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Nowhere to use Japan's growing plutonium stockpile

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By Mari Yamaguchi

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“It’s so unfair that Rokkasho is stuck with the nuclear garbage from all over Japan,” she said, walking through a field where she had harvested organic rhubarb. “We’re dumping it all onto our offspring to take care of.”

Ah, not to worry, Keiko. It'll just be blamed on someone else while the process continues.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This strikes me as the biggest negative about nuclear energy. It provides abundant, seemingly cheap power now, but leaves a huge problem for those coming after us.

Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

(Native American Proverb)

1 ( +5 / -4 )

What a nightmare scenario this is. Seems like there are too many questions, and too few answers to nuclear power. I suppose Kim Jong Un would buy it all.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

No mention of the higher than normal child cancer (leukemia) rates in the (down wind) neighboring towns of Noheji and Tohoku? Wonder why not? Glad I don't live in Misawa anymore. Aomori's dirty little secret is not so secret but Japan inc doesn't really care about it's citizens or US military it hosts. It's all about money, always has and always will be.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

You do wonder how they could even consider using nuclear power before they figured out what to do with the waste, and this method, that has failed so far, will create even more nuclear waste. doesn't anyone in the nuclear science field have any common sense at all. The end result is going to leave japan with huge areas of radioactive waste for the foreseeable future to leak and spread all over the place not too mention encourage groups like the Yakuza to figure out a way to make money off of stealing and selling the stuff to terrorists. That alone is enough reason to bring this to an end as soon as possible.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

It's not just a problem for Japan. There are few if any places on the planet for long-term storage of nuclear waste. Accidents aside, this problem alone should negate this as a sustainable form of energy. We also now know that there is no place to store all the waste from fossil fuels. If we can't create a far less consumptive economy that's based on solar, wind and other sustainable energy sources, it's a grim future.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@BertieWooster

This strikes me as the biggest negative about nuclear energy. It provides abundant, seemingly cheap power now, but leaves a huge problem for those coming after us.

I agree with your first point, but if the true costs, including storage, dealing with accidents, health issues with workers, etc. are included, it is not a cheap at all, and with limited supplies of plutonium, it's not abundant, either.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Iran would be a taker I am sure.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

They need to finish the space elevator project asap. It can carry thousand of tons of waste for almost no cost. If it can't be recycled, the good idea is to put the waste in the collision course to the Sun or use as a power source for spaceships or space stations.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Well, as hkitagawa mentions, they seem to have used some plutonium in space ... I wonder if the plutonium wasted could be used in this way?

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/uk-could-use-plutonium-in-space-nuclear-power-demonstration-338369/

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Correction: wasted ----->waste

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Pretty soon we'll need all that Plutonium to get a spaceship with all of us on it off this rock, 'cause we'd have polluted it. I don't know how else we'll explore space without nuclear fuel.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Dear spudmarineincaeanted

spudmanreincarnatedDec. 30, 2012 - 09:27AM JST

No mention of the higher than normal child cancer (leukemia) rates in the (down wind) neighboring towns of Noheji and Tohoku?

Could you please supply more information or references concerning the above quote. Yours gary

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

warispeace-san,

if the true costs, including storage, dealing with accidents, health issues with workers, etc. are included, it is not a cheap at all, and with limited supplies of plutonium, it's not abundant, either.

You are completely correct. It only appears to be cheap if you ignore other factors.

It's rather like plastic bags.

Cheap and convenient now, but a problem for those coming after us.

There are many ways to provide functions that we imagine have to be electrically based without using electricity.

The Zeer ("refrigerator" using pots and sand)

http://gizmodo.com/5935104/how-to-make-an-electricity+free-refrigerator

Clockwork electric light

I tried without success to find the article, but it's basically an LED powered by clockwork, pull a cord that lifts a weight and you have one hour of free lighting.

