Japan's Commitment to the Closed Nuclear
On May 14, 2004, the General Policy Committee of the Federation
of Electric Power Companies, which comprises the presidents of
these companies, reaffirmed and unanimously endorsed the power
industry's steadfast commitment to the startup and operation of
the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant.
Japan has limited energy resources and can supply only four percent
of its total energy requirements indigenously. Also, because Japan
is an island nation, it is extremely difficult to import energy
via power lines or gas pipelines. For this reason, in order to
secure a stable energy supply, Japan has diversified its energy
supply sources since the oil crises of the 1970s, and nuclear
power has long been regarded as the most promising means of delivering
The closed nuclear fuel cycle (see illustration, below) is particularly
advantageous. Once spent fuel is reprocessed, unburned uranium
and plutonium are extracted again for fuel use. The closed nuclear
fuel cycle has been promoted as a national energy policy since
the beginning of the development of nuclear power in the 1950s.
With regard to energy security, it is also important to consider
Asia's energy security situation as a whole, especially in light
of China as a major energy consumer. Clearly, demands for energy
growth in the region will have an increasingly greater impact
on Japan's overall energy security. Owing to its recent remarkable
economic growth, China's demand for fossil fuels, including oil
and gas, is expected to increase rapidly. Furthermore, China's
demand for uranium is also expected to grow, following the widespread
introduction of nuclear power generation in that country. Under
these circumstances, the issue of obtaining a long-term stable
energy supply will become even more important and challenging
The promotion of the closed nuclear fuel cycle is defined in
the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC's) Long-Term Program for Research,
Development and Utilization of Nuclear Energy, which establishes
the basis for Japan's national nuclear policy. The closed-fuel
cycle policy has been reaffirmed through each of eight revisions
of the Long-Term Program, which incorporates extensive input from
a broad social spectrum.
The closed-fuel cycle policy was also prominently incorporated
into the basic energy plan agreed upon by the Cabinet in October
2003. This energy plan was based on the Basic Law on Energy Policy
Making, enacted in June 2002 as Japan's first comprehensive law
providing a framework upon which the nation can develop long-term
energy policy strategies. The energy plan states clearly that
the country should promote nuclear power generation, including
the closed nuclear fuel cycle, as a key part of its energy policy.
The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited
(JNFL) is expected to play a pivotal role in Japan's domestic
nuclear fuel cycle, and it is now preparing for startup in 2006.
The facility for receiving and storing spent fuel suffered a setback
when leakage from a spent fuel pool occurred because of improper
welding procedures. JNFL made a thorough check of the entire reprocessing
facility, which was confirmed by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency (NISA) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
In June, with the consent of the local government, the facility
restarted the reception of spent fuel.
Since its inception, Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy has been
promoted with a long-term point of view. In general, a technology
can only be considered mature after it has been tested in the
field. In fact, it will take some time to fully establish Japan's
fuel cycle technology. It was therefore indicated in the AEC's
August 2003 report, "On the Nuclear Fuel Cycle," that
endorsement of the fuel cycle policy should be implemented steadily.
This policy is crucial to the country's future, and it is vital
to progressively push forward operations of the nearly completed
Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in order to carry out the planned
national nuclear fuel cycle.
Back-end operations and reprocessing constitute about twenty
percent and ten percent, respectively, of the total cost of nuclear
power generation. The unit price of power generation compares
favorably with that of alternative power, even if the nuclear
fuel cycle cost is included in the total cost.
In conclusion, based on the aforementioned reasons, it is imperative
to establish the closed fuel cycle for our resource-poor country
and, with the vital goal of ensuring energy security, we remain
determined to establish this country's domestic nuclear fuel cycle.
Japan's Peaceful Nuclear Activities
As a result of Japan's acceptance of an international nuclear
inspection regime of comprehensive safeguards based on the
Additional Protocol, the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) has declared in June, 2004 that Japan's nuclear program
is completely for peaceful purposes only. More effective
safeguards known as integrated safeguards will now be implemented
in Japan, leading to fewer future inspections in the future.
For the complete official statement, please visit IAEA's
web site at