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Japan to make more plutonium despite big stockpile

59 Comments
By Eric Talmadge

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59 Comments
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Could Japan be the cause of a planetary disaster?

It seems to be the front runner so far.......

1 ( +7 / -6 )

of course if Japan ever wanted to start a little nuke program to fend off China this Plutonium would be just the thing. How convenient.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

@Darren I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing. If you don't use it for producing energy what will you use it for? Sell it?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

“There is absolutely no reason to do that.”

Welcome to Japan.

Darren: That, or perhaps sell it since the Japanese economy is in the doldrums.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

This country is run by mad men..

I do wonder, is it sort of Japan saying to North Korea/Iran etc, in a nelson voice "ha ha~"

5 ( +8 / -3 )

WHAT?!? This is ludicrous! I'll bet they'll use it as an excuse later on. "Oh look! We have so much plutonium that we HAVE to use. We NEED to restart the reactors!" This government and it's nuclear industry bed buddy are so blatantly corrupt it's almost a joke! As if the current nuclear problems aren't serious enough. Like pouring gasoline into a burning house. It truly stands that where there is money to be made, this government cares infinitely more for lining its own pockets than protecting its people... Who on the flip side are so reluctant and complacent to do anything about it.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Red flag raised? Obviously an understatement

8 ( +8 / -0 )

More plutonium in Japan? Great! Now I can finally get back to 1985.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The news wasn't reported here on JT, but the other day I quoted here an article saying that the fast breeder reactor Monju is about to come back on-line and that it remains central to the government's power generation policy. Permission for the restart will be given once the final inspection has taken place next month. (They had dropped a massively heavy steel extractor crane into the reactor vessel, but over two years painstakingly managed to extract it and repair everything.)

zichi repeated the conventional wisdom that Monju has been dropped, but far from it. This plutonium news seems to confirm the rebirth. It will need to be fed with plutonium.

What I find irritating is that these sudden globs of news seem completely off the wall and give the impression that Japan still has not learnt the meaning of transparency. No context, just out of the blue. Typical TEPCO speak, alive and well. No wonder the world community scratches their heads in bafflement. Has Japan learnt anything since Fukushima?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Guess they're missing those nukes the U.S. stashed across the country during the cold war...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

"There is no excess plutonium in this country"

Any amount of plutonium is excess. That stuff is extremely hazardous.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japan to become the new Iran?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Too dangerous. And should be (will be, in time) outlawed, as one speck of plutonium will kill you.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yeah, build Japan's own independent nuclear deterrent (against most existing nuclear powers who did not heed to Japan's Repeated calls for global nuclear disarmament, we warned ya) or sell them.

No wonder the world community scratches their heads in bafflement. Has Japan learnt anything since Fukushima?

NIMBY?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I would rearrange part of this article:

Despite a promise to international regulators not to produce a plutonium surplus, Japan's plutonium holdings have increased more than five-fold from about 7 tons in 1993 to 37 tons at the end of 2010.

Japan said the stockpile would shrink rapidly in the early 2000s as its fuel cycle kicked in, but that has not happened.

In response to international concern, an official at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Koichi Imafuku said, "There is no excess plutonium in this country." Most of Japan's plutonium stockpile is stored in France and Britain.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why the HECK are the extracting more plutonium when they are absolutely useless!! Ughhh, the amount of money this country wastes boggles my mind.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The Fukushima No3 reactor which was so badly damaged by hydrogen and steam explosions contained about 30 MOX fuel assemblies but TEPCO also stated there were none in the spent fuel. Plutonium was discovered some distance from the plant.

America and Europe countries have abandoned their MOX fuel programs. The only real reason for plutonium is to have weapons greade material.

The Monju Fast Breeder reactor has spend more time shut down because of a series of gross errors and disasters. To date, it has cost about ¥12 billion but only managed to generate one hour of power.

On 23 February a Japan Atomic Energy Commission panel of experts reviewing Japan's nuclear fuel cycle production policy in the wake of the Fukushima debacle, while acknowledging that a fuel cycle involving a fast-breeder reactor has some advantages, concluded that for Japan it cannot be considered as a realistic option for the next two to three decades due to technological considerations.

