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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 November 16 - 22  > Stop using money for collapsed nuclear-fuel cycle: JCP Inoue
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2011 November 16 - 22 [NUCLEAR CRISIS]

Stop using money for collapsed nuclear-fuel cycle: JCP Inoue

November 17, 2011
Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Inoue Satoshi in an Upper House Budget Committee meeting on November 16 proposed that the funds accumulated by power companies for the now collapsed nuclear-fuel cycle plan be used for radiation decontamination and to provide full compensation for damages caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The 10 utilities have built up a reserve fund for the nuclear-fuel cycle program, which aims to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and uranium for reuse as fuel for nuclear reactors. The utilities intend to accumulate 19 trillion yen for the fuel recycle-related programs.

Inoue said, “Failure of the program is obvious at every stage.”

Inoue first mentioned a spent fuel processing plant (under construction in Aomori’s Rokkasho Village), a main pillar of the fuel recycle program to produce Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel from reprocessed plutonium and uranium. The construction of the plant was to have been completed in 1997. However, its completion was postponed 18 times and the construction has yet to be finished. As a result, construction costs increased threefold to 2.19 trillion yen from the initial estimate of 760 billion yen.

Inoue asked about the plan to permanently dispose high-level radioactive waste which would be generated from the reprocessing plant when it starts full operation. Industry Minister Edano Yukio replied, “According to government policy, the waste will be buried deep underground, but we don’t have any specific site in mind.” He also said that no local government has yet given a favorable response to the government survey for choosing a disposal site.

The fuel cycle program includes the “pluthermal” power generation which uses MOX fuel in light-water reactors and the fast-breeder reactor, Monju.

While the government has been pressing ahead with the “pluthermal” plan at many nuclear power stations across Japan, the plan is facing harsh opposition from residents at planned sites as the risk entailed in using MOX fuel for power generation is higher than that of using only uranium.

The fast-breeder reactor Monju has stopped its operations due to continuous accidents, though it is the centerpiece of the used fuel recycling program. During the past 16 years, Monju has operated only 250 days in total. Even when the reactor is off-line, it incurs 40 million yen in maintenance cost per day.

Inoue exclaimed, “What a total waste of tax revenues! The 16-year Monju operation history proves that the fast-breeder reactor must be abandoned.”

Inoue again pushed the government to make use of the money accumulated for the collapsed recycle program to help nuclear accident victims.
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