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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Stop Japan's Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
Action Requested: Sending letter to the Japanese Embassy in your country urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Japan! Sixty-eight years ago on August 9, an atomic bomb containing about 6kg of plutonium destroyed the city of Nagasaki in an instant. Next year, Japan intends to start the commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the only industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapons state, to separate plutonium from fuel used in nuclear power plants at a rate of 8 tons per year, equivalent to 1,000 bombs using the IAEA formula of 8 kg per bomb.

Originally, Japan intended to use separated plutonium to fuel fast breeder reactors, which were supposed to produce more plutonium than they consumed, guaranteeing a semi-eternal energy source. As in other countries, this program stalled, however. So Japan launched an uneconomical program to consume its accumulating plutonium in light water reactors. This also stalled. As result Japan has accumulated about 44 tons of plutonium, equivalent to more than 5,000 bombs: 34 tons in Europe, from reprocessing Japan's spent fuel in the UK and France, and 10 tons in Japan.

Due to the Fukushima accident we have only two of 50 reactors operating. The number and the timing the reactors to be restarted is uncertain and the prospect of being able to consume a significant amount of the existing plutonium in reactors anytime soon is dim. Applications for review for restart of 10 reactors under the new safety rules were just submitted July 8.

The government still wants to start operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Further accumulation of nuclear-weapon-usable material is a concern for the international society and for Japan's neighbors, who wonder about its intentions.

Separated plutonium is also a security risk. And if other countries follow Japan's example, it would increase proliferation risks.

Please help us to stop Japan from further separating nuclear weapon usable material by doing the following:

Send a message/letter by fax or otherwise to the Japanese Embassy in your country by August 9 urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and send a copy of the message/letter that you have sent or intend to send to the following e-mail address by 5 August no-pu[@]

List of Japanese Embassies:

We will deliver them to the government of Japan on August 9. We also will release them to the media.

Thank you very much in advance.


Sincerely yours,

Yasunari Fujimoto
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)

(For background information see 'Japan's Reprocessing Plans, Nuclear Monitor #763, 13 June 2013).


Canada: Cameco agreement to silence indigenous protests on uranium mining
After the Pinehouse collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva in December 2012, with the English First River Nation in May 2013 another indigenous community of Northwest Saskatchewan has - against protests of their community members - signed an agreement with these uranium mining companies to support their business and not to disturb it anymore.

The agreement - which members have not been permitted to see - allegedly promises $600 million in business contracts and employee wages to the Dene band, in exchange for supporting Cameco/Areva's existing and proposed projects within ERFN's traditional territory, and with the condition that ERFN discontinue their lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government relating to Treaty Land Entitlement section of lands near Cameco's proposed Millenium mine project.

− from Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,

More information:
Committee for Future Generations,
Peter Prebble and Ann Coxworth, July 2013, 'The Government of Canadaʼs Legacy of Contamination in Northern Saskatchewan Watersheds,

South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens
The scandal in South Korea concerning the use of counterfeit parts in nuclear plants, and faked quality assurance certificates, has widened. [1]
In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-I reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature. The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. [2] A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. [3] In October 2012, authorities temporarily shut down two reactors at separate plants after system malfunctions.

Then in November 2012, the scandal involving counterfeit parts and faked certificates erupted. [4] The reactor parts included fuses, switches, heat sensors, and cooling fans. The scandal kept escalating and by the end of November it involved at least 8601 reactor parts, 10 firms and six reactors and it was revealed the problems had been ongoing for at least 10 years. Plant owner Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) acknowledged possible bribery and collusion by its own staff members as well as corruption by firms supplying reactor parts. [5]

Two reactors were taken offline to replace thousands of parts, while replacement parts were fitted to other reactors without taking them offline.

In recent months the scandal has continued to expand.

