Japan’s Quest for Nuclear Energy and the Price it has Paid: Accidents, Consequences, and Lessons Learned for the Global Nuclear Industry


PROLOGUE Power and Disaster

CHAPTER 1  Beginnings: Japan Aims High

1.0  Motivations for Energy Independence

1.1  Laying the Foundations for Nuclear Power in the 1950s and 1960s

            1.2  The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Sets Priorities

            1.3  Creation of the Science and Technology Agency (STA)

                        1.3.1  The STA’s R&D Organizations  The Atomic Fuel Corporation (AFC)  The Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), Undermined by Union Disputes

            1.4  The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC)

1.5  Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC), A Caretaker Agency

1.6  Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA)

1.7  The Fall of the STA and the Rise of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)   

1.8  METI’s Influence Grows along with the Nuclear Power Industry and Utilities

1.9  Japan’s Nuclear Policymaking: Irregularities and Lack of Transparency

1.10 Impact of Bureaucratic Rivalries and Accidents on Safety Oversight

CHAPTER 2  Successes and Failures of Big National Projects

            2.0  Japan’s Big National Projects

            2.1  Uranium Mining, Exploration and Enrichment

                        2.1.1  Ningyo-toge Pilot Enrichment Plant and Prototype Enrichment Plant

            2.2  Advanced Thermal Reactors (ATR) and Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR)

                        2.2.1  Advanced Thermal Reactor Fugen

                        2.2.2 Fast Breeder Reactors

                            Experimental FBR Joyo

                           Prototype FBR Monju

            2.3  Reprocessing

                        2.3.1  Tokai Prototype Reprocessing Plant

CHAPTER 3  Commercialization of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

3.0  Struggling Over Priorities, Technical Challenges, and New Plant Construction

3.1  Commercialization of the Front-End Nuclear Fuel Cycle

3.1.1  Tragedy Strikes the JCO Fuel Preparation Plant

3.1.2  Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Company (MNF) Fuel Fabrication Plant