The review is effectively a death sentence for Japan’s Monju troubled $12 billion experimental fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, intended to reprocess spent nuclear reactor fuel to produce plutonium that can subsequently be recycled and reused to generate electricity. Japan had high hopes that the fast-breeder reactor program could close the loop on its nuclear fuel cycle, allowing it to reuse, recycle and produce fresh fuel for its 54 reactors. The subcommittee’s report effectively ends Japan’s hopes of using nuclear fuel on a near-endless cycle.

http://oilprice.com/alternative-energy/nuclear-power/another-fukushima-casualty-japans-fast-breeder-reactor-program.html

Jōyō is a test fast breeder reactor located in Ōarai, Ibaraki. The reactor was built in the 1970s for the purpose of experimental tests and the development of FBR technologies. The reactor is still in operation today.

It has surfaced that the Cabinet Offices's Atomic Energy Commission, in the course of its review of Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy, has held a series of closed-door study meetings attended by insiders in the nation's nuclear power establishment.

Japan's science ministry presented scenarios for future fast-breeder reactor development on Wednesday, including one that leaves the decommissioning of the Monju prototype as an option. The scenarios were unveiled at a meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission held to map out Japan's nuclear policy guidelines.  This is believed to be the first time that the ministry has mentioned the possibility of scrapping the Monju reactor.

http://www.houseofjapan.com/local/japan-science-ministry-sees-possibility-of-monju-scrapping

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The Fukui Shinbun (May 26) reported that it was planned to revive Monju, the problem-plagued Fast Breeder Reactor, also situated in Fukui, by mid-June. This is particularly alarming considering that as recently as November last year, the budget for the test-runs leading up to this revival was under review and the Nuclear Disaster Minister Hosono Goshi went as far as to say that scrapping Monju is an option that will be given serious thought. Not to mention the new seismic research which shows that Monju may also be affected by the Urasoko Faultline. (dianuke)

http://www.fukuishimbun.co.jp/localnews/nuclearpower/34880.html

The Editorial in the Tokyo Shinbunthe next day (May 27) gave some indication of how this situation arose—how Monju came from scrap-heap consideration back to life as if nothing had happened (dianuke)

http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/column/editorial/CK2012052702000098.html

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Sounds to me like perhaps being able to build nuclear weapons quickly & quietly has always been on the minds of those in the nuclear industry and their govt handlers. Why else would Japanese govt & industry keep forsaking common sense and giving the rest of the world -- and her own people -- the finger?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Potential Armageddon

1 ( +4 / -3 )

What comes out of making a half ton of plutonium?

Profit.

These people don't care about need or safety. They care about money. They will do anything they can get away with to make money. They are dangerous people who should be under house arrest.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am thinking the same with Darren, Netninja, GW and NeoJamel.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What could possibly go wrong.....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A single gram of plutonium could kill 10 million people.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Why on earth would a "peace loving" nation who are against nukes need this? Oh, right, because it isn't. Never mind. Is this being carried in the Japanese news? Do other Asian countries know about this??? Christ, just what Japan needs to spend money on. We've got so much extra floating around, why not?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Just read your two Japanese links of 11:44am zichi. Many thanks. The Fukui article is the one I saw. (I have been afraid to provide links as the mods can be super strict sometimes.)

It seems that there has been a secret parallel committee made up of nuclear power advocates from the top ten power companies, and their conclusions suddenly appear and get pushed into center stage, regardless of what might have been going on around in the larger political environment. This could account for surprising announcements such as today's article above. Greater political regulation of such hidden conniving is advocated in the second article.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

They should get out of the plutonium extraction and MOX cycle completely, and instead build reactors that don´t produce plutonium in the first place.

This is a misguided policy, fuelled by the false hope of energy independence by means of a plutonium cycle.... something that other advanced nations have tried and given up on.

Like the anti-nuclear zealots, the plutonium cycle clings to a false ideology and does not want to change their mind.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

So, obviously, public pinion means nothing in Japan and the J-Gov has no intention of reversing its nuclear energy policy, dispute many governmental statements to the contrary. All they are doing is letting the dust settle then it will ne back to 30% nuclear power within a year. And, there will be none of the safety recommendations implemented either. Love the smell of J-Gov BS in the morning!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Has Japan learnt anything since Fukushima?

That was rhetorical, wasn't it?

10 ( +14 / -4 )

Have no fear for atomic energy Cause none of them can stop the time

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Some changes in international law are required, like no country is allowed to hold the plutonium stock of another country. How would the Japanese feel about plutonium if they knew it was being stored in their own backyard?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Japan has been producing nuclear weapon parts for a long time. This is just more confirmation. The quick reaction of the USA immediately following the Fukushima disaster made me think there is more invested in the nuke program of Japan than meets the eye...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Horrified, you aren' t the only one. I don't doubt Japan has them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Actually, if you're going to use Uranium to power reactors, it makes sense to use MOX. It's the best way to reduce waste. Of course, Plutonium also happens to be one of the most toxic materials created by man (it doesn't exist in nature) and it's highly radioactive.