The Asian Super Grid

A great idea to produce abundant electricity for Asia from solar farms in Mongolia.

http://www.japanfocus.org/-John_A_-Mathews/3858

These are just a few ideas, there are many, many ways we could cut down on the use of mains electricity and thus reduce and eventually avoid altogether the need for nuclear power.

Especially in an earthquake ridden land like Japan, nuclear power is just NOT a good idea.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

using geothermal could replace 25 reactors.

Finland is the only country currently constructing a deep storage for keeping its nuclear waste for 250,000 years. All others have made no progress with their long term storage.

In Britain there's more than 100 tons of Japanese owned plutonium.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"Good time Charlie" is a thing in the past, now Japan needs to deal with these "Monsters" that cannot be killed. I wonder why the LDP did not think about this years ago when they were building nuke plants. I guess Mr. Shintaro Ishihara has a solution for this.. We (Japan, US, Europe) are not very smart. sigh.....

BertieWoosterDec. 30, 2012 - 08:39AM JST

Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

(Native American Proverb)

I recall you are from UK. This is also known as a "Stewardship" in British Environment ideology as well.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Imagine what our children will think of us in rhe future as they encounter the toxic earth that we have created....

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The Asian Super Grid

A great idea to produce abundant electricity for Asia from solar farms in Mongolia.

In an Asia where everyone got along and no one coveted other countries' territory perhaps this might have a role to play. However, Japan has bad relations with most of her surrounding countries - so importing electricity from Mongolia might be challenging.

Also, I note the article does not state whether the power projects it mentions have their output in peak or average power - something that I find strange in an apparently scientific article.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

warispeaceDec. 30, 2012 - 09:29AM JST

It's not just a problem for Japan. There are few if any places on the planet for long-term storage of nuclear waste. Accidents aside, this problem alone should negate this as a sustainable form of energy. We also now know that there is no place to store all the waste from fossil fuels. If we can't create a far less consumptive economy that's based on solar, wind and other sustainable energy sources, it's a grim future.

Well we could build one of the fourth-generation NPP designs, as they can use nuclear waste as fuel. As for fossil fuel greenhouse gasses - at least NPPs don't produce those.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

more use of biomass, biogas and biofuels.

Asian super grid is an answer in the long term and a gas pipeline from Russia to Tokyo is another.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

It's "a nuclear-powered" not "an nuclear-powered".

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

why do the Japanese despoil their balconies and yards by hanging their laundry out to dry in the sun...?

Because that's what normal people do all over the world in Europe, Australia, Africa etc. It's only in North America that people choose to waste resources by using clothes-driers while the sun is blazing outside. Exposure to sunlight is also an excellent way to kill harmful bacteria.

And if you think laundry "despoils" a yard, then you seriously need to toughen up a bit....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In the last days they will be ruining the Earth.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

There is a highly efficient, safe, and economical way for Japan to utilize its surplus plutonium - as fully ceramic coated particle nuclear fuel in meltdown-proof high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs). Japan already has an operational prototype of this type of reactor - the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) located at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency site in Oarai:

http://www.jaea.go.jp/04/o-arai/nhc/index.html

Japan could deploy HTGRs to eventually displace its fleet of water-cooled reactors, which would address the safety, proliferation, and waste-disposal issues. Perhaps as a result of the Fukushima accident, Japan will re-think its sodium-cooled breeder reactor policy and shift to HTGR development and deployment as a much more sensible alternative for nuclear energy.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

So many promises of "energy too cheap to meter" seem to fall to the wayside when the rules of physics control the outcome!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

As of today, the Monju Fast Breeder reactor has only generated electricity for one hour since its first testing two decades prior, and consumed at least 1.1 trillion JP Yen. I'd hardly call that successful power generation.