3.1.3  Nuclear Fuel Industries Fuel Fabrication Plants

3.1.4  Global Nuclear Fuel—Japan (GNF-J) Fuel Fabrication Plant

3.1.5 A merger of NFI, GNF and MNF

3.1.6  Rokkasho Enrichment Plant (REP)

            3.2  Commercialization of the Back-End Nuclear Fuel Cycle

                        3.2.1  The Fight for the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP)

                            Use of Immature Technology Causes Delays at RRP

                        3.2.2 Rokkasho MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant (J-MOX)

CHAPTER 4 The Build-Out of Japan’s Nuclear Power Industry

4.0  The Worldwide Reactor Boom

4.1  Japan Chooses Light Water Reactors (LWRs) for Power Generation 

4.2  Coping with the Global Oil Crisis and Marketing the Expansion of  Nuclear Power

4.3 Effects of the Dengen Sampo on Nuclear Construction

4.4 Problems with Management of the Dengen Sampo

4.5 Effect of Dengen Sampo Subsidies on Local Economies

CHAPTER 5 The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

            5.0  The Scope of the Disaster

            5.1  Consequences and Costs

            5.2  Underlying Causes of the Fukushima Disaster

            5.3  Japan’s Response to Fukushima

            5.4  Confronting the Larger Problem: A History of Accidents

            5.5  Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

                        5.5.1  The Breadth of Japan’s Seismic Geology

                        5.5.2  Vulnerability of Japan’s Nuclear Plants to Earthquakes

                        5.5.3  Increased Scrutiny of Power Plant Seismic Hardening

            5.6  More Reasons Why Japan Has So Many Nuclear Accidents           

5.7  What Happened to TEPCO

CHAPTER 6  Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal

            6.0  False Starts

            6.1  Near-Term Waste Management

            6.2  Nuclear Waste Classification and Disposal System

            6.3  Government Efforts to Establish Deep Underground Disposal Repository

            6.4  Private Sector Interest in Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal Facilities

                        6.4.1  Recyclable Fuel Storage Company (RFS)

                        6.4.2  Rokkasho Radioactive Waste Storage Facility

                        6.4.3  Rokkasho Low-Level Waste (LLW) Disposal Center

                        6.4.4  Rokkasho High-Level Waste (HLW) Storage—Vitrified Waste Storage Center (VWSC)

CHAPTER 7  Decommissioning Nuclear Facilities

            7.0  Magnitude of the Challenge

            7.1  Japan’s Experience in Decommissioning Reactors

            7.2  Keeping Pace with the Growing Volume of Radioactive Waste

            7.3  Challenges in Decommissioning Magnox Reactors

            7.4  Challenges in Decommissioning Fukushima Reactors

            7.5  Increasing Cost of Decommissioning and the Quest for Funds

CHAPTER 8  Status and Health of Japan’s Nuclear Industry

            8.0  A False Dawn

            8.1  Status of Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet

            8.2  The Nuclear Industry’s Declining Business Base

            8.3  Data Falsification and Flagging Public Support for Nuclear Power

8.4  Recruiting New Employees from a Shrinking Talent Pool

CHAPTER 9  Creating a Viable Zero-Accident Nuclear Reactor Culture

            9.0  Upgrade or Build Anew?

            9.1  Cost and Frequency of Accidents

            9.2  Total Costs

            9.3  Impediments to an Effective Safety Culture

9.4 The Rickover Approach to Safety

9.5 Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policy and Attempts at Reform

            9.6  Adherence to Principles of Program Management

            9.7  Rebuilding the Talent Pool and Changing the Culture

            9.8  Rebuilding the Public’s Confidence in Nuclear Power

            9.9  Creating a Practical Incentive System for Safety

            9.10 A Code of Ethics to Promote a Zero-Accident Culture

            9.11 Prospects for Success

APPENDIX A:  Cancelled Nuclear Power Reactors

APPENDIX B:  Impact of Accident Costs on Cost of Power (in MWh)

APPENDIX C:  Abbreviations and Acronyms

APPENDIX D:  2018 Code of Ethics from the Japan Atomic Energy Society

APPENDIX E:  Japan’s  Nuclear Energy Policy (excerpts)



Table 1.1 The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (1967-1998): Organizations and Responsibilities

Table 1.2 PNC, JAERI, JNC and JAEA Accidents and Consequences

Table 2.1 Changes in AEC’s Long-Term Plan for Nuclear Development and Commercialization of the FBR 

Table 2.2 The Life Story of Monju

Table 2.3 World Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) Status

Table 2.4 Cost of Japanese Fast Breeder Reactor Projects

Table 2.5 Major Specifications of Fast Breeder Reactors Joyo and Monju

Table 3.1 Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL): Businesses, Facility Construction, and Costs (As of October 2014)

Table 3.2 Japanese Companies Involved in the Front-End Nuclear Fuel Cycle* (As of December 1998)

Table 3.3 JCO’s Business Data

Table 3.4 JCO Accident: Status of Damage Compensation and Settlement (as of 13 May 2010)

Table 3.5 Industries that Suffered JCO Radiation Damage and Received Compensation (at the end of October 2000)

Table 3.6 Installation and Operational Status of Centrifuges at the Rokkasho Uranium Enrichment 

Table 3.7 World Enrichment Capacity – Operational and Planned (thousand SWU/yr)

Table 3.8 Cost of Direct Disposal and Reprocessing and MOX Fuel Fabrication in Selected Studies

Table 3.9 Spent Fuel Management Programs of Selected Countries

Table 3.10 MOX Shipments to Japan

Table 3.11 Commercial MOX Fuel Fabrication Facilities in Japan and Abroad

Table 4.1 Summary of the Mihama Nuclear Plant

Table 4.2 Summary of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

Table 4.3 Two Japanese Nuclear Industry Groups

Table 4.4 Three Major Energy Special Accounts Supported by the Oil and Coal Tax and the Power Source Development Acceleration Tax (PSDAT)

Table 4.5 Changes in Tax Rate in the Power Source Development Acceleration Tax

Table 4.6 Tax Rate Hikes on Crude Oil ∙ Petroleum Products, LNG∙LPG and Coal

Table 4.7 FY 2016 Year-End Settlement of the Energy Supply Demand Account (ESDA) under the Energy Measure Special Account (EMSA)

Table 4.8 Dengen Sampo Subsidies for Mihama and the Mihama Public Work Projects 

Table 5.1 Chronology of Damage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3

Table 5.2 METI’s Revised Fukushima Accident Cost Estimates

Table 5.3 Cost of Safeguards That Could Have Alleviated the Fukushima Disaster

Table 5.4 The Nuclear Accidents at Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini

Table 5.5: Global Nuclear Power Plant Serious Accidents (Author’s rating for Japan) 

