” Japan has been urged to scrap its nuclear fuel recycling program by a group of influential scholars at the 61st Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international advocates body working for a nuclear weapons-free world.
The paper by the 31-member group, presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, specifically calls on the government to abandon the construction of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, a key facility in its trouble-plagued nuclear fuel recycling program.
Japan should also promptly address its current plutonium stockpile of 48 tons, stated the paper, which was signed by Frank von Hippel, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, and other members who participated in the Pugwash organization’s annual conference in Nagasaki that ended Nov. 5.
The stockpile of plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear warheads, is posing a serious threat to the international community’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts, the scientists said.
Under the government’s plans, the Rokkasho plant will recycle plutonium from spent nuclear fuel generated at nuclear power plants across the nation. But the completion of the plant has been postponed a number of times due to technical problems and by extensive and protracted safety screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Von Hippel said a nuclear fuel recycling program is not a feasible option for Japan and is simply a waste of money during a news conference in Tokyo on Nov. 6.
The professor said that Japan instead should use the “dry cask storage” method in which spent fuel that has been cooled in fuel pools is then stored in dry casks in a cool environment for a long time. ”