Something which is a bit confusing about the article is that it says Japan wants to "make plutonium". As far as I know, any Uranium powered reactor makes plutonium. What I guess they mean is that they want to process spent fuel to refine the plutonium and make MOX fuel rods?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Correction - Plutonium does exist in nature but only in tiny amounts. Most of the Plutonium on Earth is man-made.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“It’s crazy”.

Succinct. Factual. To the point. Stupid is as stupid does.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I suppose somebody is thinking of how to boost exports...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This rather lax proliferation of plutonium also helps us piece together another jigsaw. An Isreali team is said to have 'helped check' emergency systems at Fukushima prior to 3/11. (Japan was in a position at the time to help Iran with its 'peaceful' nuclear program.) When the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima happened there was a retired Japanese scientist called in who found that the computers he had originally set up to operate emergency venting etc. were unusable, infected with the same virus that crippled Iran's nuclear program. There would seem to be a lot going on behind the scenes regarding Japan's stock of plutonium.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Zichi

"A single gram of plutonium could kill 10 million people."

Is that not like saying a swimming pool could kill a thousand people a day. If I were to propose closing all swimming pools on that basis, I'd be declared an alarmist fool at best.

Several kilograms of plutonium are said to be spread over the lagoons of Mururoa from French nuclear weapons tests. Yet life still survives. The same for swimming pools.

I've read that a gram of plutonium would be immediately lethal to 5000 people if it were completely inhaled into their lungs. (about 0.25 mg per person) That doesn't account for longer term premature death numbers if say ten times that many received a tenth of that dose. On the other hand, all of the plutonium finding its way into people's lungs is highly improbable.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

albaleo wrote

On the other hand, all of the plutonium finding its way into people's lungs is highly improbable.

How about a spent fuel pool, damaged in an earthquake and containing MOX fuel rods, leaks all its cooling water. The fuel overheats, burns and the smoke - containing plutonium - rises into the air then is blown across a city? If the plutonium didn't kill you, all the other radioactive material probably would.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

nandakamanda:

" An Isreali team is said to have 'helped check' emergency systems at Fukushima prior to 3/11. (Japan was in a position at the time to help Iran with its 'peaceful' nuclear program.) When the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima happened there was a retired Japanese scientist called in who found that the computers he had originally set up to operate emergency venting etc. were unusable, infected with the same virus that crippled Iran's nuclear program. "

That is conspiracy nonsense. Stuxnet was specifically created to target particular control chips in Irans facilities and nowhere else -- which is precisely which made it so unusual.

I know there is a sub-segment of the population who you can get riled up at any time by just saying "Israel", but really, spare us.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

the_harper:

" The fuel overheats, burns and the smoke - containing plutonium - rises into the air then is blown across a city "

Plutonium is extremely heavy and unlikely to be blown anywhere with smoke. It tends to stay where it is. The stuff is bad enough as it is, we don´t need to to imagine more phantastic scenarios.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

What gets me the most about all this is how there are obviously some people who have made obscene amounts of money over the last few decades and continue to do so. They have a hearing to see whether Kan and Edano were at fault but where is the trial for the top execs of Tepco? Tepco always had lots of money to throw at media, academics, and to go on junkets all over Japan and overseas, and buy up 1000 pieces of real estate but not enough to ensure the safety of reactors.

Now, they're going to produce more plutonium that they don't need, and yet they can't even pay decent wages and ensure the equipment and safety of the poor guys working at Fukushima.

Foreign charities have volunteers rebuilding in Tohoku, untrained workers are getting ripped off and exposed to radiation, but this govt is going to okay the production of more plutonium, and is raising money for to buy Takeshima and castigating it's citizens on not being excited about olympics.

There's just too many (or maybe a surprisingly few) people behind the scenes making too much money. The reactors will be restarted, they'll keep making plutonium and the money will keep rolling along. I guess their reasons were good enough for Hashimoto.

