Spent Fuel in Number 1 Reactor Thought Not As Badly Damaged As Reactor Core

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AREVA of France offered to dispose of spent fuel from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the nuclear disaster, but Japan has yet to reply to the proposal, Naoto Kan told The Asahi Shimbun on Sept. 5 in his first interview since stepping down as prime minister.

Kan said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon made the offer when they met at the Group of Eight summit in Deauville, France, in late May.

“France said it would be willing to carry back the spent nuclear fuel,” Kan said. “While it may have been a sort of business opportunity, I naturally passed on the suggestion to bureaucrats at the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (METI),” Kan said.

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According to initial investigations by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, the spent nuclear fuel in the storage pools of the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors was not as badly damaged as fuel within the reactor cores. There were 3,108 nuclear fuel rods in the pools, of which 2,724 were spent.

 

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Japan no longer uses French facilities to reprocess spent fuel and has its own reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, that is scheduled for completion in 2012. The Rokkasho facility would extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

METI officials fear that giving France the Fukushima work could be taken as a sign that it has given up on its own recycling plan. No response was given to Paris about Fillon’s proposal, and the matter is still being considered by a government panel on energy and the environment.

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