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Mayor election in Rokkasho & nuclear risk

Mayor election in Rokkasho & nuclear risk
Mayor election in Rokkasho & nuclear risk

June 10, 2018


Mayor election in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, Japan: A small village where world nuclear risk is at stake.




Don’t let the Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant start!

The Rokkasho village mayor election takes place on June 24, 2018.

We are calling for people to send encouraging comments for Ms Junko ENDO, anti-nuclear fuel cycle candidate!



For FB users, please write messages in the Facebook page of the candidate Ms Junko ENDO’s political group “Rokkasho Mura ni atarashii kaze wo okosu kai” (Group to raise a new wind in Rokkasho Village)


The Facebook page is in Japanese, but you are most welcome to post your comments in your mother language. In fact, they prefer different foreign languages so that they can show that support is arriving from all over the world!



Text below is partly based on an original text of Kiyohiko YAMADA with additions by Kurumi Sugita and Jon Gomon.


A brief historical and geographical reminder

There is a nuclear fuel cycle center in Rokkasho village, located at the root of Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture, situated in the northernmost part of the main island of Japan.


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On April 9, 1985, the governor of Aomori Prefecture decided to accept the center, composed of three facilities:

  • a uranium enrichment (note 1) plant,
  • a fuel reprocessing plant,
  • and a low-level radioactive waste repository.

Afterwards, two facilities have been added:

  • a temporary storage facility of high-level radioactive waste returned from overseas after reprocessing,
  • and a MOX (note 2) fabrication plant.

Who is operating the nuclear fuel center?


This nuclear fuel cycle center of Rokkasho village is operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), notorious for its incompetent management to say the least. In October 2017, Japanese Nuclear Regulation Autority (NRA) reported that JNFL violated safety measures. See a Mainichi Shimbun article below:

Unfinished nuclear fuel reprocessing plant faked safety records: NRA (Mainichi Shimbun, October 11, 2017)

” The NRA concluded on Oct. 11 that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) has violated safety measures after it was learned that the firm failed to carry out the required checks and nevertheless continued to write down “no abnormalities” in safety check records. There has been a spate of incidents such as the flow of rainwater into facility buildings at the plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho.

The plant, which is scheduled to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, was on the verge of hosting a final-stage NRA safety inspection, but the checkup is likely to be postponed considerably as JNFL now has to prioritize in-house inspections of all facilities at the plant. ”


Major problems of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant


 The Japanese nuclear fuel cycle collapsed with the fast breeder reactor “Monju”

The Japanese government persisted to continue research and development on the fast breeder reactors, even though they had been abandoned elsewhere in the world. It was in December 2016 that the government decided to finally decommission the prototype reactor “Monju”.

The government is still trying to start the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in the first half of 2021 fiscal year, even though the prospect of the fast breeder reactor’s commercialization has become improbable. There is a contradiction here. Why start a reprocessing plant when there is no usage plan for the end product (see below as for Mox fuel usage)? One possible reason is that for quite a while former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ministers have been hinting at the possibility to possess nuclear weapons. They may want to have a plutonium extraction plant which can produce eight tons of plutonium annually.


Surplus Plutonium problem


The Japanese government has ordered the power companies to reprocess the total amount of used nuclear fuel resulting from nuclear power plants’ operation. When there was no reprocessing plant in Japan, the reprocessing was entrusted to the UK and France. After that, a national reprocessing plant was built in Tokai village in Ibaraki prefecture, and then the construction of the private reprocessing plant in Rokkasho village in Aomori Prefecture was started in 1993.


The total amount of plutonium remaining in these reprocessing plants is about 48 tons. Since the commercialization of the fast breeder reactor has become improbable, the government wants to use the plutonium as MOX fuel at nuclear power plants (called plu-thermal in Japan).


