EDITORIAL: Nuclear Fuel Cycle Must Be Used in Way That Ensures Proper Use of Plutonium

Article excerpt

Uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which will be used for the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, is en route from France to Japan by sea. It is expected to arrive in June or later.

This is the first transport of MOX to Japan since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Japan has promoted the nuclear fuel cycle program as part of the nation's energy policy. The system reuses uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel used at nuclear power plants. The core of the system is the use of MOX fuel.

The nuclear fuel cycle allows effective use of uranium resources and reduces radioactive waste. But because plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons, stockpiling unused amounts of the material could trigger unnecessary suspicions both at home and abroad.

KEPCO needs to ensure it uses all the MOX fuel transported.

Japan has entrusted the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to France and Britain because there is no large-scale reprocessing facility at home. The amount of plutonium extracted so far has exceeded 20 tons.

Using plutonium a duty

Neither France nor Britain can keep such spent fuel for a prolonged period. Japan must receive the reprocessed fuel to maintain its international credibility. We consider it the nation's duty to use the plutonium.

After the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration halted most of the nation's nuclear reactors and declared a policy of abandoning nuclear power generation without presenting workable alternatives, causing total confusion. …


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