In classic pork barrel/ back-room negotiations, the Fukui Prefecture governor, Issei Nishikawa asked the METI for additional stimulus to the prefecture including an expansion of the Shinkansen in turn for the restart of the plant.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The nuclear waste processing, MOX, and fast breeder route has been pursued by others, including such technological dwars as Germany and France, who gave up on their fast breeder projects (Kalkar and Superphenix, respectively). The technologiy is simply too iffy and hard to control. I am glad that the Monju project is being scrapped.

Nuclear power is good, but some avenues should not be followed. Storage of spent fuel from uranium reactors is not a big problem; Japan took the wrong turn by turning to re-processing and the MOX plutonium cycle.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I wonder who is paying for the studies and constructions of Rokkasho nuclear waste disposal.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

globalwatcher,

This is also known as a "Stewardship" in British Environment ideology as well.

Thanks for this. I had no knowledge of this term.

It's worth studying.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"I wonder who is paying for the studies and constructions of Rokkasho nuclear waste disposal."

The Japanese taxpayers are. And the government is also borrowing the money so people can live in comfort and leave the bill to future generations. Where are you today, proponents of nuclear power? What's the answer to this issue, mates? What are you going to do with the spent fuel?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Star-viking,

In an Asia where everyone got along and no one coveted other countries' territory perhaps this might have a role to play. However, Japan has bad relations with most of her surrounding countries - so importing electricity from Mongolia might be challenging.

This could be a good reason to patch up any relationship problems.

Don't you think?

I mean, we are all living on the same planet.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is interesting I have not seen any comments from Japanese bloggers. I know some of them are for pro-nuke. The truth of matter is all gaijins can leave Japan but most Japanese have no place to go. They are the ones who are stuck with this.

I feel very bad.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Zichi Geo thermal power. I mean sure why not. It worked for a James Bond villain, that means it must be able to power a country of 125 million industrialized citizens. Do you think they can build this new system in 1 year, maybe even in 6 months. It only takes 5 years to put up a new mall, but surely we can covert the entire power grid of Japan to geo thermal in a matter of weeks.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Just use it to build a nuke, just in case something happens.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@RobertDykes

Do you think they can build this new system in 1 year, maybe even in 6 months.

No I certainly don't it will take at least 10 years or more. Most likely even with the new PM Abe, there'll be no reactor restarts before 2015, and when and if he decides to do that there won't be the 54 available prior to 3/11 out of which 34 were operating. There'll probably be less than 30 reactors generating about 20% of total power, which still leaves the other 80% being generated by fossil fuels, mostly.

So if geothermal is a viable option then the country needs to start to build more plants to fully use this resource. More biomass, biogas and biofuel is also needed. Anything which can reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed.

So even if you are pro nuclear energy that stops at 20% of total power and other fuels are needed so best to use to the maximum the sources which are available and renewable. Solar, wind, biomes, biogas, biofuel, geothermal.

The country needs to also come up with more efficient ways of using the power that is available like by ending the power companies monopolies over both power generation and power supply and also ending the monopoly that only one power company supplies a fixed area. A more Smart Grid system would also help to move power to were its needed.

For the next two years and probably three, nearly all power will be generated by coal, gas and oil. Next year, many of the power companies are planning to build new coal fired plants because call is the cheapest fuel. Although modern coal plants are successful at removing most of the greenhouse gases and pollution it would be a road better not to go down.

Solar energy can also be linked to modern gas turbines.

Large companies need to start generating 20% of their power needs.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japan is going to have another nuclear incident if they keep on going in the direction of creating a nuke powered society. One more disaster and then there will be a far bigger outcry and all nuke projects will be abandoned. It is too bad that Japan has to learn the hard way.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

wanderlustDec. 30, 2012 - 01:28PM JST

As of today, the Monju Fast Breeder reactor has only generated electricity for one hour since its first testing two decades prior, and consumed at least 1.1 trillion JP Yen. I'd hardly call that successful power generation.

