proposed for the giant landfill are currently stored in 20-foot intermodal containers, 50-gallon drums, and steel waste boxes. They include radioactively contaminated piping, concrete, asbestos, bricks, and lumber from demolition of old structures; and soils contaminated by past dumping of radionuclides mixed with toxic organic chemicals (including PCBs and dioxins) and heavy metals (cadmium, lead, mercury, etc.) in unlined sand trenches. Industrial wastes shipped to Chalk River from companies across Canada would also go in the landfill.

Large amounts of waste were generated by reactor accidents at Chalk River in 1952 and 1958. Facilities used to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons also suffered accidents. These wastes will remain hazardous for thousands to millions of years.

The NSDF’s proximity to the Ottawa River would ensure that detectable quantities of long-lived, man-made radioactive substances and other toxic wastes will pollute the river in perpetuity. The location was chosen to minimize costs of hauling waste from the dozens of radioactively contaminated structures in the “Active Area” at Chalk River.

Ten Algonquin First Nations, on whose unceded land the facility would be built, have registered their objections in the strongest possible terms. They note that section 29(2) of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires the Government of Canada to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before disposing of hazardous waste in their territory.

To build the NSDF, CNL would destroy 35 hectares of near old-growth forest adjacent to the Perch Lake wetlands. The forest, unlogged for 80 years, is home to bear dens, a wolf pack, beaver, moose, and turtles. CNL would then blast out the side of a small mountain and install a “plastic geomembrane” it says could contain waste for centuries.

Few Canadians have heard of the NSDF, owing to the heavy veil of secrecy that the Government of Canada maintains over its nuclear installations. It allows unelected CNSC commissioners to make controversial decisions involving nuclear energy, which Parliament declared to be an undertaking “for the general advantage of Canada” under the 1997 Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which has never since been reviewed.

[…]

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劣化ウランを蓄電池「レドックスフロー電池」に再生、世界初の成果目指す via ニュースイッチ

原子力機構が開発に乗り出す

日本原子力研究開発機構は核分裂せず、原子力発電に使われない劣化ウランを利用した蓄電池の開発に乗り出す。ウランを使った蓄電池は充電ロスが低く、原料が準国産であるため、低価格での販売が見込める。詳細な原理実証ができれば世界初の成果となる。2035年には再生可能エネルギーや原発と連携し、余剰電力を蓄電できる仕組みを構築する考え。廃棄物の劣化ウランを有効活用し、資源として平和的に利用することを目指す。

ウランの酸化還元反応に着目し、それを利用して充電・放電する蓄電池「レドックスフロー(RF)電池」を開発する。これまでに原子力機構は、ウランを利用したRF電池に使う電解溶液の選定などを進めてきた。24年からウランRF電池の詳細設計を始め、26―28年に原子力科学研究所(茨城県東海村)内で実証やスケールアップを実施する予定。

(略)

原子力発電に使われるウラン235は天然のウランに0・7%しか含まれない。残りの99・3%は核分裂しない劣化ウランであり、廃棄物として約1万6000トンが貯蔵されている。核燃料物質として扱いが難しいウランだが、核分裂しないウランを資源化できればエネルギーの安定化にもつながる。

全文は劣化ウランを蓄電池「レドックスフロー電池」に再生、世界初の成果目指す via ニュースイッチ

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Rokkasho redux: Japan’s never-ending reprocessing saga via Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

By Tatsujiro Suzuki | December 26, 2023

According to a recent Reuters report, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) still hopes to finish construction of Japan’s long-delayed Rokkasho reprocessing plant in the first half of the 2024 fiscal year (i.e. during April-September 2024). The plant—which would reprocess spent nuclear fuel from existing power plants, separating plutonium for use as reactor fuel—is already more than 25 years behind schedule, and there are reasons to believe that this new announcement is just another wishful plan that will end with another postponement.

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1993: Construction starts.

1997: Initial target for completion.

2006-2008: Hot tests conducted, revealing technical problems with the vitrification process for dealing with waste produced during reprocessing.

2011: Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant accident.

2012: New safety regulation standards introduced.

