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METI's influences nuke policy

September 9, 2012


Industry ministry opposes change to nuclear fuel recycling policy




TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japan Atomic Energy Commission kept alive an option of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel in its proposal to the government after it faced opposition from the industry ministry and power companies to scrapping the long-standing fuel recycle policy, committee documents showed Saturday.

As part of the government's energy policy review process, the commission tasked with setting basic nuclear energy policies initially planned to propose in June that it would be "desirable" to change the full recycling policy, according to the documents seen by Kyodo News.

The documents suggest that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has aggressively sought expansion of nuclear power use, exercised its influence to resist a possible change to Japan's current policy to reprocess all spent fuel from nuclear reactors and recover plutonium for reuse.

Following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government is considering reducing the portion of total electricity generated by nuclear power in 2030 to zero, 15 percent, or 20 to 25 percent, compared with 26 percent in fiscal 2010.

According to the commission documents and sources close to the matter, the commission initially planned to drop the option of reprocessing all spent fuel from its proposal under the scenario of 20-25 percent reliance on nuclear power.

In the proposal presented to the government, the commission said that both reprocessing and direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel should be pursued if nuclear reliance is to be cut to 15 percent or lower while recycling of all spent fuel is a viable option for the 20-25 percent scenario.

An industry ministry official overseeing the nuclear fuel recycling demanded that the commission's secretariat keep the option of full reprocessing in the proposal, telling it that consideration should be given to a local government in Aomori Prefecture which hosts various nuclear fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste storage facilities, according to the documents and the sources.

The Aomori village of Rokkasho recently decided to seek the removal of spent nuclear fuel accepted from across Japan if the central government gives up on the fuel recycling policy.

Power company employees working at the commission's secretariat also opposed scrapping the full recycling option, according to the sources.

A commission member said a unanimous agreement on the proposal could not be reached and the members decided to reflect the industry ministry's view on it.



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