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核燃料サイクル政策の曖昧さ露呈 「高速炉は維持」に疑問の声も via 福井新聞

[…]
元県原子力安全対策課長の来馬克美・福井工大教授は「高速増殖炉の開発や原子力政策は、将来を見据え長期的な視点で考えるべき国家プロジェクト。地元として足をすくわれるのは困る」と語る。「もんじゅを巡って煮え切らない状況が続いてきた。政府はもっと早く抜本的な見直し議論をすべきだった」とも感じている。

 2014年に閣議決定したエネルギー基本計画で、もんじゅは「国際的な研究拠点」と位置付けられたにもかかわらず、廃炉方向へ転換したことには「計画策定時に核燃料サイクルの総合的な議論をやってこなかったことが露呈している」と批判した。
[…]
一方、1997年の原子力委員会の高速増殖炉懇談会メンバーだった吉岡斉・九州大教授(科学史)は、今回の政府方針について「福島第1原発事故後の(厳しい世論にさらされている)原子力政策を少しでも原状復帰させるため、余計者のもんじゅを廃炉にしたいという認識に至った」と推測する。

 政府は軽水炉をまず第一に考え、原発から出る使用済み燃料を再処理し軽水炉で燃やす「プルサーマル」を重視しているとみる。その上で「高速炉研究の継続はリップサービスに過ぎず、最終処分場さえ決まれば最終的にはコストが高い再処理事業からも撤退するというシナリオではないか」と話す。

 NPO法人「原子力資料情報室」(東京)共同代表で、もんじゅ廃炉を提言した市民検討委員長の伴英幸氏は「核燃料サイクルを一気に止められず、激変緩和が必要なのだろう」と分析する。

 「常陽の活用やフランスとの共同研究で仕切り直しても、その先がうまくいかない。核燃料サイクルは事実上破綻している」と強調。将来的に原発の使用済み燃料は直接、最終処分する時代になるとし、「処分量そのものを減らすためにも、速やかに原子力そのものから撤退すべきだ」と語った。

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How does Japan justify keeping such a huge stock of plutonium? via The Hankyoreh

[…]
According to a document that was made public by the Japanese Cabinet Office in July, Japan held 47.8 tons of plutonium as of the end of 2015. Since 8 kg of plutonium is needed to manufacture a single nuclear warhead, that’s enough plutonium to make 6,000 warheads. Considering that the whole world was horrified to learn that North Korea is extracting plutonium from its 5 megawatt graphite-moderated reactor in Yongbyon, it is difficult to understand this double standard.
Japan’s justification for this has been its plan for a “nuclear fuel cycle” that it has pursued for several decades. Japan’s argument has been that, while it does possess a huge amount of plutonium, its purpose is to peacefully burn it in fast-breeder reactors, not to create nuclear weapons as North Korea is doing.
Responding to criticism from the international community about its plutonium stockpile, Japan has maintained that it will not store plutonium that it does not intend to use. In apparent recognition of the awkwardness of this situation, the Japanese government reconfirmed its plans to continue executing its nuclear fuel cycle plan, even after it shuts down the Monju reactor.
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Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history via Los Angeles Times

When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.

The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.

But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term  cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

[…]

Washington state officials were recently forced to accept delays in moving the equivalent of 24,000 drums of nuclear waste from Hanford site to the New Mexico dump. The deal has further antagonized the relationship between the state and federal regulators.

[…]

Other states are no less insistent. The Energy Department has agreed to move the equivalent of nearly 200,000 drums from Idaho National Laboratory by 2018.

[…]

The dump, officially known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, was designed to place waste from nuclear weapons production since World War II into ancient salt beds, which engineers say will collapse around the waste and permanently seal it. The equivalent of 277,000 drums of radioactive waste is headed to the dump, according to federal documents.