Not a good example, as Monju is just an experimental reactor. That's why it only had a maximum generation capacity of 280 MW. Also, litigation kept the reactor off for the better part of two decades - I would be impressed by any power generation project that is capable of producing power whilst being legally required to stay shut down.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Give it to NASA, they're running out of plutonium

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

BertieWoosterDec. 30, 2012 - 02:43PM JST

This could be a good reason to patch up any relationship problems.

Don't you think?

It would be nice if we could - but the past 50 years of history don't hold out much hope.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

zichiDec. 30, 2012 - 03:51PM JST

So if geothermal is a viable option then the country needs to start to build more plants to fully use this resource. More biomass, biogas and biofuel is also needed. Anything which can reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed.

I think the easily accessable geothermal energy figure is 1GW geothermal - a bit less than one modern nuclear reactor.

Although modern coal plants are successful at removing most of the greenhouse gases and pollution it would be a road better not to go down.

Greenhouse gas removal is not a proven technology at present.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

zichi:

" more use of biomass, biogas and biofuels. "

That is right, use arable land and increasingly costly fertilizes (which are mined using fossil fuels, btw) to produce... not food, but gasoline. Already you are seeing the infamous tortillar riots in Mexico, because the US is growing subsidized maize for fuel, instead of for food. So you want to see more of this insanity?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

cart it into space

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@WillB

That is right, use arable land and increasingly costly fertilizes (which are mined using fossil fuels, btw) to produce... not food, but gasoline. Already you are seeing the infamous tortillar riots in Mexico, because the US is growing subsidized maize for fuel, instead of for food. So you want to see more of this insanity?

always the negative but I never mentioned any need for increased arable land use. I was thinking about what is already available but not used or under used. Like, under a forced WTO agreement Japan has to import about 700,000 tons of American rice which isn't sold but instead is stored in gov't silo's at a cost of ¥150 million pa and after 2-3 years when its starting to rot, its sold on for animal feed. This is an example that could be used for making biofuel. When the rice is milled a large quantity of biomass is left which could also be turned into biofuel.

The country is covered by about 60% of trees and those forests could provide a large quantity of biomass, without chopping down the trees.

Biofuel can also be made from any cellulose materials and I'm against using arable and food crops.

Biomass is also house waste, material and human which could be used for biogas.

We just need to look around us to see what's already there and can be used for power generation which would be better than importing more fossil fuels.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@star-viking

according to geothermal experts, geothermal could provide 15-20 GW of power and not 1 GW.

also

Japan is a country with a great geothermal potential and the country could replace 25 of its nuclear power plants with geothermal installations, Stefan Larus Stefansson, Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, recently said.

http://www.tokyotimes.com/2012/japan-might-replace-nuclear-energy-with-geothermal-one/

Greenhouse gas removal is not a proven technology at present.

The Tachibanawan Thermal Power Station is a modern coal fired plant removing NOx/SOx emissions and ash dust, and recycling fly ash.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ah, yes! Nuclear power is the way to go, isn't it? NOT! It is so stupid that these countries keep promoting it. A rethink of the be idiots of nuclear power is long overdue!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Is it fair that we are creating toxic waste that will be toxic for thousands of years to come. What right do we have?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

toxic for thousands of years to come

250,000 years

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Starviking:

" Greenhouse gas removal is not a proven technology at present. "

It is. Plants have been doing that for millions of years. CO2 is part of the natural carbon cycle... in fact, life would be impossible without it. It is only in the last few years that the political scam of scaring people about so-called "green house gases" has taken hold. Want to sequester more CO2? Let more forests grow untouched... simple as that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

zichiDec. 30, 2012 - 06:43PM JST

@star-viking

according to geothermal experts, geothermal could provide 15-20 GW of power and not 1 GW.

1 GW, is for the easily accessible geothermal sources. A 23 GW figure is bandied about a lot - this comes from the scientific paper "2010 Country Update for Japan," by H. Sugino and T. Akeno, presented at the 2010 World Geothermal Congress. In it they state a technical breakthrough is needed before this energy can be tapped.

also

Japan is a country with a great geothermal potential and the country could replace 25 of its nuclear power plants with geothermal installations, Stefan Larus Stefansson, Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, recently said.

