Abe Government Moves Toward Upgrading Japan’s Nuclear Facilities

Three years after the nuclear catastrophe that struck TEPCO’s Fukushima complex, the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzuo Abe is slowly sidling back towards restarting Japan’s idled NPPs. On 25 February Abe announced Japan’s new Basic Energy Plan, which sees nuclear power as an important base load energy source and overturns a promise made by a previous government to phase out the country’s 50 operable nuclear reactors. Abe has been promising to add nuclear power back into Japan’s energy mix since soon after he took office in late 2012.

On 11 March 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a large tsunami. The damage to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex resulted in an immediate shutdown of about 10 GW of nuclear electric generating capacity. Up to May 2012, Japan lost all of its nuclear capacity as a result of scheduled maintenance and lack of government approvals to return to operation. Two nuclear reactors were recomissioned in July 2012 and represented Japan’s only source of nuclear power for more than one year. However, these two reactors were removed from service again in September 2013, eliminating the country’s nuclear capacity for a second time in more than 40 years.

Nuclear generation in Japan represented about 26 percent of Japan’s electrical power generation capability prior to the 2011 earthquake. Currently three of Japan’s reactors, are more than 40 years and 13 are over 30 years old. The reactors were supposed to be decommissioned after 40 years but can now apply for a maximum two-decade extension.

Abe’s new Basic Energy Plan has hit opposition, as it was supposed to be approved by the ruling parties before the end of the fiscal year on 31 March, but it has been repeatedly delayed due to the opposition of anti-nuclear parliamentarians in both his Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito party.

For Japan’s embattled anti-nuclear activists, another battleground is looming later this year.  A Plutonium Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant at Rokkasho is scheduled to open in October.

The Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is a nuclear reprocessing plant with an annual capacity of 800 tons of uranium or 8 tons of plutonium, enough to build as many as 2,000 bombs. The Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd and replaces a smaller reprocessing plant located in T?kai, Ibaraki in central Japan, which ceased operation in 2007.

Japan was one of 35 nations at the March Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, where it pledged to strengthen security measures through self-assessments and external reviews. At the NSS both China and South Korea raised concerns about the $21 billion Rokkasho facility, expressing concerns that the reprocessed material could be used to make nuclear weapons. As Japan’s NPPs are currently offline, it is unclear to Japan’s neighbors why so much material is needed, as storing more than is required for use is against IAEA regulations.

Inside Japan, anti-Rokkasho activists have established a website, http://stop-rokkasho.org.The Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility has even raised objections from the Obama administration, which fears opening the facility could spark a broader race for nuclear technologies and even nuclear weaponry in North Asia and the Middle East and last year conveyed concerns about the security of surplus plutonium in Japan. U.S. officials believe that China, South Korea and Taiwan are closely monitoring Rokkasho and its possible regional impact.

For the moment however, the Abe administration is pressing forward with its plans to bring the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility online by the end of the year.

Seeking to allay domestic and foreign concerns, Japan Nuclear Fuel spokesman Yasufumi Fukushi emphasized that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will closely monitor Rokkasho’s operation to guard against potential diversion of the weapons-usable plutonium, commenting, “Japan accepts regular and irregular inspections from the IAEA and makes public how it handles and uses plutonium, which proves that Japan makes a peaceful use of it.”

Only time will tell if Mr. Fukushi’s predictions prove accurate.

This piece is cross-posted from OilPrice.com with permission.

3 Responses to "Abe Government Moves Toward Upgrading Japan’s Nuclear Facilities"

  1. CaptD   April 11, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    The IAEA is nothing but a cheerleading lapdog for the Nuclear Industry that helps the Japanese Gov't sidestep responsibility for Fukushima since they own what used to be TEPCO…

    In reality the Japanese Gov't. has decided that it can turn the Pacific Ocean into a radioactive toilet bowl since they are going to dump all their Fukushima radioactive waste into it and M$M is not even saying a word, especially in Japan where it is now a crime to speak out against the Government!

    More here:
    Unless there is a major scientific breakthrough in nuclear physics, nuclear generation will only be installed where Government and/or elected Leaders place what is good for their nuclear industries ahead of what is good for their people.