Late May 2013: Two more reactors were shutdown and the scheduled start of two others was delayed because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that "control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test." [6]

June 20: Widespread police raids. [7] Prosecutors reveal that the number of plants suspected to have non-compliant parts (or at least paperwork) has widened to include 11 of South Korea's 23 reactor reactors. [8]

July 8: The former president of KHNP was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into nuclear industry corruption. [9,10]

July 10: Search and seizure occurred at Hyundai Heavy Industries after the Busan Prosecutor's office obtained warrants relating to the nuclear parts scandal. [11]

July 11: Details emerged on the involved parties in the Hyundai headquarters raid, including persons and exchanged funds. Contract bribery is included in the charges. [12]

Even before the scandals of the past two years, a 2011 IPSOS survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea. [13] The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012. [14]

References and Sources:
1. Atomic Power Review, 14 July 2013, 'South Korea's Nuclear Energy Corruption Scandal Widens in Scope',
13. IPSOS, June 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster',
14. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears',


France: Activists target uranium and nuclear plants
Two uranium facilities were blocked by activists in the South of France on June 19. The collectives "Stop Uranium" and "Stop Tricastin" organised simultaneous non-violent blockades in front of two uranium facilities in the south of France. The first facility, the Comurhex Malvési (near Narbonne) is the entrance gate for yellowcake in France. The second facility was the Eurodif enrichment plant, on the Tricastin nuclear site, near Avignon.

About 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested on July 15 after breaking into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demanding its closure. The activists said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. The protesters who entered the plant at dawn unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: 'TRICASTIN ACCIDENT NUCLÉAIRE: PRÉSIDENT DE LA CATASTROPHE?' (Tricastin Nuclear Accident: President of the Disaster?).

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking François Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France. Greenpeace is pressing Hollande to honour his previous promise to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020.

In July 2008 an accident at a treatment centre next to the Tricastin plant saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank during a draining operation. The same month around 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe.

Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,
Reuters, 'Greenpeace activists break into French nuclear plant',
'French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant', 15 July 2013,
Angelique Chrisafis, 25 July 2008, 'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream',


Germany: Activists blockade nuclear fuel production plant
On July 25, around 50 activists blockaded Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Lingen, north-east Germany. The protest included a climbing action as well as Samba-band. For seven hours, traffic delivering material to the plant was blocked. Around midday, police arrived and cleared away the peaceful non-violent blockade. A number of activists were taken to the police station. A female activist was wounded and had to be taken to the hospital.

Photo from visual.rebellion:

Japan's reprocessing plans

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Japan continues to work towards operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility in the northern Aomori prefecture. Both the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and Japan Nuclear Fuel have cited October as the start-up date for the facility. However operation is likely to be further delayed in order to meet requirements yet to be set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was created in response to the Fukushima disaster.

Japan's government and private companies have invested more than US$21 billion in the Rokkasho plant since construction began in 1992. The startup of the plant has been delayed 19 times because of technical and financial problems. [Dow Jones Newswire, 2013]

When operating at full capacity, the Rokkasho plant could separate around nine tonnes of plutonium from 800 tonnes of spent fuel annually; sufficient to build around 900 weapons annually. Diversion of, say, 1% of the separated plutonium would be difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to detect against the background of routine accounting discrepancies, yet it would provide enough plutonium to build one nuclear weapon every 4−6 weeks.

There have been incidents of large-scale plutonium accounting problems in Japan. The 'Atoms in Japan' publication provides one such example. In 2003 it was discovered that of the 6.9 tons of plutonium separated at the Tokai reprocessing facility in the period from 1977 to 2002, the measured amount of plutonium was 206 kgs less than it should have been. After further investigations, the Japanese government claimed that it could account for some of the discrepancy and reduced the figure to 59 kgs. [Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, 2003.]

Japanese officials argue that the reprocessing program is for civil purposes only and that reprocessing is a necessary step towards using the plutonium as reactor fuel and thus reducing plutonium stockpiles. However in practice the use of mixed uranium/plutonium MOX fuel does not reduce plutonium stockpiles because MOX-fuelled reactors produce more plutonium than they consume. Moreover, only four reactors, including the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, have so far used MOX fuel.

