Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.6
October 1999

The Safe, Secure Interim Storage of Spent Fuel

Trends in Component Shares of Generated Power

NUCLEAR POWER, unlike energy created by fossil fuels, does not release carbon dioxide, which is believed to be the reason for global warming. And most of all, the merit of nuclear power that makes it so attractive as a beneficial resource to Japan is that the fuel once used in reactors (spent fuel) can be recycled and reused.

After being used in reactors, spent fuel, however, still contains 1% "unburnt" uranium 235 as well as 1% of plutonium, a by-product of the fission process, and 95% of uranium 238. All these resources, a total of 97% of spent fuel, can be extracted and reused as fuel by reprocessing. Recycling spent fuel makes efficient use of the uranium resource and will help solidify energy security in Japan. So it is necessary to properly manage spent fuel for reprocessing.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Currently, the spent fuel waiting to be reprocessed is housed in special storage facilities built within Japanese nuclear power plant premises. As of September 1998, 7,020 tonsU of spent fuel were stored in these on site facilities, with a combined capacity of 12,600 tonsU. Given these figures, the storage situation may appear to be well in hand for some time. But the prospect is that Japan must augment its existing storage capacity with new off-premise facilities by 2010 to meet an impending shortage.

The reason for this is that Japan's reliance on nuclear power for its electricity needs is expected to grow, and so too will the output of spent fuel. At present, approximately 900 tonsU of spent fuel is produced annually, but it is predicted that by 2010 it will be 1,400 tonsU, and 1,900 tonsU by 2030. Japan's first commercial reprocessing facility, which is under construction and slated to begin operation in 2005, will be operated at a reprocessing capacity of 800 tonsU per year. So spent fuel must be stored in an interim storage facility until it is transferred to a reprocessing plant all with the utmost safety and security.

Spent Fuel Storage Amount and Storage Capacity of Each Nuclear Power Plant