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Japan doles out over ¥16 billion in subsidies for slow-moving MOX projects

JIJI

The government has used taxpayer money to provide over ¥16.2 billion in subsidies to local governments for promoting so-called pluthermal power generation using mixed oxide fuel (MOX), a survey has shown.

The subsidies, financed with revenue from a tax for power-resources development imposed on electricity users, have been distributed to local governments that accepted pluthermal power generation at facilities in their regions.

The Jiji Press survey released Saturday illustrates that a large amount of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the pluthermal project in order to win support from local governments.

The project, a key part of the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy, uses MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.

So far, just four reactors in Japan have used MOX fuel, including reactor 2 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The reactor, set to be decommissioned, experienced a core meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan hopes to eventually raise the nation’s total number of reactors carrying out pluthermal generation to somewhere between 16 and 18.

However, pluthermal projects have failed to progress as expected, prompting critics to urge the central government to conduct an immediate review of its policy.

The other three reactors that have run on MOX fuel are the No. 3 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture, the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. The Takahama plant reactor is set to be rebooted later this month using MOX fuel.

The survey found that seven of the nine prefectural governments and all of the 10 other municipalities entitled to the subsidies — one to promote the fuel-cycle policy and the other to support host municipalities — have actually received the payments.

The exceptions, Hokkaido and Shizuoka prefecture, have refrained from applying for the subsidies. While the Fukushima disaster has spurred safety concerns among citizens, a series of scandals — including attempts to influence public opinion — in favor of pluthermal projects — have eroded trust in the plan, sources said.

In Hokkaido, the No. 3 reactor at Hokkaido Electric Co.’s Tomari plant has been designated for pluthermal power generation. In Shizuoka Prefecture, the No. 4 reactor at Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant has also been tapped for the pluthermal project.

Of the four prefectures where pluthermal generation has been carried out, Saga received ¥6.097 billion in state subsidies and Ehime was given a total of ¥6.059 billion by the end of fiscal 2014.

Fukui, meanwhile, has received ¥2.486 billion as of the end of 2013 and is expected to get more subsidies through fiscal 2015.

  • Tom Clements

    Just like at the US DOE’s Savannah River Site, the plutonium fuel (MOX) program in Japan is simply a way to pick the pocket of tax payers and utility customers. The US MOX plant construction project, being mismanaged by CB&I AREVA MOX Services, started at around $1 billion and is now $8-12 billion. As far as AREVA is concerned, mission accomplished! Meanwhile, we’re on stand-by for the shipment of 331 kg of plutonium stored at the Fast Critical Assembly at Toaki to be dumped at SRS with no viable disposition plan as the MOX boondoggle is in total shambles. — Tom Clements, Savannah River Site watch, Columbia, South Carolina USA