Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mainichi: Japan Made Secret Promise with the US to Restart Pluthermal Nuclear Program in September Last Year

It was when Yoshihiko Noda was still the prime minister in the DPJ administration. Just like the current prime minister, Mr. Noda did his utmost best to please the US president (Mr. Obama) and the US power that be, whom Noda thought Mr. Obama represented. Mr. Noda, however, was taken more seriously in the US and elsewhere than the current office holder who is deemed a threat to the US interests in Asia.

Mainichi Shinbun claims it obtained the official documents (which they never disclose to the readers) detailing the promise that Mr. Noda's envoy, Hiroshi Ogushi, made to Mr. Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Energy.

"Pluthermal" is a Japanese English made from "plutonium" and "thermal-neutron reactor", and it means nuclear power generation using MOX fuel in light-water reactors.

From Mainichi English (6/25/2013):

Japan made secret promise with U.S. to restart pluthermal nuclear program

A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial "pluthermal" program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi.

The secret promise was made by Hiroshi Ogushi, then parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, during Ogushi's visit to the United States on behalf of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September last year.

The revelation comes as Japan's pluthermal project remains suspended in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to safety concerns. The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy.

According to the official documents obtained by the Mainichi, upon being pressed to reduce the amount of plutonium in Japan that could be diverted to military use, Ogushi told Poneman that Japan would burn plutonium in plutonium-thermal (pluthermal) reactors. The then ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was in the final stages of formulating its nuclear energy policy at the time.

Under the pluthermal plan, spent nuclear fuel generated in light-water reactors is reprocessed to extract plutonium, which is then mixed with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power generation. However, many experts have raised questions about the program, citing its high costs and the risks posed by the fuel's comparatively low melting point and the decreased effectiveness of control rods. The plan to burn plutonium in conventional reactors was introduced in 2009 because there were no prospects for putting the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor into practical use.

The documents that the Mainichi obtained are a compilation of cables recording the Ogushi-Poneman talks in the U.S. on Sept. 12 last year. During the meeting, Ogushi explained that Japan would inject all available policy resources to break away from nuclear power generation in the 2030s, that it would steadfastly promote the nuclear fuel cycle program in the medium and long term, and that Japan would end research on the Monju reactor after confirming its achievements. The explanation was in accordance with the government's Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, which was finalized on Sept. 14.

The promotion of a nuclear fuel cycle implies extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. But Japan's "zero nuclear power" policy and the suspension of the Monju reactor could leave the nation without a facility to burn plutonium. Poneman expressed concern that this would create a situation in which plutonium could be diverted to military use. In response, Ogushi promised the continuation of the pluthermal program to burn plutonium in light-water reactors.

During an interview with the Mainichi, Ogushi declined to reveal the details of the meeting, saying, "I can't disclose whom I met from a diplomatic standpoint." He added that he didn't remember the pluthermal issue.

The Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment states that "nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed will be utilized," but contains no reference to pluthermal plans.

Yukio Edano, a House of Representatives legislator who was serving as economy, trade and industry minister at the time, defended Ogushi, saying Japan had made no distinction between pluthermal and conventional reactors that were to be operated. "There were no such micro-level talks in the Energy and Environment Council. I would have given the same answer (if I had visited the U.S.)," he said.

The current administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also upholds a policy to resume the pluthermal program, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi that were produced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on March 1 and submitted to minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The documents clearly state that the government will "promote the use of MOX fuel in light-water reactors (pluthermal) after reprocessing (nuclear fuel) at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant." Based on the content of the documents, Motegi stated at a lower house Committee on Economy, Trade and Industry session on March 22, "We will steadily promote the pluthermal plans."

Despite the country not knowing which nuclear reactors will be authorized to resume operations following the July implementation of the new regulatory standards, the government has been pushing ahead with its plans to restart the controversial pluthermal program.

"It is abnormal for sure," said one official with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. "But it can't be helped if the Rokkasho plant is to be put into operation."

Japan that cannot say no and doesn't know when and how to stop.

As usual some on Twitter in Japan are angrily saying "See, we are made to do this by the evil capitalist empire of the United States! We are slaves! We are a colony of the US!" or something to that extent. I guess 54 reactors dotting the coastlines of Japan were so forced by the US on Japan who just couldn't say no out of fear of angering the US.

MOX fuel from France has just arrived at KEPCO's Takahama Nuclear Power Plant. KEPCO is set to submit the application for restart of the plant, and use MOX fuel in Reactors 3 and 4.

(H/T @enformable for the article link)


flyingcuttlefish said...

can you please have a look at this and translate it? It is on fake Fukushima photos

Anonymous said...

Japan has what is called a "surge capacity". It is capable of becoming a nuclear-armed country in the space of about six months. It is normal for the US to seek guarantees that this is not happening, in view of the recent tensions with China. So?

Anonymous said...

Time to wake up. No nuclear food, farms, families, forests, fish and fallout on future generations!

Anonymous said...

@anon 2:17
Strange point, your one. If the purpose of the "secret promise" is to make sure Japan will not have plutonium for making atomic bombs, then why buy MOX from French?
And again, if you (i.e. you, USA) fear that Japan can start building its own atomic bombs the why letting them use NPPs?

Anonymous said...

The Rokkasho facility is not in service yet. It was built with technology transferred from Areva.
MOX doesn't seem to be a sane technical choice, as it is substantially increasing risks.
NPP in the US don't use MOX, please do, Japan !
In diplomatic / strategic matters, nuclear power countries are about the same level as nuclear armed countries, but that leads only to the well-named Mutual Assured Destruction force of moderation.

Prometheus Japan trapped with it's finger dipped in the honey-pot, wouldn't that look childish ?

Anonymous said...

This MOX idea is total nonsense and Noda striking funny agreements with the US is old news (although the MOX bit itself is new).

MOX fuel uses plutonium alongside with uranium.
After you have exhausted MOX fuel you end up with a little *more* plutonium than you started with (the additional bit coming from the fresh uranium). Furthermore, MOX is more expensive than conventional nuclear fuel. The *only* reason to use MOX is to have an excuse to keep a plutonium stockpile.

Fast breeder reactors like Monju are a technology that works even worse than traditional npps: US abandoned it long long time ago and France (Superphenix) somewhat later, after struggling for many years to make it work. Japan is the only country that is still banging its head against this wall, just to have an excuse to stockpile plutonium (NHK).

As per international agreements each country is *required* to take back the plutonium it gets reprocessed in UK and France. It is a Japan obligation to take back its s..t, it is not that France is providing it to Japan.

The US are specialized into playing with fire: does anyone recall the US supported Saddam Hussein for so many years? and this is just an example. So why complain that, after helping Japan to stockpile plutonium, oh, it might be against our national interests?

Finally, does anyone recall that Noda signed an agreement with the US that would prevent Japanese utilities from suing US nuclear manufacturers? and the agreement has been signed *after* Fukushima? I am sorry but if this does not show that Japan is a US colony (and happy to be so) I do not what does.


Musa Kocaman said...

Türkiye'nin ve dünyanın her yerine tatil planınızı yapabilirsiniz.

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