Table 5.6 Recent Earthquakes on or near the Islands of Japan Greater than Magnitude 7

Table 6.1 Japan Power Company Effort to Increase Storage Capacity for Spent Nuclear Fuel

Table 6.2 Classification of Radioactive Waste

Table 6.3 Japan’s Current Spent Nuclear Waste Disposal Management

Table 7.1 Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning Program: Reactors, Years of Operation, Costs of Decommissioning

Table 7.2 Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Reactors (NPRs) and Expected Shutdowns Worldwide

Table 7.3 Estimated Weight and Volume of Waste from Decommissioning Japan’s Nuclear Reactors

Table 7.4 Nuclear Reactors Eligible for METI’s New Plan and Amount of Reimbursement 

Table 8.1 Status of Japan’s Nuclear Reactors Applying for Adjudication

Table 8.2 Nuclear Reactors under Construction or in Preparation for Construction, as of 24 May 2018

Table 8.3 Evaluation of the Results of METI’s Comprehensive Safety Investigation

Table 8.4 Status of Research Reactors at Research and Educational Institutions

Table 9.1 Estimated Range in Ten-Year Costs of Future Nuclear Reactor Fleet

Table 9.2 Range in Ten Year Costs for Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet, Including Accidents

Table 9.3 Exemplar Set-aside Requirements Based Upon Assessed Safety Level

Table 9.4 Responses of Nuclear Industry Regarding Accidents and Data Falsification

Appendix A Table Cancelled Nuclear Power Reactors

Appendix B Table Calculation of Risk Premium


Figure I  Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Explained

Figure 1.1 The Change in the Budget and Number of Employees at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency

Figure 1.2  Japan’s Electric Power Company Expenditures

Figure 1.3 Japan’s Nuclear Industry

Figure 1.4  Safety Oversight: Changes Pre- and Post-Arisawa Committee

Figure 1.5 Safety Oversight: Post-Criticality Accident

Figure 2.1 Annual World Uranium Production and Requirements, 1949-2015

Figure 2.2 Stages of FBR Joyo Development 

Figure 2.3 Schematic of Monju Sodium Leak

Figure 2.4 Schematic of Damaged Thermocouple Probe That Led to Sodium Leak

Figure 2.5 Schematic of Uncontrolled Drop of In-Vessel Transfer Machine (IVTM)

Figure 2.6 Changes in Monju’s Budget, 1980-2017

Figure 2.7 Concept for Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (JSFR) from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Figure 3.1 Chronology of Declining JCO Corporate Performance in Run-up Criticality Accident

Figure 3.2 Crew Work Situation at the JCO Fuel Fabrication Plant

Figure 3.3 Microscopic Photo of Mr. Ouchi’s Chromosomes

Figure 3.4 Rokkasho Enrichment Plant Shipments of Enriched Uranium

Figure 3.5 Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) Facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture

Figure 3.6 Reprocessing Steps and Country Technologies at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant

Figure 3.7 Glass Melting Furnace

Figure 3.8 History of Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) Construction and Expected Date for Start of Operation

Figure 3.9 Trends in Japan’s Spent Fuel Received for Reprocessing

Figure 3.10 Status of Japan’s Plutonium Stockpile, as of end 2016

Figure 3.11 Locations of Plutonium Stockpiles in Japan, as of end 2016

Figure 3.12 Amount of Plutonium Held by Various Countries

Figure 4.1 FY 2016 Subsidy Structure for a Typical 1350 MW Nuclear Reactor Plant

Figure 4.2 Timeline of the 2016 Subsidy Structure for a Typical Nuclear Power Plant

Figure 4.3 Revenues from the Oil and Coal Tax and the Power Source Development Acceleration Tax, FY 2001-2019   

Figure 4.4 Nuclear Reactors in Japan: Number of Construction Starts, 1966-2011

Figure 4.5 Nuclear Reactors in Japan: Number that Started Operations, 1966-2011

Figure 4.6 Cumulative Numbers of Nuclear Reactors in Japan, 1966-2011

Figure 4.7 Dramatic Changes in Nuclear Power Generation, 1973-2013 

Figure 4.8 Number of Nuclear Power Reactors in Japan, Constructed or Cancelled

Figure 4.9 Trends in the Power Source Development Acceleration Account: Actual Expenditures and Unspent Funds, 1974-2016  