A PM who opposes nuclear power won't be allowed to last. Damn, I'm starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan is looking more & more fracked every day

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Nuclear industry officials say they hope to start producing a half-ton of plutonium within months, in addition to the more than 35 tons Japan already has stored around the world

We (the rest of world) want to hear true intention of this move. This is a RED FLAG! History has been forgotten, and it will be repeated if this is not stopped.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As long as the plans of a fast breeder are alive, as long plutonium will be used in the future to recycle, plutonium is an asset. When Monju closes, plutonium is not longer needed, the plutonium becomes waste, worthless waste. So, just keep the idea of a closed loop of nuclear power alive. Perhaps that is the real reason behind the idea of producing more plutonium?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

“There really is a credibility problem here,” said Princeton’s von Hippel, who also is a member of the independent International Panel on Fissile Materials. “They keep making up these schedules which are never realized. I think the ship is sinking beneath them."

About sums up 21st century Japan, in many more ways than just nuclear energy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yasukuni, I think you're spot on here. I feel its to do with what Kan called the "nuclear village" and the huge amount of money involved in this industry. And how galling that those responsible for all the years of negligence at TEPCO seem to have escaped without punishment. Didnt the president of the company resign soon after 3-11 with a golden handshake?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These politicians are idiots!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What could possible go wroooooooooooooooong?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

No Japan! you should submit to nuclear blackmail like every other Non NPT state!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

These politicians are idiots!

The jury is still out on whether they will use these fuel for power plants on Japanese soil or to build nuclear weapons. We certainly hope it's the latter. Japan's been asking the world to stop stockpiling nuclear weapons but they won't listen. What other choice Japan should take to prevent another Hiroshima?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Willib wrote

Plutonium is extremely heavy and unlikely to be blown anywhere with smoke. It tends to stay where it is. The stuff is bad enough as it is, we don´t need to to imagine more phantastic scenarios

Can I ask where you got the experimental or documentary evidence of this? I agree that it makes sense purely on the basis of atomic weight, but not necessarily in the situation where fuel cores are burning withextreme heat. It's hardly a "phantastic[sic] scenario". It could still happen at Fukushima in reactor 2, which I think is the one which has MOX fuel rods in the spent fuel pool.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081001130000.htm http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0265931X9390049D

There's two examples of scientific evidence of Plutonium contamination from Chernobyl in completely different countries from where the accident happened. Japan should be very careful with the safety of its reactors using MOX.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Producing it without a clear spending plan. Not better that n Korea and Iran.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

According to internet 1 gram of plutonium costs 4000 dollar. As 1 ton consists of 1.000.000 grams (according to internet...) I end up with a total value of 140.000.000 dollar for the current stockpile of plutonium (35 tons). As I wrote before, the whole matter could be about the possibility this 'asset' turns into plain waste. There is already doubt whether the Japanese can make the recycling work. Some say, it is not going to happen before 2050.

If the recycle won't happen, Aomori will return the stocked plutonium. They accepted stock piling the stuff because it was just temporarily. Aomori might decide to return the stock to the nuclear plants. However, these have no capacity to keep them safely for they already are stuffed with used rods.

This whole idea of raising the amount of plutonium might be part of a campaign to give the impression that the recycle loop is within reach in a way to convince politics.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

According to internet 1 gram of plutonium costs 4000 dollar. As 1 ton consists of 1.000.000 grams (according to internet...)

and the spot rate on gold at today's close is like what? US$1620/oz?

I say we should've made more of this stuff.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WilliiB---- That is conspiracy nonsense. Stuxnet was specifically created to target particular control chips in Irans facilities and nowhere else -- which is precisely which made it so unusual.

The Stuxnet virus has been found in Japan and was reported so recently in the Japanese news. The Stuxnet virus was created to target Siemens controllers and hardware which is used in Nuclear facilities in Japan and around the world. This means that control valves can be overided remotely. Magna BSP of Israel had secured a contract with Japan to take over security by way of special cameras placed in the nuclear reactors of the Fukushima power plant which consequentally blew up. By the way, the cameras installed weigh about 600 kg. Why Japan could not keep the reactors cooled is because the control valves did not work.

I understand that power stations like at Fukushima have an additional safety feature by way of using the steam that is produced to operate steam operated cooling pumps in the case of a power failure. If the control valves could not operate, then this safety feature would not work either.

Israel has stated in their own news that they have remote access to the so called 600 kg cameras at Fukushima but Japan had not given them permission to do so ?? Ref. The Jerusalem Post.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thank you VicM. I could not be bothered and go back and dig up the information for him when WilliB should be doing it himself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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