The dump was dug much like a conventional mine, with vertical shafts and a maze of horizontal drifts. It had operated problem-free for 15 years and was touted by the Energy Department as a major success until the explosion, which involved a drum of of plutonium and americium waste that had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The problem was traced to material — actual kitty litter — used to blot up liquids in sealed drums. Lab officials had decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. But the new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35% of the underground area.

[…]

The Hanford site stores the equivalent of 24,000 drums of waste that must be inspected every week. “You have to make sure nothing  leaks,” he said.

The cleanup of the Three Mile Island plant took 12 years and was estimated to cost $1 billion by 1993, or $1.7 billion adjusted for inflation today. The estimate did not include the cost of replacing the power the shut-down plant was no longer generating.

Other radioactive contamination at nuclear weapons sites is costing tens of billions of dollars to clean up, but it is generally the result of deliberate practices such as dumping radioactive waste into the ground.

[…]

For now, workers entering contaminated areas must wear protective gear, including respirators, the Energy Department spokesperson said. She noted that the size of the restricted area had been significantly reduced earlier this year.

Hancock suggested that the dump might never resume full operations.

“The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state,” he said. “It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.”

Giving up on the New Mexico dump would have huge environmental, legal and political ramifications. This year the Energy Department decided to dilute 6 metric tons of surplus plutonium in South Carolina and send it to the dump, potentially setting a precedent for disposing of bomb-grade materials. The U.S. has agreements with Russia on mutual reductions of plutonium.

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Cows in Fukushima Radiation Zone Find New Purpose: Science via abc news

In an abandoned Japanese village, cows grazing in lush green plains begin to gather when they hear the familiar rumble of the ranch owner’s mini-pickup. This isn’t feeding time, though.

Instead, the animals are about to be measured for how they’re affected by living in radiation — radioactivity that is 15 times the safe benchmark. For these cows’ pasture sits near Fukushima, a name now synonymous with nuclear disaster.

The area was once a haven for agriculture with more than 3,500 cattle and other livestock. Ranchers who refused a government order to kill their cows continue to feed and tend about 200 of them. The herds won’t be used as food; now science is their mission.

Researchers visit every three months to test livestock living within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the Fukushima plant, where three reactors had core meltdowns after the facility was swamped by a tsunami in 2011. It is the first-ever study of the impact on large mammals of extended exposure to low-level radiation.

The ranchers are breeders, as opposed to those raising cattle to sell for beef, and tend to be attached to their animals. They treat them almost as if they were children, even giving them names. The research gives them a reason to keep their beloved cows alive, and to hope that someday ranching might safely return here.

[…]

Namie, 11 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of the plant, is a ghost town with no prospect of being habitable for years. But 57-year-old Fumikazu Watanabe comes every day to a ranch to feed 30 to 40 cows owned by seven farmers.

“What is the meaning of slaughtering the cows?” Watanabe said at a worn-out barn where healthy cows used to spend the night tending to their calves. The bones of animals that have died litter the ground outside.

“Keeping the cows alive for research purposes means that we can pass on the study to our next generation instead of simply leaving a negative legacy,” he said.

The research team, made up of veterinary and radiation experts from Iwate University, Tokai University and Kitasato University, was established a year after the meltdowns. They formed a nonprofit group called Society for Animal Refugee & Environment post Nuclear Disaster. Members volunteer to take the blood and urine samples and test them.

[…]

Keiji Okada, associate professor of veterinary medicine and agriculture at Iwate University, said the government considered it pointless to study the animals, since it couldn’t determine how much radiation they were exposed to immediately after the disaster.

Okada disagrees. He said the data will help researchers learn whether farmers can eventually work in affected zones.

“There are no precedent studies of animals being exposed to low-dose radiation, and we have no idea what results we are going to get,” he said. “That is exactly why it needs to be monitored.”

So far, the animals’ internal organs and reproductive functions have shown no significant abnormality particularly linked to radiation exposure, Okada said, but it’s too early to draw conclusions about thyroid cancer and leukemia.

Radiation could cause leukemia, but so could mosquitoes, which have infected cattle around the world with bovine leukemia virus.

