Highly radioactive waste, dangerous for as long as 200,000 years, has to be isolated and guarded in every country that has dabbled in nuclear energy. Cartoon credit: www.sanonofresafety.org/nuclear-waste/
Japan is a place where not two, not three, but four plates meet with no geographical stability. Volcanoes are erupting all the time, new islands pop up in the sea and there are daily earthquakes. Forty thousand years ago, the coast line was totally different and nuclear waste storage is supposed to be safe there?
The issue of Transparency
there seems to be a lack of information on the Japanese plans to bury their nuclear High Level waste. Very little has been discussed on this latest OECD report from May, However, on the JAIF website it has been given a brief mention in a very recent report from JAIF (10 August, 2016)
“When completing its report, the group also took into consideration an international peer review by the OECD/NEA in May of this year, as well as opinions and comments from relevant academic societies and other bodies.” – http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/report-completed-on-criteria-for-scientifically-promising-hlw-disposal-sites/
The issue of definition
It would appear that the Japanese Government is trying to play down the adverse comments from the OECD/NEA report from May 2016. Awkwardly enough, The NUMO report came out in March 2016 and seemed to rely on earlier findings in an older OECD/NEA report.
Well, moving on, The main issue found was with the definition and clarity of the Japanese experts terminology in making points within the report. This issue was brought up in the earlier OECD/NEA report and the March 2016 NUMO report had it had tackled the problem. This was not true as the May 2016 OECD/NEA report still mentions issues of clarity in definition.
The issue of democracy
Another issue includes allowing the public to have a say (in the NUMO, JAIF and the OECD/NEA reports) whilst at the same time, denying the public choice and instead allowing scientists to make the decisions to choose a suitable site for the geological repository. The option to self determination of local communities is being sidelined because the most of the Prefectures have resoundingly declared that they do not want to have a nuclear waste dump near their homes. But that hasnt stopped NUMO;
“In May 2015 NUMO abandoned the idea of waiting for a volunteer[Prefecture]. Instead, scientists will nominate suitable regions. According to NUMO, Japan wants to start construction of a repository in 2025 and have the facility operational by between 2033 and 2037”. – http://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2016/08/12/japan-plans-to-identify-multiple-candidate-sits-for-repository
The issues of Research and being thorough
Nestled some 500 meters underground are Japans existing deep Underground research Laboratories;
Mizunami Underground Research Laboratory Granite opened in 2004- Run by Jaea JAEA
Horonobe Underground Research Center opened in 2005- Run by JAEA
It might be worth noting that these two deep research labs will be initially used for research and then later will be kept open because they can do things in the underground research laboratories that they will not be able to do in the final disposal facilities. So will there be an ongoing hidden cost (to the tax payer) when the repositories are being priced for costs, perhaps?
Compared to this years measly 50 page report on Geological nuclear waste disposal in Japan written by the OECD/NEA, we can compare it with this years Swedish report (Some 170 pages long) for the same thing;
“In other words, the reactor company itself does not have the long-term capability to fulfil the obligations defined by the Nuclear Activities Act regarding safe decommissioning and dismantling of the facilities and management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste” http://www.karnavfallsradet.se/sites/default/files/sou_2016_16_eng_webb.pdf
It is worth noting, that unlike the lengthy and inclusive Swedish report, that there are many areas that have seemingly not been addressed in the latest OECD/NEA report and we shall have to wait for JAIF to make public the full report in the near or distant future. So far as this article is showing that even the limited remit of the OECD/NEA report is showing signs of cracks appearing in the plan.
The issue of spontaneous volcano creation and Magma intrusion
Image source; http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/en/Activities/earthquake.html
Japan had to act after the Fukushima Prefecture suffered the nuclear catastrophe. The worlds best minds were brought to bare on this disaster and a newly formed Nuclear Regulation Association (NRA) was born. However, the only expert on geology was soon ejected from the committee because of differences in opinion. He was not replaced by another Geologist as it as found that Geologists did not know enough about Nuclear Physics. Then as the worry of Pyroplastic flows blew away and Japan was able to restart a couple of reactors (but both have since been re-shut down ).
Hidden deep in the OECD/NEA report though, is this slightly worrying sentence;
“The Interim Summary acknowledges that the current understanding of magmatic processes indicates that future volcanic hazards to a repository may be present even in areas with no known Quaternary eruptive centres “
Meaning that Magma could move through previously safe areas. Surely, like Japans Tsunamis, however rare, this should be taken into account? As an example we can see the arrogance of Japans Nuclear Regulatory Association (NRA) in relation to volcanic threats as seen here;
“The NRA ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years until the reactors reach the end of their usable life span. The surprise eruption of Mount Ontake on the border of Gifu and Nagano prefectures on Sept. 27 has renewed concerns about the volcanoes in the region. “It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years,” Fujii said. “The level of predictability is extremely limited.” https://nuclear-news.net/2014/10/19/sendai-reactors-vulnerable-to-eruptions-state-picked-volcanologist-warns/
And apart from the nuclear lobby and groups getting the science wrong we see basic data not being added to the report and we can only wait to see if this issue is addressed in any later JAIF reports.
“ It would be informative to provide more explanation of the data uncertainty regarding the geothermal gradients, given that relevant maps appear to be available for Japan, such as the cited Geothermal Gradient and Heat Flow Datareport (AIST, 2004). This would help explain the lack of a prescribed value to assess the thermal “areas to be avoided”.”
The issue of practicality
The definitions are important and will lay down the exact routes that need to be decided. And after Fukushima we would think that the “best” sites would be the safest sites but this is not exactly the case.
“The intent to select a site that meets Japan’s current safety standards, but not necessarily selecting the “most suitable (best) site”, is considered practical and consistent with international best practices and recommendations.”
Cost before Safety perhaps? Or are there any “best” sites in Japan?
The issue of belief in the atom
In the OECD/NEA report it talks of the need for long term protection of the deep vault by generations of specialists that could look after the vault and stop human intrusion and deal with any pollution threats. The best comparison is from Planet of the Apes that showed people worshipping a nuclear bomb many generations after a nuclear war.
It might be worth noting that because of a shortage of nuclear engineers that it would be very difficult to maintain a work force in a fixed location for some 200,00 years. However, the reports generally talk about the vague term “Mid-term” storage (maybe some hundreds/thousands of years?) concerning the expected time needed for manning the location. Without a doubt there are huge fences to hurdle in how Japan deals with its High level nuclear waste and of course the so called “lesser” contaminated waste as well, but, well… thats a whole other story.
Source to NUMO March 2016 report; https://www.numo.or.jp/en/reports/pdf/TR-15-02.pdf
The JAIF report is in the article (2 links)
Posted by Shaun McGee aka Arclight
Posted to www.europeannewsweekly.wordpress.com
h/t Sarsuki Goto