Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.14
December 2001

Nuclear Fuel Recycling Efforts

AS A NATION with few natural resources, Japan has a national policy to reuse as fuel the uranium and plutonium extracted by reprocessing spent fuel produced by nuclear power plants.

This year, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had intended to introduce plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made with recycled plutonium into the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station and to use it in a reactor during a periodical inspection. However, in a referendum conducted on May 27 in Kariwa Village in Niigata Prefecture, where the power station is located, a small majority voted against the use of MOX fuel in reactors. Although the residents' poll was not legally binding, in response to a request from the governor of Niigata Prefecture to put off the loading of the MOX fuel during the most recent inspection, TEPCO decided to postpone the use of MOX fuel. In the meantime TEPCO attempts to gain better understanding from the local citizenry.

The May referendum reflected a decline in public trust in nuclear power and nuclear safety following a succession of serious nuclear-related accidents, including the JCO criticality accident and falsification of MOX fuel data by British Nuclear Fuel Limited. Nevertheless, the Japanese electric power industry believes that the plutonium recycling program, which is designed to use uranium resources efficiently, is necessary to ensure a steady energy supply for the country, both now and in the future. To proceed smoothly with this program, we must make the general public aware of the necessity and safety of nuclear fuel recycling.

To achieve this, on June 15 we created a council comprising the presidents of twelve companies within the Federation of Electric Power Companies. These include nine electric power companies, the Japan Atomic Power Company, the Electric Power Development Co. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited. This council will plan and implement public information strategies. At the same time, through their own president-led groups, member companies of the council have started public information activities to promote understanding.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station, Tokyo Electric Power Company

Most of the used nuclear fuel can be recycled.

Through these activities, we have found that in order to gain public understanding of the nuclear fuel recycling program, our most urgent task is to first improve public trust in our industry, and to reinforce public trust in nuclear power generation. Our principal intention for this project is to rebuild public acceptance; therefore we have started visiting those living near the power stations, who might be concerned about nuclear power plants, and have attempted to regain their trust.

We also plan to hold locally focused explanatory meetings as well as workshops in order to strengthen mutual understanding. At the same time, we have begun to contribute to activities that support energy education by organizing general scientific events for children and students.

In order for Japan to secure a steady supply of energy in the years to come, the efficient use of uranium resources is vitally important.

The entire Japanese electric power industry will undertake the above activities to gain the public trust and understanding of nuclear power generation and the nuclear fuel cycle, with the goal of utilizing MOX fuel in sixteen to eighteen nuclear reactors by the year 2010.

Nuclear fuel cycle

Nuclear power generation is explained using a 1:3 reduced model at EL PARK Ohi,
a PR institution attached to Ohi Nuclear Power Station of Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc.