June 12, 2012  Nautilus Institute

“Prof. von Hippel concluded by making four suggestions:

1) Japan should end its breeder reactor programme. Uranium only accounts for 3% of the cost of nuclear power. Most of the cost is due to the capital cost of the reactors. There is an argument that one should not bury plutonium, but Professor von Hippel argues that a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study has concluded that doses to workers today would be increased by plutonium recycle while doses to people in the future would not be large if spent fuel were buried carefully.

2) Reprocessing should end. It is costly and proliferation is a danger. Building, operating and decommissioning Rokkasho would increase Japan’s electric energy costs by 10 trillion yen. Stopping operations at Rokkasho would save 4 trillion yen. There would have been a 1 yen per kilowatt hour saving had Rokkasho not been built. Japan only reprocesses because it has a lack of storage for spent fuel.

3) Spent fuel should be stored in dry casks. These were not damaged at Fukushima. Fuel pools are dangerously densely packed and may lose water. Prof. von Hippel recommended storing the fuel in water for the first 5 years and then moving it to dry casks afterwards. If the fuel is put into dry casks then there will be no need for Rokkasho.

4) The Rokkasho MOX fuel plant should also be closed. It is cheaper to dispose of plutonium directly. In place of Rokkasho, the government should launch an R&D programme on plutonium waste disposal. If it does so, then the UK and US may well collaborate with Japan as they each have problems with their plutonium disposal programs. For example, in the US it will cost about 13 billion dollars to produce MOX fuel with excess weapons plutonium which is only worth about 1 billion dollars.”

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