“Even if we detect leukemia in the cows, we don’t know whether it’s caused by radiation or if it’s a bovine leukemia from a virus,” Okada said. “It is this year’s objective to be able to differentiate the two.”

Read more at Cows in Fukushima Radiation Zone Find New Purpose: Science

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原発再稼働を延期=東通・女川、17年4月困難-東北電 via Jiji.com

東北電力は22日、東通原発1号機(青森県東通村)と女川原発2号機(宮城県石巻市、女川町)について、2017年4月以降としてきた再稼働の時期を延期 する方向で調整に入った。再稼働の前提となる安全審査が長期化する中、安全対策工事が想定より遅れ、来春までに完了するのは困難と判断した。時期は審査状 況などを踏まえ検討していく。

東北電は、13年12月に女川2号機、14年6月に東通1号機の審査を原子力規制委員会に申請

続きは原発再稼働を延期=東通・女川、17年4月困難-東北電

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もんじゅ、廃炉へ 大転換の時代に移る via 東京新聞

◆色あせた原子力の夢

 もんじゅは、計画の要とされた新型の原子炉で、理論上、燃やせば燃やすほどリサイクル燃料が増えていく“夢の原子炉”というふれ込みだった。

 現在の運営主体は、文部科学省が所管する独立行政法人の日本原子力研究開発機構、正真正銘の国策である。

 一九七〇年代の計画当初、もんじゅにかかる費用は、三百五十億円という見積もりだった。

 ところが、ふたを開けると、深刻なトラブルが相次ぎ、費用もかさむ。本格稼働から二十二年、原子炉を動かせたのは延べわずか、二百数十日だけだった。

 そんな“夢”というより“幻”の原子炉に、政府は一兆円以上の国富を注ぎ込んできた。止まったままでも、もんじゅの維持には年間二百億円という費用がかかる。

 冷却材として、水ではなくナトリウムを使うのが、高速炉の特徴だ。ナトリウムは固まりやすく、停止中でもヒーターで温めて絶えず循環させておくことが必要だ。月々の電気代だけで、一億円以上になることも。

◆飛べない鳥のように

 発電できない原発が、日々大量に電気を消費する。むだづかいを通り越し、皮肉と言うしかないではないか。

 米国や英国、ドイツは九〇年代に、高速増殖炉の実験から手を引いた。もんじゅでナトリウム漏れ事故が発生し、当時の運営主体による隠蔽(いんぺい)が指弾を浴びた九五年、日本も夢からさめるべきだった。

 青森県六ケ所村の再処理工場も九三年の着工以来二十三回、完成延期を繰り返し、建設費用は当初の三倍、二兆円以上に膨らんだ。核燃料サイクルという国策も、ほとんど破綻状態なのである。

(略)

プルトニウムは核兵器に転用できる。日本は日米原子力協定で、非核保有国では例外的に、プルトニウムを取り出す再処理を認められてきた。政界の一部には「特権を手放すべきではない」との声も根強くある。

 日本は現在、四十八トン、長崎型原爆六千発分とも言われるプルトニウムを国内外に保有する。

 核不拡散を主導する米国も、再来年に迫った協定の期限を前に、日本の「核の潜在力」に対する警戒感を強めている。

 プルトニウムは増殖どころか、そもそも減らすべきものなのだ。

 日本はおととし、フランスが、核廃棄物の減量や無害化をめざして開発を進める高速炉「ASTRID(アストリッド)」への技術協力に合意した。核燃料サイクルのシステム自体、減量に軸足を移すべきである。

 3・11を経験した日本で、もはや原発の新増設などあり得まい。これ以上ごみを増やさないように脱原発依存を進めるべきである。しかし、最終処分場の選定が容易ではない以上、保有するプルトニウムや、一時保管されている、すでに出た使用済み核燃料を減らす技術は必要だ。