Fast neutron (a.k.a. fast breeder) reactors could reduce plutonium stockpiles − but fast reactor programs have mostly been expensive and accident-prone and have done precious little to reduce plutonium stockpiles. Those problems have been all too evident with the accident-prone, scandal-prone Monju fast reactor in Japan.

In the latest scandal, Atsuyuki Suzuki, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which operates the Monju reactor, has resigned after the Agency admitted that it had neglected to perform safety inspections on almost 10,000 pieces of equipment, some of them critical for safe operation of the reactor. A statement from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) said: "The Japan Atomic Energy Agency cannot sufficiently secure the safety of Monju. We see deterioration in its safety culture."

The Monju reactor was first brought online in 1994, but a serious sodium coolant leak and subsequent cover-up by JAEA led to a 15-year shutdown. In 2010, the reactor was restarted for testing, but an equipment accident ceased operations before the reactor could reach full capacity. As a result of the latest scandal, plans to restart the reactor have been pushed back and preparatory work has been delayed. Japan Times recently editorialised that the NRA should order the permanent shut-down of Monju and noted that "the JAEA has learned nothing from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, which was caused in part by lax management."

The contradictions with Japan's plutonium program are still more acute since all but two of the country's reactors are shut-down in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Nevertheless, a shipment of MOX left the port of Cherbourg in northern France in mid-April and is scheduled to arrive in Japan in the second half of June, destined for Kansai Electric Power Co's Takahama plant west of Tokyo.

An editorial in The Asahi Shimbun on April 22 outlined the dilemma that seems to be driving the continued pursuit of Japan's plutonium program: "Still, the government and the electric power industry insist on continuing the fuel recycling program because terminating it would turn spent fuel into radioactive waste, causing them to violate an agreement with Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted the related facilities. There is no justification for continuing the now-unrealistic reprocessing program even if ending it requires a time-consuming process of securing the consent of the local communities through earnest dialogue. It is critical that a realistic road map toward interim storage and eventual direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel is worked out. It would be highly irresponsible to try to operate the reprocessing plant simply because it has been built."

Regional implications of Japan's plutonium program
The US government has reportedly expressed concern about Japan's reprocessing plans. Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice-chair of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, met in April in Washington with Obama administration officials. Suzuki said he was told that separating and stockpiling large amounts of plutonium without clear prospects for its use as reactor fuel sets a bad example. In particular, Japan's plans complicate efforts to prevent the development of reprocessing in South Korea and Taiwan, and could also encourage an expansion of reprocessing in China.

These problems have been festering for decades. Diplomatic cables in 1993 and 1994 from US Ambassadors in Tokyo described Japan's accumulation of plutonium as "massive" and questioned the rationale for the stockpiling of so much plutonium since it appeared to be economically unjustified. A March 1993 diplomatic cable from US Ambassador Armacost in Tokyo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, posed these questions: "Can Japan expect that if it embarks on a massive plutonium recycling program that Korea and other nations would not press ahead with reprocessing programs? Would not the perception of Japan's being awash in plutonium and possessing leading edge rocket technology create anxiety in the region?"

Further raising concerns are calls by hawkish South Korean and Japanese politicians to consider developing nuclear weapons after North Korea began a series of atomic-weapons tests in 2006 (including tests using plutonium produced in an 'experimental power reactor'). Japan's then defence minister Satoshi Morimoto said in 2012 that Japan's nuclear power program is "taken by neighbouring countries as having very great defensive deterrent functions" and former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba said: "Having nuclear plants shows to other nations that Japan can make nuclear weapons." In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, then leader of the Liberal Party in Japan, said: "It would be so easy for us to produce nuclear warheads – we have plutonium at nuclear power plants in Japan, enough to make several thousand such warheads."

A new US − South Korean nuclear-cooperation agreement, which would allow for the continued sale of US-origin fuel and equipment, was recently deferred for two years. Seoul wants to be allowed to begin enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel, but Washington resisted and the two countries agreed to extend the current agreement (which prohibits enrichment and reprocessing in South Korea) while negotiations continue.