2022: Completion target date postponed to June 2024)

The 2022 postponement was the 26th of the Rokkasho project.

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Fourth, the financial costs to JNFL of postponement are covered by the utilities’ customers, because the utilities must pay a “reprocessing fee” every year, based on the spent fuel generated during that year, whether or not the reprocessing plant operates. The system by which the Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan decides the reprocessing fee is not transparent.

Fifth, the project lacks independent oversight. Even though JNFL’s estimate of the cost of building and operating the Rokkasho plant has increased several-fold, no independent analysis has been done by a third party. One reason is that some of the shareholders are themselves contractors working on the plant and have no incentive to scrutinize the reasons for the cost increases or the indefinite extension of the construction project.

After so many postponements, there is reason to wonder whether the plant will ever operate, but the government and utilities continue to insist that the plant will open soon. Even if Rokkasho were to operate, it may suffer from the same kinds of problems that marked Britain’s light-water reactor spent fuel reprocessing experience, as described in Endless Trouble: Britain’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP).

Why does Japan’s commitment to reprocessing continue? Despite the serious and longstanding problems the Rokkasho plant has faced (and continues to face), Japanese regulators and nuclear operators have doggedly pursued the project. There are four reasons:

Spent fuel management. Currently, most of Japan’s spent nuclear fuel is stored in nuclear power plant cooling pools. But the pool capacities are limited, and the 3,000-ton-capacity Rokkasho spent fuel pool is also almost full. The nuclear utilities must therefore start operating the Rokkasho plant unless they can create additional spent fuel storage capacity, either on- or off-site. The Mutsu spent fuel storage facility is a candidate for additional capacity, but due to the concern that spent fuel could stay there forever, Mutsu city refuses to accept spent fuel unless the Rokkasho reprocessing plant begins to operate. The Rokkasho plant design capacity is 800 tons of spent fuel per year.

Legal and institutional commitments. Under Japan’s nuclear regulations, utilities must specify a “final disposal method” for spent fuel. The law on regulation of nuclear materials and nuclear reactors states that “when applying for reactor licensing, operators must specify the final disposal method of spent fuel” (Article 23.2.8). In addition, there was a clause that “disposal method” should be consistent with implementation of the government policy, which specified reprocessing as the disposal method. Although that clause was deleted in the 2012 revision of the law after the Fukushima accident, the Law on Final Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste still bans direct disposal of spent fuel. In addition, the 2016 Law on Reprocessing Fees legally requires utilities to submit reprocessing fees for all spent fuel generated every year since they stated in their applications that “final disposal method” for their spent fuel would be reprocessing.

Commitments to hosting communities. The nuclear utilities committed—albeit tacitly—to the communities hosting nuclear power plants that they would remove the spent fuel to reprocessing plants, since that was the national policy. Separately, JNFL signed an agreement with Rokkasho village and Aomori prefecture that says that if the Rokkasho reprocessing plant faces “severe difficulties,” other measures will be considered—including the return of spent fuel stored at Rokkasho to the nuclear power plants.

Local governments hosting nuclear power plants were not involved in this deal, however. They could therefore just refuse to receive spent fuel from Aomori. In fact, after the Fukushima accident, when the government was considering amending the nuclear fuel cycle policy to include a “direct disposal option” for spent fuel in a deep underground repository, the Rokkasho village parliament (at the behind the scenes suggestion by the then JNFL president, Yoshihiko Kawai), issued a strong statement asking for “maintenance of the current nuclear fuel cycle policy.”

The statement continued that, if Japan’s fuel cycle policy changed, Rokkasho would: refuse to accept further waste from the reprocessing of Japan’s spent fuel in the UK and France; require the removal of reprocessing waste and spent fuel stored in Rokkasho; no longer accept spent fuel; and seek compensation for the damages caused by the change of the policy.

Institutional and bureaucratic inertia. In Japan, bureaucrats rotate to new positions every two or three years and are reluctant to take the risk of changing existing policies. They therefore tend to stick with past commitments. Institutional inertia becomes stronger as a project becomes bigger. The Rokkasho reprocessing project is one of the largest projects ever in Japan. Changing the project is therefore very difficult.

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