And what are Mr Stefanssons qualifications? Is he qualified to comment on Japan's geothermal power potential?

"Greenhouse gas removal is not a proven technology at present."

The Tachibanawan Thermal Power Station is a modern coal fired plant removing NOx/SOx emissions and ash dust, and recycling fly ash.

Granted NOx are greenhouse gases, thanks for the information - but the gas of note, CO2 cannot be removed and stored economically at present.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

WilliBDec. 30, 2012 - 09:35PM JST

Starviking:

" Greenhouse gas removal is not a proven technology at present. "

It is. Plants have been doing that for millions of years. CO2 is part of the natural carbon cycle... in fact, life would be impossible without it. It is only in the last few years that the political scam of scaring people about so-called "green house gases" has taken hold. Want to sequester more CO2? Let more forests grow untouched... simple as that.

I can agree on that, though the problem I was talking about was coal plant carbon capture technology.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

One thing for sure is that burying massive amounts of nuclear waste under ground is a very bad idea..there is not one substance known to mankind that can be used and is capable as a containment liner or container..What element do we have that will not corrode,crack, collapse, or leach before a 1000 years of usage,never mind 250 thousand years.. also with Japans multiple fault lines both near surface and deep ,is it not wise to know that a problem is sure to arise and a disastrous problem at that.. Nuclear waste generation and what to do about safe storage of the waste is a world wide problem that no one country has yet to successfully resolve,storage facilities are not being built fast enough to meet the output, and yet our Governments are staying closed lipped about the already failing and leaking storage areas such as the Hanford nuclear storage area that is holding nuclear waste that dates back to the 1950's and was stored in containers using 1950's technologies and materials.. There is far more to this problem then is being reported or released. The US government does not yet and has not figured out what to do to contain the leakage will occur at Handord Washington storage facility and I would bet that the Russian,french,Canadian,Indian,Pakistan,and Chinese government s are all facing the same problems with nuclear storage as are you folks in Japan...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jeremy RigbyDec. 30, 2012 - 08:41PM JST

Is it fair that we are creating toxic waste that will be toxic for thousands of years to come. What right do we have?

Is it fair that we are changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, with assuredly devastating effects, possibly permanently?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Star-viking

regardless of what you or I may think or say about using coal, the power companies are going to go on using it, and in fact, next year, 1,000 new coal fired power plants across the world will be constructed so it better at least if they are made to build them like the one at Tachibanawan Thermal Power Station which would at least make them cleaner than the old style.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Steve Mcgrew

The Fins are building an underground storage for their nuclear waste in bedrock and are the only country currently constructing one.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Back on topic please. The subject is plutonium, not coal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

these are the unsung costs of using nuke energy

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nowhere to use .... isn't for bomb production?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

garymalmgrenDec. 30, 2012 - No mention of the higher than normal child cancer (leukemia) rates in the (down wind) neighboring towns of Noheji and Tohoku?

Could you please supply more information or references concerning the above quote. Yours gary

Sorry Gary it's purely anecdotal from an oncologist and pediatrician I met separately that lived in the area, although briefly. They moved out after a 1 year stint and kept their jobs and their moths shut. I asked them why they didn't publish or say anythng and they basically said where would they work and live on this island chain after being blacklisted by the medical profession. Fair point I guess. Misawa airbase also monitors the water in the Pacific off the Rokkasho coast and recommends it's airmen not surf in those waters. For what it's worth the prevailing winds are usually blowing out to sea but in the warmer months a Sou7Easterly blows it all back towards Tohoku and Noheji. Maybe thats why the citizens get subsidized power bills.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Spudmanre,

that sounds very iffy - a large increase in leukaemia rates would be noticed by the communities in these small towns and someone would have kicked up a stink.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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