” The Japanese government’s basic stance is to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and reuse it as fuel at nuclear power plants.
A basic energy plan adopted in April upholds the nuclear fuel recycling policy. But, for the first time, the plan also called for studies on ways to directly dispose of spent fuel without reprocessing it.
Behind this move lies a series of challenges the government faces in recycling nuclear fuel. A reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in the northern prefecture of Aomori has suffered numerous troubles, and has been unable to start full operation more than 20 years since construction began.
The fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan is designed to use recycled plutonium.
But the facility too has been plagued by troubles, including a fire and failed inspections, and its future is uncertain.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to continue geological and geographical analyses for the direct disposal of spent fuel. It’s due to finalize a report in 2018.
However, this option also has its own challenges. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and compared to reprocessing, direct disposal would mean more than a 4-fold increase in nuclear waste volume.
Above all, the government lacks any prospect of finding a place that would accept a nuclear dumpsite. ”