Japan - Plutonium Investigation n°2

Plutonium Policy Objectives

Japan is officially still planning to reprocess all of the spent fuel unloaded from its reactors. However, this objective is already far off. By the end of 1996, Japanese utilities had produced about 12,000 metric tons of LWR spent fuel of which 5,598 metric tons were earmarked for reprocessing contracts in France and the UK; at this date, some 1,579 metric tons had already been reprocessed in France and a few hundred tons in the UK. After having reprocessed roughly 13% of the spent fuel produced, Japan has had to change its policy - at least in the short term - and to stockpile more and more spent fuel. Japan is going to operate an already built 3,000 MT capacity spent fuel intermediate storage facility (pool type) on the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant site and is planning a further "away from reactor" intermediate storage facility.

Whereas the authorities have stated that the plutonium industry should be developed without generating a plutonium stockpile, requiring that only as much separated plutonium is produced as is necessary for the MOX production facilities, the inventory of Japanese separated plutonium has been increasing, and will increase over the next few years. At the end of 1996, the inventory of Japanese civil plutonium was one of the largest in the world with 20.1 metric tons of plutonium located in Japan and abroad.

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