Hunt for nuclear waste site put on fast track

Kyodo

The government said it plans to start next month discussing ways to accelerate the process of selecting a permanent disposal site for high-level radioactive waste produced by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

The current plan involves placing vitrified high-level radioactive waste in a disposal site more than 300 meters underground, but the government has been unable to find a town, city or prefecture willing to host the site.

“The issue has not made progress over these 10 years. . . .We need to create a framework that will make things move,” industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday to a ministry panel set up to devise the country’s new medium- to long-term energy plan in light of the Fukushima disaster.

About 17,000 tons of spent fuel have accumulated so far and some 2,500 canisters of vitrified waste are stored in and outside the country, the ministry said.

“This is an issue we must not push back to the next generation,” Motegi said.

Progress on the repository issue may contribute to winning public backing to restart of the country’s nuclear reactors, most of which have been idled amid safety concerns.

A ministry panel is expected to be put in charge of reviewing the plan, which envisions a final disposal site being selected by around 2028.

Tepco swaps plutonium

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it has swapped 434 kg of plutonium kept in France for the same amount of plutonium in Britain owned by a German utility, following a proposal by the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and French fuel maker Areva.

The transaction was conducted on paper in March and did not involve the actual transfer of the fissile plutonium. It was the first time a Japanese utility had exchanged plutonium with a foreign utility, Tepco said Tuesday.

The swap was came about because the German company hoped to manufacture uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel using Tepco’s plutonium in France, following the closure of a nuclear fuel factory in Britain.

The plutonium stored in France was originally meant to be used to make MOX fuel for now-defunct reactor 3 at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.