April 14, 2020
JNFL's Position on the Article “IN PERSPECTIVE Reprocessing Will Increase Japan's Tritium Problem”, Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, March 13, 2020
1. Impact of radioactive materials released from RRP on humans
- At the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP), radioactive materials are removed from gaseous waste as much as possible with high-performance particle filters, etc.; and they are also removed from liquid waste as much as possible with evaporators, filters, etc. Radioactive materials that cannot be removed are released from a marine discharge pipe or from an exhaust stack that have sufficient dilution and dispersion effect under monitoring.
- The impact of radioactive materials (including tritium) discharged from RRP was calculated to be approximately 0.022mSv/year (including 0.0044mSv of tritium (0.0028mSv/year in the air plus 0.0016mSv/year in the sea)) at the maximum. A government safety inspection has confirmed it. This level of discharge falls far below the dose limits stipulated by law for the general public (1mSv/year).
- This dose is approximately 1/100 of a world average, approximately 2.4mSv/year, which we receive from the natural environment; so it is fairly low.
- The impact of radioactive materials released from facilities is assessed by Sv, which takes into account the types of radioactive material, magnitude of energy, etc., not by Bq, which shows the volume of radioactivity.
2. Strict management of plutonium
[Credible safeguards which is unique in the world]
- Safeguards are a set of technical measures applied by the IAEA on nuclear material and activities, through which the Agency seeks to independently verify that nuclear facilities are not misused and nuclear material not diverted from peaceful uses. States accept these measures through the conclusion of safeguards agreements.
- It is verified by IAEA and Nuclear Regulatory Authority's Japan Safeguards Office (JSGO) that all nuclear materials remain in declared peaceful usage at RRP.
- Specifically, various measures such as introducing high performance nuclear material measurement equipment, monitoring the flow of nuclear material in major processes, timely checking analysis results at the on-site laboratory and stationing IAEA and JSGO inspectors, ensure that plutonium in RRP is not diverted to nuclear weapons.
[Security measures based on the international guideline]
- The IAEA has established “The Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear facilities (INFCIRC / 225 / rev5)”, which is an international common guideline for protection measures covering the utilization, transport and storage of nuclear materials.
- Based on this international standard, in accordance with the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material in Japan, JNFL sets out physical protection rules which aim for preventing theft or illegal transfer of nuclear material, as well as the obstruction or destruction (terrorism) of facilities. Strict facility management is implemented through the severe security system and the early notification system to authorities, as well as strict access control (confirmation of individuals, vehicles, and carry-in / carry-out items), and barriers to prevent intrusion from outside (Guarded Area fences and building exterior walls, etc.) and the installation of intrusion detection devices.
- In addition, the security has increased through deploying riot police 24 hours a day since terrorists attacks in the United States.
- Also, in preparation for the occurrence of sabotage and other events, JNFL and security authorities jointly conduct demonstration drills on a regular basis.
3. Increase in Japan's stock of separated plutonium
- It is important to consume plutonium in a planned manner under the principle of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes.
- JNFL runs business under a plan created by Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan (NuRO) and approved by the national government.
- It is JNFL's obligation to properly carry out reprocessing entrusted by NuRO.
- First, it is important to complete construction of RRP and JNFL's MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant; and JNFL is making every effort to pass review meetings on conformity to new regulatory requirements.
- Considering Japan's scarce energy resources, nuclear power generation continues to be an important power source; and the necessity of a nuclear fuel cycle, which is very important from the viewpoint of effective utilization of uranium resource and reduction of the volume of radioactive waste, does not change. Strategic Energy Plan established by Government of Japan describes promotion of a nuclear fuel cycle, which should be carried out in a consistent manner from a long-term perspective.
4. Economics of nuclear power generation including nuclear fuel cycle
- Comparison of power generation cost of each power source was reported in “Report on Analysis of Generation Costs, Etc. for Subcommittee on Long-term Energy Supply-demand Outlook” published by Power Generation Cost Analysis Working Group, METI, in 2015.
- It shows that the cost efficiency of nuclear power generation (10.3 yen/kWh, including the fuel cycle cost 1.5yen/kWh) compares favorably with other power sources such as petroleum-fired power (28.9-41.7yen/kWh), LNG power (13.4yen/kWh) and hydroelectric power (11.0yen/kWh).
- It also shows that nuclear power generation cost increases by about 0.5yen/kWh if the fuel cycle cost becomes double.
- It is extremely important for Japan, a resource poor country, to establish stable energy supply and to secure energy security. While Japan produces a mere 9.6% of its energy domestically, the role of nuclear power generation and reprocessing of spent fuel, a semi-domestic energy resource produced by technology, is significant.