"If the Koreans are left with the impression that Japan can do things that South Korea can't, then it's not a sustainable concept," said Christopher Hill, a former American ambassador to Seoul.

It is well within the capacity of the US to take concrete steps to curb the separation and stockpiling of plutonium in Japan. The US has the authority to disallow separation and stockpiling of US-obligated plutonium, i.e. plutonium produced from nuclear materials originally mined or processed in the US. However there has been no suggestion that the US will take such a step.

President Obama cautioned at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul: "We simply can't go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we're trying to keep away from terrorists." But it appears to be all talk and no action.

In April, China signed an agreement with French nuclear-power company Areva SA to construct a new reprocessing plant similar in size to Rokkasho. Beijing says the plant will be used only for civilian purposes − but it would inevitably increase China's capacity to separate plutonium for potential use in nuclear weapons.

Henry Sokolski from the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center said: "As a practical matter, if it operates Rokkasho, it will force China to respond to re-establish that it, Beijing, not Tokyo, is the most dominant nuclear player in East Asia. Such nuclear tit-for-tats-manship could get ugly."


References and main sources:


Two year delay for Rokkasho plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The annual announcement of further delay in the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant might become a biannual announcement from now on. On November 18, 2005 Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) announced that start-up of Rokkasho would be pushed back to July 2007. Just before that date, in May 2007, JNFL suspended the receipt of spent fuel at the plant after it was revealed that incorrect data had been used to calculate design standards for some shearing and fuel handling equipment in the event of an earthquake. In November 2008 a delay was announced as it was in September 2009.

On September 10, this year Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) announced that the commencement of commercial operations of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant would be delayed by two years from October this year to October 2012. This is the eighteenth time the start date has been delayed. The reason for the delay is a series of problems and accidents during testing of the process of vitrifying high-level radioactive liquid waste. All the other tests have been completed, but unless the two vitrification furnaces can achieve a production capacity of 1,000 glass canisters per year, the plant cannot begin commercial operations.

JNFL says that the first 18 months of the extension period will be spent on activities including fitting thermometers to the vitrification furnaces and comparing operational data from a mock up facility (KMOC) in Tokai Village which is conducting experiments vitrifying an imitation of the radioactive liquid waste produced at the Rokkasho plant.

So far all the vitrification tests at Rokkasho have used Vitrification Furnace A, but glass and other material have become stuck in the furnace. JNFL now wants to begin testing Vitrification Furnace B and conduct "hot tests" (using real high-level liquid waste) in both furnaces from April 2012.

However, it is completely unclear when it will be possible to resume testing of the Vitrification Facility. No matter how well comparison of the KMOC data goes, since KMOC is not using the strong heat and radiation generating highly radioactive liquid waste produced at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, the problems involved are not the same. JNFL's attempts to gather new data from KMOC since testing of the Rokkasho plant came to a standstill are bound to fail. They only go to show that the development of the vitrification furnaces was a total failure in the first place. JNFL needs to reconsider the fundamental design and development of the vitrification furnaces.

Testing of the vitrification furnaces has been a vicious circle in which one problem has led to another. Due to its lack of technical ability, JNFL has only been able to respond to problems in a haphazard fashion. To deal with the sedimentation of platinum group elements at the bottom of the vitrification furnace it inserted a stirring rod, but the stirring rod bent and in the ensuing confusion a brick was dislodged from the ceiling of the furnace. As attempts were being made to overcome the problem, about 150 liters of highly radioactive liquid waste leaked and evaporated within the cell. No doubt there will be more problems in future and JNFL will end up chasing its tail as it tries to respond to them, while the real tests are pushed further and further into the future.

It is hard to read any technical logic into the two-year period of the delay. Rather, it seems to have more to do with the fact that the spent fuel pools at Japan's nuclear power plants can just manage to get by without sending spent fuel to Rokkasho for a period of two years. Rokkasho's spent fuel storage pools are almost full. As at September, 2,776 tons of spent fuel was already stored in the pools, which have a total capacity of 3,000 tons.

