Panel backs nuclear fuel reprocessing after talks with industry officials

May 24, 2012

A Japan Atomic Energy Commission panel revised its draft policy evaluations to favor nuclear fuel recycling after closed-door consultations with pro-nuclear officials from the industry, sources said.

The panel, which was discussing the future of the nuclear fuel recycling policy following the Fukushima nuclear accident, held the “study meeting” on April 24.

The 30 or so participants at the meeting all support the government’s nuclear fuel recycling policy, including a senior official of the Federation of Electric Power Companies, according to the sources.

A senior official of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which operates a spent fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, called for plant operations to continue, the sources said.

The secretariat of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, which comes under the government’s Cabinet Office, presented draft evaluations for three policy options: reprocessing all spent fuel; burying all spent fuel; and a combination of the two options.

The initial draft document explicitly said the burial method is “advantageous in terms of overall costs.”

But the revised document, presented at a subcommittee meeting on May 8, said the burial method is “likely advantageous” economically.

The weakened expression keeps open the other two options that would allow for the continuation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Tatsujiro Suzuki, chairman of the subcommittee, who attended the study meeting, denied on May 24 that the document was revised in support of Japan Nuclear Fuel.

“(The meeting) was designed to check facts (with companies), not to reflect their opinions,” said Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. “We would never intentionally draw a conclusion only by hearing the opinions of some companies.”

However, he acknowledged: “There are no borders between (checking facts and hearing opinions). If we are criticized as having been lax, there are some points we have to reflect on.”

According to the secretariat of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, “study meetings” have been held more than 20 times since October to receive data from companies and check facts. All of the sessions were held behind closed doors.

Suzuki said the document on policy options presented at the subcommittee meeting on May 8 was revised several times after the April 24 study meeting.

“(Some revisions) may have incorporated the opinions (of companies), but all subcommittee members checked the content,” he said.

Suzuki added that some revisions were based on the opinions of subcommittee members critical of the nuclear fuel recycling policy.

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission compiled final evaluations on the policy options on May 16. It will soon report its conclusion to the government’s Energy and Environment Council, which is expected to decide on one policy.

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Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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