核燃料サイクル エネルギー戦略の重要な柱だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 24, 2012)
Nuclear fuel cycle essential to national energy strategy
核燃料サイクル エネルギー戦略の重要な柱だ(6月23日付・読売社説)

The Cabinet Office's Atomic Energy Commission presented several options in its review of the government's policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants around Japan.

These options are being used in discussions at the government's Energy and Environment Council, which has been reviewing the nation's energy strategy in the wake of last year's crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The commission drafted three options for the treatment of spent nuclear fuel, assuming nuclear power's share of total electricity generated in Japan in 2030 will stand at 0 percent, 15 percent, or 20 percent to 25 percent.

The most realistic scenarios are those assuming Japan will continue to use nuclear power. In those scenarios, the commission assumes the nuclear fuel cycle will be continued. We think their contents are based on the nation's conventional atomic energy policy and are reasonable.

With the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium resources could be used efficiently and the amount of radioactive waste could be reduced. That is why Japan has long seen reprocessing of all spent nuclear fuel as a national policy.


Spent fuel disposal proposed

However, if nuclear power's share of the nation's total electricity generation drops to 15 percent, reprocessing all spent fuel will produce more fuel than necessary. In that case, it would be appropriate to dispose of some spent fuel without reprocessing it, such as by burying it underground, the commission said.

This is the first time an official assumption has been made that spent fuel would be disposed of--even though the commission said this would only apply to some spent fuel. Since it is hard to imagine the number of nuclear power plants increasing for the time being, a revision of the national policy of reprocessing all spent fuel cannot be avoided.

As for the scenario in which nuclear power accounts for 0 percent of the nation's electricity supply, all existing spent nuclear fuel would have to be disposed of. But this is unrealistic if Japan's difficult energy situation, without any viable alternative power sources in sight, is taken into consideration.

It would also be a waste of the valuable reprocessing-related technology that has been developed so far.

The Energy and Environment Council is scheduled to reach a conclusion around August. It should set firm positions in the nation's far-reaching energy strategy for the continuation of nuclear power generation and spent fuel reprocessing.

However, a mountain of problems remain.

The government has to decide at which nuclear power plants reprocessed nuclear fuel should be used while obtaining consent from the communities hosting such plants.


Solid nuclear policy needed

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which is still under construction, is meant to become the nation's center for nuclear fuel reprocessing. However, the plant is facing technological difficulties as it nears completion.

Meanwhile, the Monju test fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture has had its own series of problems, though it is expected to make the nuclear fuel cycle efficient if it begins full-scale operations.

The nation needs a solid nuclear power policy to deal with those difficult challenges.

The Atomic Energy Commission asked the council to take national security into consideration in discussing the options, stressing that an international viewpoint is essential.

It is an important aspect of the issue because Japan's reprocessing technology can contribute to nuclear nonproliferation in a world where emerging economies have higher expectations for development of nuclear power plants in their own countries.

The bill to create a new independent regulatory commission for nuclear plant safety, which recently passed the Diet, and the revised Atomic Energy Fundamental Law both stipulate that the nation's safety regulation on nuclear plants must contribute to protection of the nation's security. This is a matter of course if the role of nuclear technology is taken into consideration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2012)
(2012年6月23日01時09分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-25 07:28 | 英字新聞

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