The two-year delay will have a severe impact on the finances of Rokkasho Village. Rokkasho Village expects to receive about 2 billion yen (US$ 23 million or 17.5 million euro) in fixed assets taxes in the first year the plant begins commercial operations. The figure will gradually decrease thereafter. It is four and a half years since active testing of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant began on March 31, 2006 and almost three years have passed since testing of the Vitrification Facility began on November 5, 2007. Now completion of the tests has been pushed back another two years. This small village made all sorts of plans on the assumption that it would receive huge taxation income from the reprocessing plant, but now it is forced to reconsider its finances.

At the same time as announcing the delay, JNFL announced that it was making third-party allocations of new stocks worth a total of 400 billion yen (US$ 4.68 billion or 3.5 billion euro). The thirteen recipients are the nine electric power companies that operate nuclear power plants, plus Japan Atomic Power Company, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. A September 14 article published on the English web site of The Denki Shimbun (The Electric Daily News) made the following comment:

"As of March 31 this year, JNFL's equity ratio was about 7.5%. Its financial position was weak for an enterprise executing the nuclear fuel cycle as a matter of national policy, and was viewed with concern by the electric power companies and other shareholders. Once the new third-party allocations are made, JNFL's equity ratio will top 20%...."

The stock issue shows that JNFL is experiencing financial difficulties, but a question that remains unanswered is the impact that this and previous delays will have on the total cost of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. After so many delays, it is inconceivable that construction costs will not exceed the official figure of 2.14 trillion yen (US$ 25 billion or 19 billion euro).

1982: Rokkasho finished in 1991.
One of the first articles in the Laka archive-file on the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is a Mainichi Daily News clipping of January 8, 1982. Although a site was not definitive chosen, the plans to construct a reprocessing plant, and related facilities (a plutonium-conversion plant, a fission products vitrification plant, spent fuel storage, a "specialized ship designed to carry used nuclear fuel" a pier and other port facilities) were announced. The company, Japan Nuclear Fuel Services, plans to complete the reprocessing plant and related facilities "by the end of fiscal year1 1990 (March 31, 1991) at an estimated cost of  690 billion Yen in 19979 terms (which works out  to about US$ 3.15 billion at present rates)."
Mainichi Daily News, 8 January 1982.

Sources: Nuke Info Tokyo 138, Sept/Oct 2010 / NucNet, 3 December 2008
Contact:  Masako Sawai, CNIC (Citizens' Nuclear Information Center) Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5, Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel:  +81-3-3357-3800


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

U.K.: What's in our dump?

The operators of the Drigg national low-level waste facility have asked former workers to tell them what is buried there. In an advert in local papers LLW Repository Limited asked workers who tipped nuclear waste into the site's open trenches over a 25-year period from 1960 to try and remember what it was they dumped. The company said it did have records of what was dumped but they wanted "a clearer picture".

Cumberland News 14 February 2009

Greenpeace: illegal state aid Romania and Bulgaria.

On February 25, Greenpeace has filed complaints to the European Commission over alleged illegal state aid for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Romania and two in Bulgaria. The environmental organization argues that both countries violate EU competition rules. Jan Haverkamp, EU energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "We have been investigating for many months the unfair competition conditions that have been granted to the nuclear sector in Romania and Bulgaria. We have now submitted the evidence we have collected to the European Commission, and are calling for urgent action to correct these flagrant market distortions."

The Romanian government earmarked 220 million Euro for the Cernavoda 3 and 4 nuclear power plant. On top of this, the state spent EUR350 million in taxpayers´ money for the purchase of heavy water for the new power station, as well as EUR800 million to increase the capital of state utility S.N. Nuclearelectrica - S.A., with the purpose of supporting its financial contributions to the project.

The Bulgarian government has invested 300 million Bulgarian Leva (154 million Euro) in state utility NEK for the construction of the Belene nuclear power station, as well as another 400 million Leva (205 million Euro) in NEK's parent holding BEH, partly also meant for Belene. According to Greenpeace, all of these investments are in violation of EU competition law.

Press release, Greenpeace EU Unit, 25 February 2009

EDF debt increased to nearly 25 billion Euro.

