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Japan's Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Japan has adopted a closed nuclear fuel cycle policy. Because Japan lacks sufficient natural resource, it has decided to recycle spent nuclear fuel domestically in order to establish nuclear power as a homegrown energy source. The benefits of a closed nuclear fuel cycle for Japan are clear: it adds to long-term energy security by reducing dependence on imported fuel; it conserves uranium resource; and it reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that must be disposed of.

Reprocessing is a chemical process that recovers plutonium and reusable uranium from spent fuel and separates radioactive wastes into more manageable forms.

In the past, Japan has relied on countries such as the U.K. and France to reprocess most of the spent fuel it produced. However, to place Japan's domestic nuclear fuel cycle on a firmer footing, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) is preparing to start the commercial operation of a reprocessing plant in the first half of 2018 at a site in Rokkasho-mura in the northern prefecture of Aomori. In addition, JNFL engages in uranium enrichment, temporary storage of vitrified waste, and disposal of low-level radioactive waste. JNFL also has plans to construct a MOX fuel fabrication plant to open in the first half of 2019.

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