The Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) on July 5 finalized the 2017 nuclear white paper, which explains the actual use of nuclear power. Regarding plutonium, which is extracted by reprocessing uranium fuel burned in nuclear power plants, the white paper indicated “Japan’s stockpiles (of some 47 tons) will be reduced over the long term.” JAEC will report the conclusions of the white paper at a cabinet meeting on July 6.
JAEC suspended the issuance of nuclear white papers after the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But the commission resumed the issuance last year for the first time in seven and a half years. In the 2016 white paper, the commission only said “the principle of not possessing excess plutonium without a purpose for its use will be firmly maintained. Due consideration should be given to the balance of collection and use.” But rising international concern about [Japan’s] reduction [of its plutonium stockpile] prompted the commission to use more specific expressions in the latest nuclear white paper.
The latest white paper repeated last year’s assertion that “pluthermal” power generation, which burns “MOX fuel,” a mixture of uranium and plutonium, at conventional nuclear reactors, is “the only realistic method” to reduce plutonium stockpiles. The latest nuclear white paper says that JAEC was told by the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) that it will aim to introduce pluthermal power generation to 16 to 18 nuclear reactors to steadily consume plutonium stockpiled overseas and plutonium processed at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant (Aomori Prefecture). The Rokkasho plant is scheduled to be completed in the first half of fiscal 2021.
JAEC is expected to state in its soon-to-be-announced new policy that it will limit the volume of extracted plutonium to only what is consumed and that it will steadily reduce plutonium stockpiled overseas.
Commission chairman Yoshiaki Oka said, “Japan should understand that it is in the rare position of possessing plutonium despite being a non-nuclear-weapon state and sufficiently explain the situation.”