 先月に再稼働した四国電力伊方原発3号機のような、MOX燃料を通常の軽水炉で燃やすプルサーマル発電だけでは、とても追いつかない。

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脱原発を求める大規模な市民集会が22日、東京都渋谷区代々木公園であり、主催した「『さようなら原発』1千万人署名 市民の会」によると約9500人が参加した。

高速増殖原型炉「もんじゅ」の廃炉を含む抜本的な見直しを政府が表明したことについて、集会の呼びかけ人で作家の澤地久枝さん(86)は「金食い虫で危ないもんじゅはいらない。政府は原発までやめる勇気をなぜ持たないのか」と批判。ルポライターの鎌田慧さん(78)も「もんじゅ廃炉は、核燃料の再処理と原発の再稼働を止める一つの出発点で、原発政策の転換の始まりだ」と話し、全面的な脱原発を訴えた。

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Typhoon rain raises tainted Fukushima plant groundwater to surface via The Japan Times

Heavy rain brought by Typhoon Malakas caused contaminated groundwater to rise to ground level at the radiation-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Tuesday night, raising fears of tainted water flooding out to the plant’s port area, its operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said in a press release that plant workers are doing their utmost to pump up tainted groundwater at the Fukushima compound, while trying to measure the level of radioactive substances contained in the water.

Under normal circumstances, groundwater taken from wells around the damaged reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant is filtered and stored in numerous tanks built on the compound.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater reached the surface level at an observation well near the seawall at the power plant’s port, and at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater stood at 3 cm above the surface level, Tepco said.

The well has a far higher wall and the ground around it is paved, the company said, playing down the possibility that any water flowed out of the well.

[…]

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Future of Japan’s Monju plutonium breeder reactor under review via International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM)

Masafumi Takubo and Frank von Hippel

On 29 August 2016, Mainichi Shimbun reported on an ongoing review by Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat of options for the future of Monju. According to Mainichi, the Secretariat estimates that it would cost ¥600 billion (~$6 billion) to operate Monju for ten years. Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) estimated in December 2012 that decommissioning the reactor would cost ¥300 billion (~$3 billion).

JAEA completed construction of its 350-MWe Monju prototype fast-neutron reactor and connected it to the grid in August 1995 but the reactor was shut down four months later by a fire caused by leakage of its molten sodium coolant. It was restarted again 15 years later, in May 2010, but was shut down again three months later by a refueling accident. Since 2012, it has been impossible to restart the plant because of safety inspection violations. The plant therefore has operated a total of only 250 days in two decades. In November 2015, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority called for new (non-JAEA) management but none of Japan’s nuclear utilities has been willing to take the project on.

With the huge projected costs for restarting the plant and no operator in sight, it would be natural for the Shinzō Abe Administration to consider cancelling Monju – as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States cancelled their prototype breeder reactors in the 1980s and 1990s.
Cancelling Monju would bring Japan’s whole plutonium program into question, however. The Abe Administration’s new reprocessing law, discussed below, suggests that it is unwilling to accept such a prospect.

[…]
The total failure of the Monju project creates an opportunity for Japan to reconsider the future of Japan’s Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP), now the only remaining plant dedicated to separating nuclear-weapon-usable plutonium in a non-nuclear-weapon state. Although the commercial operation of the RRP has been repeatedly delayed – cumulatively for 20 years at this point – the Abe Administration’s plan is to start operations as soon as possible.

Japan’s fast-neutron breeder-reactor program, with Monju as its flagship, was the original and is still the ultimate rationale for the reprocessing program. In the 1960s and 1970s, the purpose of civilian plutonium separation in Japan and other countries was to supply startup plutonium fuel for breeder reactors that, thereafter, would supply their own plutonium fuel by “breeding” it out of the abundant non-chain-reacting uranium isotope, U-238. But the liquid-sodium-cooled breeder reactors proved economically uncompetitive with water-cooled reactors fueled with uranium enriched in natural chain-reacting U-235.

