Utilities may consider mutual plutonium usage

NHK has learned that Japanese electric power companies are considering mutual usage of plutonium they each hold outside Japan as part of efforts to reduce its amount.

The utilities are promoting a power generation method in which spent nuclear fuel from power plants is reprocessed to extract plutonium and made into special fuel for reuse at nuclear power plants.

But as the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant in the country is still incomplete, the utilities have separately outsourced the reprocessing to France and Britain, with a total of about 36 tons of plutonium stored in those countries.

The utilities intend to use their own plutonium at their plants. But usage has dwindled as only a few atomic power plants have gone back on line in the aftermath of the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Sources point out that Shikoku Electric Power Company and Kyushu Electric Power Company have only small amounts of plutonium in France. They say the utilities may consider using the material other utilities hold in France and let other utilities use what they have now in Britain.

The sources note that Japanese utilities are also considering setting up funds to promote the use of plutonium.

Japan has made a global pledge not to have plutonium without specific purposes, because the material can be used for nuclear weapons. Some observers say detailed measures to reduce plutonium held by Japanese utilities are necessary.

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