    Examples of this forced use of Nuclear:
    1.In Japan, where the people clearly do not want their reactors restarted, yet their Leaders/ Utility Gangs push nuclear upon them.
    a.The Yakuza and the Nuclear Mafia: Nationalization Looms for TEPCO http://www.thewire.com/global/2011/12/yakuza-and-… – disqus_thread
    b .http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-09/japan-takes-control-of-tepco-in-10-year-plan-to-revive-profit.html
    c.Former Prime Minister of #Japan: We’ve been lied to, #nuclear experts lying to us…file://localhost/They’ve been telling a pack of lies http/::enenews.com:former-prime-minister-weve-bee
    d.NHK News Giant in Japan Seen as Being Compromised http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/03/world/asia/news

  2. CaptD   April 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Here is another example of Japanese ☢ scientists being told to "SHUT UP" by Gov't.:

    Insidious censorship of scientists studying nuclear radiation to Japan

    Scientists studying radiation in Japan are subject to ‘insidious censorship’
    http://nuclear-news.net/2014/03/25/insidious-cens

    snip

    With nuclear power as a priority, dissenters are silenced and propaganda is pushed through Japan’s government-controlled academia structure. In fact, government funding for academic research in Japan mostly funnels through the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Academic committees and government officials are in charge of screening and reviewing the pro-nuclear energy propaganda.

    snip

    With nuclear power as a priority, dissenters are silenced and propaganda is pushed through Japan’s government-controlled academia structure. In fact, government funding for academic research in Japan mostly funnels through the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Academic committees and government officials are in charge of screening and reviewing the pro-nuclear energy propaganda.

    Excerpts from : http://thebulletin.org/myth-absolute-safety7007

  3. CaptD   April 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    There will be always be Energy Experts that disagree with everything that other Energy Experts say that are on the opposite side of any debate!

    I also agree that the global nuclear industry has the money it needs to fund all the peer reviewed studies it wants, that end up saying whatever they want them to, or they simply will not publish them…

    We also know that about three years ago today, all the Japanese nuclear Experts (along with many other nuclear Experts across the World) that said that "modern" nuclear power plants were safe and had so many safety features that they would not meltdown because they were so well designed, were proven terribly wrong by Fukushima's triple meltdowns and that it will take decades if not about 100 years to deal with its on-going pollution of the Pacific Ocean, that is, if nothing BIG goes BAD before then.

    Also in all fairness, mankind will have to employ NEW types of equipment that have never ever been built, in order to deal with the new problems Fukushima has created. Also, until fully decommissioned, the Japanese will continue to contaminate massive amounts of sea water with radioactivity daily, that will all end up in the Pacific Ocean unless the UN sanctions the Japanese with penalties which should be used to finance Solar (of all flavors) R&D and it's installation in developing Countries, if they will agree to not use nuclear. This will enable mankind to begin the transition to Solar while at the same time reduce the need for our Earth's limited resources.

    I also be the first to point out that the Coal Industry has many health problems associated with it, which the Nuclear industry is all too eager to point out; but the SAME THING COULD BE SAID ABOUT THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY; since it also mines radioactive Uranium ore which is then processed into highly radioactive fuel rods of several different types. Once this radioactive fuel is used in a reactor, it then produces huge amounts of additional radioactive waste that will have as yet unknown effects on mankind over the enormous timespan that it will take to render all of it harmless! Because this radioactive timespan dwarfs anything currently affecting mankind, it is completely unscientific to say today, what the harmful effect of our using nuclear power plants in the twentieth and twenty-first century will be generations from now!

    For example, should highly radioactive "dirty" material from Fukushima be used in a terrorist weapon at some point in the future, its affect on man must be placed directly upon the nuclear industry that created it, because without building the nuclear power plants it would have never existed to cause harm to man's health. This is yet another potential "future" health problem that cannot be discounted since there is so much radioactive waste material unaccounted for at Fukushima and many other locations globally!

    It is no longer fair for the nuclear industries spokespersons, the IAEA and/or Regulators like the NRC to try to limit Energy discussions to only the positive points that favor using nuclear while at the same time shrugging off all other negative points as not being relevant!

    Excerpts from : http://thebulletin.org/needed-ability-manage-nucl