French energy group and the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power stations, EDF could be forced to sell some of its power stations in France to help to fund its £12.2 billion acquisition of Britain’s nuclear industry. EDF shocked investors by unveiling a fall of nearly 40 per cent in annual profits (slipped to 3.54 billion euro in 2008, compared with 5.6 billion Euro in 2007) and warning that its debt pile had increased to nearly €25 billion (US$ 32 billion) after a string of acquisitions, including those of British Energy and America’s Constellation Energy.

EDF, which is 85 % owned by the French State, is aiming to cut its debt by at least 5 billion Euro by the end of 2010 and much of this would be achieved through asset sales. A number of foreign energy companies, including Enel, of Italy, have previously expressed an interest in entering the French power market.

The Times (U.K.), 13 february 2009

GDF Suez pulls out of Belene!

An important victory and another sign that the Belene project is too risky! French utility GDF Suez has decided to pull out of Bulgaria's planned nuclear plant of Belene. GDF Suez's Belgian subsidiary Electrabel had been in talks to take part in German utility RWE's 49-percent stake in Bulgaria's 4 billion Euro plant. RWE confirmed it had not reached an agreement with GDF Suez but said it would continue to develop the project as planned. "Financial, technical, economic and organization questions are in focus and safety of course comes first in all our considerations," a RWE spokesman told Reuters. Sources familiar with the Bulgarian nuclear project have said the global financial crisis and tighter liquidity have made raising funding extremely difficult and that it was likely the plant's starting date would go beyond the planned 2013-2014.

GDF Suez is focusing on its other nuclear projects, a company spokesman said. The company is trying to grab a share of the nuclear revival with plans to take part in the second and possibly the third new-generation French nuclear reactors as well as in nuclear power projects in Britain, Romania and in Abu Dhabi.

Reuters, 28 February 2009

More delays for Rokkasho.

The commercial start-up of Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant has suffered a further delay. On January 30, its owner, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), filed an application with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to change its construction plan, pushing the scheduled completion date of the plant back to August 2009. A few years ago JNFL had planned to commence full operation of the plant in November 2007.

Groups and individuals have been campaigning against this plant ever since 1985, when Aomori Prefecture agreed to allow it to be constructed. If the Rokkasho reprocessing ever operates at full capacity, it will reprocess 800 tons of spent fuel and extract about 8 tons of plutonium per year. In the course of regular operations, when spent fuel assemblies are cut up (shearing), radioactive gases are released from the chimney stack. These include radioactive isotopes of krypton, xenon, iodine, cesium, etc.. Later in the process, other radioactive materials are released into the sea as liquid waste. These include tritium, carbon-14, iodine-129, plutonium, etc.. It is said that a reprocessing plant releases as much radioactivity in one day as a nuclear reactor releases in one year.

In addition, there are international concerns that the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will accelerate trends towards nuclear proliferation. The process used at Rokkasho will produce a 1:1 mixed oxide of plutonium and uranium. The Japanese government says that it is difficult to produce nuclear weapons from this. However, this is not true. Scientists in the US, and also the International Atomic Energy Agency, recognize that this material can readily be transformed into nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Engineering International, 18 February 2009 / Nuke Info Tokyo (CNIC)

U.K.: Leaked for 14 years.

Radioactive waste leaked from a decontamination unit at the Bradwell nuclear power station for 14 years, Chelmsford Crown Court was told late January. The operators, Magnox Electric, were found guilty of allowing unauthorized disposal of radioactive waste from 1990 to 2004 when the problem was discovered. The court was told the leak was caused by poor design and no routine inspection or maintenance. Chief inspector for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Mike Weightman, said it was not possible to "inspect or check every feature of a complex plant" but once the leak was discovered regulators took quick action.

N-base 601, 11 February 2009

Iraq takes first step to nuclear power, again….

