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
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.