19 Juin 2012
June 19, 2012
Pro-nuclear power experts who gathered at secret meetings in March organized by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) decided to conceal a scenario for dealing with spent nuclear fuel which would be unfavorable to the promotion of fast-breeder reactors, from a subcommittee, it has been learned.
JAEC, under the umbrella of the Cabinet Office, has submitted three other scenarios to the subcommittee after deleting the scenario in question, clarifying that the secret meetings influenced the core of Japan's so-called nuclear fuel cycle policy.
The subcommittee of JAEC reviewing the nuclear cycle policy discussed the three scenarios and is set to submit them to the government's Energy and Environment Council.
Four members of a JAEC experts' panel on new nuclear energy policy have urged JAEC not to submit the scenarios to the government. "The proposals are unjustifiable because they were adopted in ignorance of a democratic process," read an opinion submitted to JAEC Chairman Shunsuke Kondo.
The Cabinet Office's atomic power policy division, five of whose members attended the March 8 secret meeting, refused to comment on the revelations. "We can't answer any question that could actually be a bluff."
In the nuclear fuel cycle project, spent nuclear fuel would be reprocessed and reused as fuel for nuclear reactors. Reactors in which the fission of a chain reaction is sustained by fast neutrons in the process of reusing spent fuel are called fast reactors (FRs). Among these, reactors that produce more fuel than original fuel, such as the Monju prototype reactor in Fukui Prefecture, are called fast-breeder reactors (FBRs).
The Mainichi Shimbun has recently obtained a document detailing four scenarios on whether to go ahead with the nuclear fuel cycle project, including one that attendees of the secret meeting agreed to cover up.
Scenario 1 calls for the reprocessing of all spent nuclear fuel and its use in commercial FRs. Under scenario 2, part of spent nuclear fuel would be reprocessed and the remainder would be stored while research and development would be conducted to determine whether FRs can be put into commercial use.
Under scenario 3, part of the spent fuel would be reprocessed, the remainder would be disposed of and the project of putting FRs into commercial use would be discontinued. Scenario 4 calls for disposal of all spent nuclear fuel and the discontinuation of the project of putting FRs into practical use.
If scenarios 1 and 2 were adopted, the Monju-related research and development project would be continued, but scenarios 3 and 4 would mean that the project must be called off.
When the four scenarios were submitted to one of the secret meetings, held on March 8, for deliberations, attendees insisted that scenario 3 should be excluded.
"The subcommittee's discussions would certainly focus on the middle (scenarios 2 or 3) rather than scenario 1 that calls for reprocessing of all spent fuel or scenario 4 that envisages the disposal of all spent fuel. If scenario 3 were included, there would certainly be some subcommittee members who would choose it," one of them was quoted as telling the secret meeting.
"We've come to a crucial stage now. Scenario 2 is desirable and scenario 3 should be deleted," another reportedly said.
A document detailing the four scenarios was also distributed at another secret meeting on March 22. At the time, the moderator of the meeting said, "There was a plan to recommend four scenarios but we reduced them to three." However, attendees did not discuss the matter.