On February 22, Iraqi Electricity Minister Karim Wahid says Baghdad is taking initial steps to construct the country's first nuclear power plant in cooperation with France. "I am willing to enter into contacts with the French nuclear agency and to start to build a nuclear power plant, because the future is nuclear," said Wahid. Iraq had sealed a contract with France to construct a nuclear reactor during Saddam Hussein's regime in 1976. The construction of the Osirak reactor however remained unfinished after Israeli warplanes bombed the facility in 1981. Tel Aviv accused the regime of building nuclear weapons. In the 1990 Iraq was accused of having a secret nuclear weapons program. Already in 1991 in the first few days of Gulf War I Iraqi nuclear energy capability (research reactor, hot-cells, etc.) was said to be destroyed by the US-led international coalition. However, in the decade that followed Iraq was still accused of having a covert nuclear program, but in search of such a program, after the Gulf War-II in 2003 nothing was found.

Press TV (Iraq), 22 February 2009 / Laka Foundation, sources 1992 & 2003

France: TV show reveals radioactive risk.

Fears that radioactive material taken from France’s old uranium mines has been used in construction have been raised by a TV documentary. According to investigators for the program Pièces à Conviction (Incriminating evidence), there are many sites where radioactive material is a potential health risk including schools, playgrounds, buildings and car parks. Very little uranium is now mined in Europe, but France carried out mining from 1945 – 2001 at 210 sites which have now been revealed by IRSN, the Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety on its website. Problems stem from millions of tons of reject rock which contained small amount of uranium which are still stocked at some of the sites along with 50 million tons of waste from extraction factories.
The documentary on France 3 also revealed that some reject rock has also been used as construction rubble in areas used by the public, that there have been some radioactive leaks into the environment from waste and that some “rehabilitated” areas where building has been taken place had been contaminated with radon. Before the program went out Areva had lodged a complaint about it with the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel concerned that its intention was to make accusations against the firm. The program makers said they had “opened a national debate on uranium waste in France”.

The Connection (Fr.), 13 February 2009

Largest Pu transport ever from Europe to Japan.

Secret preparations are underway in Britain and France for shipping 1.8 tons of plutonium, the largest quantity of plutonium ever shipped by sea. The plutonium is contained in 65 assemblies of MOX (mixed plutonium and uranium oxide) fuel and is being shipped to Japan for use in the nuclear power plants of three Japanese electric utilities. No details have been revealed, but it is reported that the fuel will be transported by two British-flagged vessels, escorting each other.

The vessels are to depart Europe anytime on or after March 1st. Neither the hour of departure nor the maritime route to be used will be revealed before the ships depart. The United States must approve the transport plan before the shipment can proceed. The MOX fuel to be transported has been fabricated in France by Areva NC. The three possible routes for the shipment are around the Cape of Good Hope and through the South Pacific, around South America, or, through the Panama Canal.

Japanese electric utilities hope the fuel to be shipped will start its troubled MOX fuel utilization program which was to begin a decade ago in 1999. Many more shipments are scheduled to follow and could take different routes.

Green Action (Japan) Press Release 24th Feb 2009

IAEA: Syrian uranium-traces manmade.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said traces of uranium taken from the site of an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria were manmade. The report by the IAEA on the Dair Alzour site puts strong pressure on Damascus as it rejects the Syrian explanation for the presence of uranium.

The IAEA-report says that after an initial visit in June 2008, which revealed the presence of processed uranium, inspectors had not been allowed back to Dair Alzour and other sites where debris might have been stored, on the grounds they were "military installations".

IAEA denounces the Syrian government for its lack of cooperation with the agency's inquiry. "Syria has stated that the origin of the uranium particles was the missiles used to destroy the building," the IAEA report says. "The agency's current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles as the isotopic and chemical composition and the morphology of the particles are all inconsistent with what would be expected from the use of uranium-based munitions."

The IAEA says Israel also failed to cooperate, but its findings give weight to the Israeli and US allegation that Dair Alzour was a secret reactor intended for eventual production of weapons. The report explicitly questions Syria's denials.

Circulation of the IAEA-report is restricted; it cannot be released to the public unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise. However, it can be found at:

Guardian, 19 February 2009