However, since the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident of March 11, 2011, the plu-thermal project is not progressing and it has become difficult to use up the surplus plutonium. If the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is put in operation, it will create a surplus of eight tons of plutonium annually. The possession of such an amount of plutonium will most certainly increase tensions in Asia.


Risks involved in the Rokkasho plant


The reprocessing plant is on a fault

Japan is riddled with geological faults, and there is no stable stratum. The Rokkasho reprocessing plant is not on a stable stratum at all. A big active fault of about 100 km lies in the Pacific Ocean side. Scientists warn that in case of a big earthquake, a magnitude 8 tremor could seriously damage the reprocessing plant.
The operating company insists that a big earthquake will not occur in Rokkasho, but their seismograph is installed on bedrock, and is set so that it does not indicate more than a seismic intensity 3. Why? It is because when seismic intensity higher than 3 is detected, it is necessary to make a total inspection of the reprocessing plant.


Hakkoda and Towada volcanoes are nearby

Recently, Hakkoda Mountain and Lake Towada, major tourist destinations in Aomori Prefecture not far from the plant, came to be monitored as a possible origin of a volcano-related catastrophe.
With a volcanic eruption, cinders and volcanic ash can fall thick in the vicinity of the reprocessing plant. This may make it difficult to secure external power supplies, to drive emergency power vehicles, and/or to secure cooling water. In addition, if the small volcanic ash can clog filters and destroy equipment.


Fighter jets fly near Rokkasho
Within 30km of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, there is Misawa Airbase used by the US Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defense Force. There is also the Amagamori bombing exercise ground within 10km. Fighter jets exercising in Amagamori fly over the Ogawara port, passing through the vicinity of the reprocessing plant to repeat the training.
There is no doubt that a major disaster will occur if a fighter plane crashes into the reprocessing plant. Considering that the reprocessing plant is planned to go into operation in the coming years, it is very unlikely that the US Misawa Airbase and exercise ground would be relocated before the reprocessing operation begins.


Possibility of a serious accident


In the reprocessing project application submitted by JNFL, the following list cites as possible serious accidents:

criticality in the dissolution tank,
criticality by a transfer error of the solution containing plutonium,
evaporation to dryness by the loss of the cooling function,
explosion caused by hydrogen generated by radiolysis,
an organic solvent fire in a cell of the plutonium refining facility,
the damage to the used fuel aggregates in the fuel storage pool,
leakage from piping of liquid high-level radioactive waste storage facilities to cells.

If any of these major accidents occur simultaneously, or if the accident is triggered by a crash of a fighter plane or a volcanic eruption, the scale of the accident would be more than prepared for. However, the range of nuclear disaster prevention of the reprocessing plant is limited to a radius of 5 km only.

Existing radiation exposure of the entire Aomori prefecture and of the Pacific Ocean is already too high

After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, many tanks were created on the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant to store the tritium contaminated water after processing the radioactive water by the multi-nuclide removal facility (Advanced Liquid Processing System = ALPS). In Fukushima prefecture, tritium contaminated water is not discharged in the ocean because of the opposition of fishermen, while in Rokkasho the same tritium water was released in a large amount during the active testing. Fishermen in Iwate once required that the reprocessing plant drainage be discharged in Mutsu Bay and not in the Pacific Ocean. The person in charge in Aomori Prefecture refused, saying, “Mutsu Bay would die”.


Because of all these risks which involve not only Rokkasho village or Aomori Prefecture but the whole world, we need the village mayor who says NO! to Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Center. Please write either in a FB page or leave your comment at the bottom of this blog article page which we will transfer.


For FB users, please write messages in the Facebook page of the candidate Ms Junko ENDO’s political group “Rokkasho Mura ni atarashii kaze wo okosu kai” (Group to raise a new wind in Rokkasho Village)

The Facebook page is in Japanese, but you are most welcome to post your comments in your mother language. In fact, they prefer different foreign languages so that they can show that support is arriving from all over the world!

Profile and manifesto of the candidate Ms Junko ENDO in English coming up soon


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