Taro Kono in Nagoya City on January 28, 2011.

February 22, 2023
It will be one year on the 24th since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During this period, attacks on nuclear power plants shocked the world. When considering preparedness in Japan, the handling of spent nuclear fuel becomes important. Once it finishes its role in the reactor, it is mainly stored in storage pools, but that group and those politicians see the vulnerability of the pools as a problem. If they are left as they are now, they will become a “weak spot” in the event of an attack on a nuclear power plant, which could result in extensive damage. The Kishida administration should not focus its efforts only on nuclear power plant operation. (Naoaki Nishida and Yuichiro Yamada)

◆Russia targeted nuclear power plants immediately after the invasion.
On the 18th, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, expressed the following opinion: “The Russian media is advocating an attack on Ukraine’s nuclear facilities in order to cut off the power supply to the plants.
 The next day, the 19th. The following day, on the 19th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement regarding the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian troops and turned into a military base. It accused Russia of refusing to replace the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts stationed there to ensure safety.
 Attacks on the plant were feared early on. As early as last January, Sergiy Korsunsky, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, expressed concern. The bad predictions were right on target, and nuclear power plants were targeted immediately after the Russian invasion.
 The attack continued, and a bomb landed near a spent nuclear fuel storage facility. The Russians claimed that they had been attacked from the Ukrainian side and that the greatest risk from the attack was not the reactor but the spent fuel storage facility.
 Spent nuclear fuel, which can cause extensive damage, is made from uranium. It is used in nuclear reactors for four to five years and then removed.
 According to Chihiro Uesawa of the Nuclear Data and Information Center, the amount of heat generated and radiation levels remain high even under these conditions. In Japan, the heat value is mainly stored in a storage pool inside the reactor building, and water is circulated to lower the heat value and other parameters.
 Storage pools are not the only storage method. There is also a type of cask called a “dry cask,” which is cooled for five to six years in a pool and then placed in a metal container and cooled by air circulation. The sturdier casks are several steps ahead of the dry casks in terms of safety, but due to cost considerations, the use of dry casks is still on the road to widespread use. Compared to Europe, dry casks have lagged behind.

“Vulnerable to external attacks,” points out…
After the invasion of Ukraine, Yuki Kobayashi, a researcher at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, has been raising the issue of the vulnerability of storage pools.
 On the foundation’s website, he wrote, “The reactors are made of steel and are protected by a containment vessel, which has a certain degree of robustness against external attacks,” but he also pointed out that the spent fuel storage “often does not have a multiple protection system,” “is vulnerable to external attacks,” and “if the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., because the water runs out), it will be exposed to high concentrations of radiation over a wide area. If the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., when the water runs out), high concentrations of radiation will be emitted over a wide area.
 When the hydrogen explosion occurred in the Unit 4 reactor of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the possibility of an anomaly occurring in the spent nuclear fuel storage pool was discussed. When interviewed, Kobayashi said, “Even after the Fukushima accident, Japan had not decided what measures to take. It can be said that we were somewhat naive in our understanding of the situation.
 The late Ryoichi Sasakawa was honorary chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University, is a trustee of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, another organization that is a descendant of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. In a lecture after the Fukushima nuclear accident, he expressed his optimism, saying, “The effects of radiation will not come as long as you are smiling and laughing.
 The Sasakawa Peace Foundation also warned of the vulnerability of the storage pools. Uesawa, mentioned above, also spoke of the vulnerability of the storage pool, saying, “If the storage pool and other facilities are destroyed in an emergency, the buildings will be inaccessible. This would cause an irreversible situation.

◆Taro Kono, who was a member of the opposition party, also called it “a potential weak point.
In the past, some have pointed out the fragility of the storage pools for spent nuclear fuel.
 The vulnerability of the spent fuel pools became clear after 3.11.” “How will the security system be changed?”
 The speaker was Taro Kono, the current digital minister. He is the current digital minister. In November 2011, a little more than six months after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, he asked these questions at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Monitoring the Settlement of Accounts. This was when he was a member of the opposition party. In September 2012, he wrote on his blog, “Nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools are potential weak points that could be targeted by terrorists or missiles.
 Does he think the same way now as he did then? We asked him through his office, but had not received an answer by the evening of September 21.
 So how is the Kishida administration handling the situation?
 At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting last October, Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Constitutional Democratic Party, asked, “Spent nuclear fuel in the pool is a real nuisance,” and “What would happen if a missile hit us? He asked that the spent fuel be removed from the storage pool and transferred to a dry cask in a metal container to increase protection.
 In response, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said, “The Nuclear Regulation Authority is in charge of this issue centrally” and “METI would like to refrain from doing so.

◆The Nuclear Regulation Authority “is virtually unable to do so.
In March of last year, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Toyoshi Sarada, then chairman of the Regulatory Commission, said at a press conference that “we have no plan to discuss a facility that is robust against armed attack, and it is virtually impossible. He then went on to say that, in general terms, “dry casks are more defensible than spent fuel pools. Shinsuke Yamanaka, the current chairman of the committee, echoes this view.
 A spokesperson for the Regulatory Commission said, “There is no change in our view that the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law does not assume an armed attack. There is no indication that the Regulatory Commission has given a new directive to switch to dry casks as a counterterrorism measure,” he clarified.
 Masashi Goto, a former nuclear power plant design engineer, said, “The power companies are planning to move to casks, but the fuel must be cooled in a pool after use before being moved. This takes a considerable amount of time,” he said, pointing out that as long as nuclear power plants continue to operate, storage in storage pools is an unavoidable problem.
 He resents the Kishida administration’s bluntness, saying, “There are major risks, such as accidents and terrorism. Despite the existence of major risks, such as accidents and terrorism, the government has deemed the probability of their occurrence to be low and has failed to take effective countermeasures.

◆The nuclear fuel cycle is failing, but the government is moving forward with its utilization.
 The amount of spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous. The amount of spent fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous, amounting to about 20,000 tons, most of which is kept in storage pools. The government has been pushing for the reuse of this fuel under the banner of the “nuclear fuel cycle,” but the completion of a reprocessing plant under construction in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, has been postponed for some time. Even if the government wants to reduce the amount of nuclear fuel used for reuse, it has been unable to do so because the key facilities are not functioning.
 The Kishida administration, however, is pushing forward with the use of nuclear power plants. It has taken the lead in allowing the operation of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years and in permitting the rebuilding of next-generation nuclear power plants. The amount of spent fuel stored in vulnerable pools will continue to increase, which will require more time and effort to protect.
 The government is treating the spent fuel cycle as if it were still running, and is avoiding confronting the problem,” said Teru Honma, a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. The government is treating it as if it is going around and avoiding facing the problem,” said Terumitsu Honma, Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Damage Compensation System at Aoyama Gakuin University.
 The nuclear accident at Fukushima and the invasion of Ukraine have exposed the huge risks involved in operating nuclear power plants,” he continued. We have not taken responsibility for the unmanageable risks and costs. If we are going to make a decision to operate nuclear power plants, at the very least, we should take steps to address counterterrorism and safety measures that are a prerequisite.

◆Desk Memo
 It is easy to imagine the fear of nuclear power plants becoming targets of spent fuel storage pools. It is also easy to imagine the damage to civilians that would result in the event of an attack. Despite this, discussions on preparedness have stalled. In contrast, the Self-Defense Forces are even discussing the possibility of moving their headquarters underground as a protective measure. Abandoning someone and protecting someone else. Is this the kind of country we are supposed to love? (Sakaki)