Figure 4.10 Dengen Sampo Subsidies provided to the Town of Mihama, 2001-2009

Figure 4.11 Nuclear Plant Property Tax, Municipal Tax, and Ratio of Nuclear Property Tax to Total Tax, 2001-2009

Figure 4.12 Economic Snapshot of the Town of Mihama

Figure 4.13 Trends in Financial Strength Index of the Town of Mihama, 2001-2009

Figure 5.1 Schematic of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

Figure 5.2 Fukushima Daiichi Damaged Reactors and Core Meltdowns at Units 1, 2 and 3

Figure 5.3 Meter-wide Hole in Grate Below Pressure Vessel in Reactor 2, Possibly Caused by Melted Nuclear Fuel (As of 6 February 2017)

Figure 5.4 Image Inside Primary Containment Vessel of Unit 2, Showing Fuel Assembly Lifting Handle and Tie Plate (as of 18 January 2018)

Figure 5.5 Areas Contaminated with Cesium-137 in Fukushima

Figure 5.6 Nuclear Damage Compensation Support Account

Figure 5.7 NDF Financial Reports on Damage Compensation Payments

Figure 5.8 Long-Term Japanese Debts, Ratio to GDP and International Comparison

Figure 5.9 Comparison of National Debt in Terms of Ratio to GDP 

Figure 5.10 Schematic of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Construction Site

Figure 5.11 Regulatory Changes for Nuclear Power Plants in Japan

Figure 5.12 Post-Fukushima Oversight: Overlapping Responsibilities of Bureaucracy

Figure 5.13  Trends in Nuclear Accidents and Accidents per Reactor, Fiscal Year 1966-2015

Figure 5.14 Japan Sits Atop Four Plates of the Earth’s Crust

Figure 5.15 Seismic Risk to Japan’s Nuclear Power Reactor Fleet

Figure 5.16 Epicenters of Swarm Earthquakes that Occurred Near the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, August 29, 2015 to September 1, 2015

Figure 5.17 Locations of Nuclear Power Plants and Major Fault Lines in Western Japan

Figure 5.18 Kashiwazaki Kariwa Plant and its Newly Discovered Fault Lines

Figure 5.19 Status of Government Bond Sales for TEPCO, November 2011 to December 2014 

Figure 5.20 Scheme of the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) and the Flow of Funds, as of October 2016

Figure 6.1 Spent Nuclear Waste Stored at Power Plants in Japan: Cumulative Volume, Maximum Storage Capacity and Capacity Utilization Rate (As of September 2016)

Figure 6.2 Radioactive Waste Disposal Methods in Japan

Figure 6.3 Map of Scientific Characteristics of Regions in terms of Suitability for Nuclear Waste Disposal

Figure 6.4 Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s Process for Establishment of Final Nuclear Waste Disposal Facility

Figure 6.5 Overview of the Recyclable-Fuel Storage Facility

Figure 6.6 Return of Processed High-Level Wastes from the UK and France 

Figure 7.1 The First Decommissioning Case: Waste from the 90 MWt BWR Japan Power Demonstrator Reactor

Figure 7.2 Facilities and Management for Water Management at Fukushima Daiichi

Figure 7.3 Three Scenerios where Nuclear Power Companies Might Encounter Difficulty

Figure 8.1 Age Profile and Adjudication Status of Japan’s Power Reactors, as of 24 May 2018

Figure 8.2 Status of Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Power Company Expenditures and Total Sales and Standing Orders of Other Nuclear Businesses

Figure 8.3 Status of the Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Trends in Number of Employees 

Figure 8.4 Status of Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Private Sector Capital and R&D Investment

Figure 8.5 Status of Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Government Nuclear R&D Budget, 2002-2017

Figure 8.6 Status of Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Company Views of Business Outlook

Figure 8.7 Status of the Japan’s Nuclear Industry: Industry’s Expectations of Government

Figure 8.8 JAERO’s Public Opinion Survey on Nuclear Power

Figure 8.9 Company Perspectives on Recruitment Shortfalls, FY2017 

Figure 8.10 JAIF Seminars: Number of Student Attendees and Prospective Employers

Figure 8.11 Trends in University Level Students Majoring in Nuclear-Related Studies 

Figure 8.12 Declining Number of University Professors Teaching Nuclear Science and Engineering

Figure 8.13 Educational Use of Experimental Reactors and Critical Assemblies