Due to the economic failure of their breeder programs and the resulting accumulation of separated plutonium in France and Japan, the near-term rationale for their fast-neutron reactor development programs shifted to fissioning separated plutonium and other long-lived transuranic elements (reactor-produced elements heavier than uranium) so as to remove them from radioactive waste to be placed in final geological disposal sites. The slow neutrons in water-cooled reactors can only fission some of these isotopes. Breeder-reactor advocates promoted fast-neutron reactors to fission transuranics despite the fact that those responsible for radioactive management in both countries had concluded that doing so would not significantly reduce the danger to surface waters from deeply buried radioactive waste.
Despite the loss of the rationale for reprocessing, Japan’s Government recently buttressed the RRP financially by passing a law to create an organization authorized to collect funds from Japan’s nuclear utilities for reprocessing spent fuel at the time it is generated. The purpose of the law is to guarantee that all of Japan’s low-enriched power reactor fuel will be reprocessed and the recovered plutonium fabricated into MOX fuel, even if the utilities owning the power plants producing the spent fuel go bankrupt when Japan fully liberalizes its electricity market.

According to a 2011 estimate by Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission, operating the RRP will cost about ¥200 billion (~$2 billion) per year to produce plutonium with a fuel value that is less than the cost of fabricating it into fuel. The economics of reprocessing in France are similarly irrational. One therefore needs to find other explanations than those stated for the persistence of reprocessing in France and Japan. Partial explanations include:

The thousands of jobs and government subsidies to local and regional governments associated with reprocessing and related facilities have become important to the rural areas where they are located;
Abandoning the pursuit of a plutonium economy would be seen by elite nuclear technocrats as an admission that they had wasted the equivalents of tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars;
Reprocessing is government policy and therefore not responsive to market economics; and
In Japan, some see its reprocessing capability as providing a virtual nuclear deterrent.

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もんじゅ廃炉へ 1兆円投入・20年間停止…責任総括を via朝日新聞

 ほぼ20年間止まっている高速増殖原型炉もんじゅに、やっと「廃炉」の方向性が示された。遅すぎた決定だが、「何があっても変わらない」と言われてきた日本の原子力政策が初めて変わる。一つの前進だ。
[…]
もんじゅが廃炉の方向に動けば、核燃料サイクルをめざす路線も大きく変わることになる。

 ログイン前の続きしかし、政府は高速炉開発会議を新設して「核燃料サイクルを推進する」と明らかにした。あたかも、従来路線を継承すれば、何も問題が発生しないかのような方針だ。

 これはとても認められない。もんじゅの開発当初からは約1兆円が投じられたのに、約20年間も停止した。時間とお金を浪費し、原発開発の路線をゆがめた責任はだれに、どんなシステムにあるのか。まず、これらの総括が必要だろう。

 そしてはっきりさせなければならないのは、核燃サイクルには、安全性など技術的な問題があるだけでなく、経済性がないということだ。

 再処理で取り出したプルトニウムを使うサイクルは、ウラン燃料を使う普通の原発より高くつき、割に合わない。今や多くの国でプルトニウムは「有用な資源」というより、「やっかいなもの」になり、「捨てる研究」さえ行われている。

 高速増殖炉ができても、サイクルは歓迎されない割高のシステムといえる。

 政府に求められているのは、過去半世紀の原子力の歴史を振り返ることで「核燃サイクルの時代は来なかった」と認め、そのうえで政策をつくることだ。

[…]

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一律賠償、18年で打ち切り=福島原発事故の農林被害-東電 via Jiji.com

東京電力は21日、福島第1原発事故による農林業の損害賠償について、2018年末まで2年延長する方針を示した。事故前の所得2年相当分を一括で支払う のが柱。19年以降は一律での賠償を打ち切り、風評被害など事故と「相当因果関係」が認められる場合に限り、個別対応する。東電は今後、農業関係団体や市 町村から意見を聞き、正式決定する。

(略)

賠償の対象は、避難指示区域(13年8月時点)の農家ら。

全文は一律賠償、18年で打ち切り=福島原発事故の農林被害-東電

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