Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.3
February 1999

Spent Fuel and Waste Transportation :
Safety is Paramount

Nuclear Spent Fuel Flow

JAPAN CURRENTLY RELIES UPON nuclear energy for roughly one-third of its electric power needs and for a good reason. One of the merits of nuclear power is that the uranium fuel "burned" in reactors (spent fuel) can be reprocessed for reuse.

The country has one small-scale reprocessing plant in Tokai Village, 120 km from Tokyo in Ibaraki Prefecture. In addition, a commercial reprocessing plant is under construction at Rokkasho Village, 700 km north of Tokyo in Aomori Prefecture.

Due to the lack of a large-scale reprocessing plant, Japan has been reprocessing most of its spent fuel in Europe. Reprocessing extracts "unburnt" uranium and plutonium a by-product when uranium fuel is consumed by nuclear reactors as well as high-level radioactive waste. The waste is transported back to Japan for storage.

The entire transport process is carried out in accordance with the most rigorous safety standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In this issue, we will examine the transport process in greater detail to see how the multilayered-containment system works to ensure the safest possible delivery of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Shipping Nuclear Materials (spent fuel and vitrified waste):

Spent fuel has been transported to reprocessing facilities in La Hague, France, and Sellafield, England. Over a 30-year period, more than 160 shipments of spent fuel have been transported safely from Japan to Europe. The high-level radioactive waste is "vitrified," or glassed, and shipped in radiation-shielded, durable casks to a storage site in Rokkasho.

PhotoThe first shipment of vitrified waste from Europe to Japan occurred in 1995, when a cargo vessel sailed from the French port of Cherbourg and docked at a Japanese port after a two-month voyage. Since then, two other shipments have been carried out without incident the most recent took place in 1998. Over the course of the next decade or so, such shipments are scheduled to take place once or twice a year, with plans to transport more than 3,500 canisters of vitrified waste.

Spent Fuel Transport Vessel