FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Dr. Edwin Lyman
September 28, 2000 tel. 1-202-822-8444, firstname.lastname@example.org
ON FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF TOKAI NUCLEAR ACCIDENT,
NCI CALLS FOR HALT TO ROKKASHO PLUTONIUM PLANT
Washington, D.C. --- The Nuclear Control Institute issued the following statement on the first anniversary of the September 30, 1999 Tokaimura accident:
In the past year, the nuclear establishment in Japan has learned little from the Tokaimura criticality accident, an accident caused by the manufacture of fuel for Joyo, a fast breeder reactor integral to Japans plutonium program. In the aftermath of the accident, the Japanese government has made only cosmetic changes in its nuclear regulatory system. Disregarding the accidents direct connection to the misguided plutonium program, Japan continues its unabated pursuit of use of weapons-usable plutonium as a fuel.
The Tokaimura accident was caused both by a desperate effort to cut costs at the JCO fuel fabrication plant and also by a conflict of interest arising from the dual mission of the Science and Technology Agency (STA) as a promoter and regulator of nuclear power. STA has ignored repeated lessons, affirmed once again at Tokaimura, that accidents associated with the plutonium program are inevitable. In spite of those lessons, Japan clings to a policy dedicated to the construction of a plutonium reprocessing plant, a 2.1 trillion Yen ($20 billion) waste of money, at Rokkashomura.
If completed, Rokkasho will add another 5 tonnes per year to the already massive foreign and domestic stockpile of 33 tonnes of Japanese plutonium. The use of plutonium fuel (plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, or MOX) has been delayed due to safety concerns, yet backers of MOX use push on. Operation of Rokkasho will guarantee an imbalance in the supply and demand of plutonium, raising concern in the United States and among Japans neighbors. As the Japanese plutonium stockpile grows larger and more menacing, concerns over Japanese nuclear weapons ambitions could destablize the region.
Use of plutonium will greatly increase costs for Japanese utilities, putting further pressure on an industry which is already facing growing cost constraints. The cost-cutting measures which will inevitably follow will only increase the risk of a severe nuclear accident. According to a recent report by Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Nuclear Control Institute, use of MOX fuel in Japanese reactors will result in a doubling of the number of cancer deaths and acute fatalities in the event of a severe reactor accident, dwarfing the number of casualties at Tokaimura.
Thus, on the sad anniversary of the Tokaimura accident, the Nuclear Control Institute calls on the Japanese government to halt its plutonium program. Failure to do so will result in a heavy financial cost, proliferation of weapons-usable plutonium in the region and a growing risk of more severe nuclear accidents.
For a copy of NCIs October 1999 report entitled The Impact of the Use of Mixed-Oxide Fuel on the Potential for Severe Nuclear Plant Accidents in Japan, go to the NCI web site at http://www.nci.org/japanmox.htm. For the October 1, 1999 NCI statement on Tokai accident, go to http://www.nci.org/pr10199.htm.