Japan bolsters reprocessing work, reports on Fukushima radiation

05 October 2016

Japan has established a new organisation tasked with managing its reprocessing of used fuel, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has announced. In a statement on 3 October, the ministry said the Nuclear Reprocessing Organisation of Japan will be funded by the country's power utilities to cover the cost of the reprocessing work. This is a mandatory requirement that replaces the previous expectation that utilities would voluntarily contribute to the reprocessing program.

Separately, Japan has reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that tests last month on discharges from the sub-drain and groundwater drainage systems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have confirmed that the radiation levels of sampled water were "substantially below" the operational targets set by operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

The Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan is to develop the country's fuel reprocessing strategy, after which Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd will operate the Rokkasho reprocessing facility, which is now scheduled for completion by September 2018. Japan's parliament, the Diet, approved a law ordering government involvement in fuel reprocessing in May. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry authorised creation of the Nuclear Reprocessing Organisation of Japan last month.

Radiation levels well below targets

The country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a copy of the report to all the "international missions" in Japan. These operational targets are well below the density limit specified by Japanese nuclear regulation, the report says, adding that the results of these analyses were also confirmed by Japan Chemical Analysis Centre.

Tepco and Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), at the request of the Japanese government, also "regularly conduct more detailed analyses" on the groundwater. The results of JAEA's latest analyses "confirmed that Tepco's analyses were accurate and verified that the radiation levels of sampled groundwater is substantially below the operational target", according to the report.

"Moreover, Tepco publishes the results of analyses conducted on seawater sampled during the discharge operation at the nearest seawater sampling post from the discharge point. The results show that the radiation levels of seawater remain lower than the density limit specified by the Reactor Regulation and significant change in the radioactivity has not been observed," it said.

Hirotaka Ishihara, state minister of the cabinet office of Japan, told the IAEA's 60th General Conference last week that, in the five-and-a-half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, "steady progress" is being made in the decommissioning process and contaminated water management at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Decontamination and environmental remediation are "moving forward" and the evacuation zones are "growing smaller", Ishihara said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News