Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission on 14 September called for nuclear power to remain a key component of the energy supply despite broad public support for a less nuclear-reliant society. A commission’s 322-page nuclear white paper, the first since the Fukushima accident, recommended that nuclear power should account for at least 20% of Japan’s energy supply in 2030, based on a previous government energy plan. It said rising utility costs caused by expensive fossil fuel imports and slow reactor restarts had affected the economy.
Japan closed all its reactors after Fukushima and has only restarted five of them. Last year nuclear accounted for less than 2% of Japan’s power.
The report endorsed continuing a nuclear fuel cycle programme based on mixed oxide (mox) fuel, despite a decision last year to scrap the experimental Monju fast reactor, which was central to the fuel programme. Japan’s plutonium stockpile currently stands at 47t, of which 10t is stored in Japan, with rest in the UK and France, following reprocessing of used fuel. Plans to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori prefecture are scheduled for next year.
Without any immediate prospect for operating a plutonium-burning fast reactor, Japan depends on burning mox fuel in its power reactors to reduce the plutonium stockpile, which the report says is “the only realistic method of making use of plutonium”.