2023 Japan Nuclear Facilities Experience
Dr. Claudio Gariazzo
Principal Nuclear Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Nuclear Engineering, Texas A&M University
Member at Large, INMM Executive Council
From March 13-17, 2023, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives (NSSPI) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) conducted the Tenth Nuclear Facilities Experience (NFE). Generally, the NFE provides graduate-level engineering and policy students from US universities and early career professionals from U.S. national laboratories the opportunity to visit nuclear facilities in foreign countries and learn about applied international safeguards measures and procedures. This year the NFE consisted of five nuclear fuel cycle facilities at three distinct nuclear sites in Japan. The participants included nine graduate students from Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois, the University of Tennessee, and the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, a professor from the University of Illinois, and five professionals from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Facilities included the Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited’s (JNFL) Rokkasho nuclear site (consisting of a reprocessing plant, a uranium enrichment plant, a vitrified waste processing and storage facility, and the J-MOX construction site); the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s (JAEA) Tokai Reprocessing Plant and Plutonium Fuel Production Facility; Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Mihama Nuclear Power Station; the Tokyo Institute of Technology; and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum. At both JNFL and JAEA, the NFE group conversed with facility operators and safeguards managers on material control and accounting measures applied to back-end fuel cycle steps as well as front end facilities (i.e., fuel fabrication of mixed-oxide fuels and uranium enrichment). The tour at KEPCO’s Mihama power plant consisted of operations, safety enhancements, and on-site safeguards measures and reporting activities. Colleagues at the Tokyo Institute of Technology hosted a visit by the NFE group to conduct an academic symposium between six students presenting material management-relevant (i.e., safeguards and modeling) research projects for the benefit of all in attendance. Lastly, the group completed the 2023 Japan NFE by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum and meeting Hibakusha, Ms. Keiko Ogura. This final event truly conveyed the gravity of the chosen career paths of those in attendance and was well-received as an emotionally charged experience bringing all participants together under a common objective that cannot be easily replicated.
【Sydney Dorawa, Nonproliferation Policy Specialist, Sandia National Laboratory】
All of the site visits were interesting and informative. There were lots of opportunities to ask questions and talk with the facility staff. I liked the visit to Mihama NPP the most due to the inclusion of safety and safeguards. The large panel of experts that we spent time within the classroom at Mihama after we toured the site was extremely beneficial to my knowledge about how a facility operates as a whole and how all the pieces of 3S come together at a facility. Hiroshima was also very impactful. Visiting the A-bomb dome, walking through the memorial park, and exploring the museum were poignant to me as someone that works in nonproliferation. I highly recommend visiting Hiroshima in future iterations of this experience. In all, I had a great experience connecting with the other folks on the trip – there was always someone who was willing to come out and explore with me during the week. The networking happened very naturally, and I appreciate that despite only being there a week, we were able to move past work-related topics and get to know each other on a personal level.
【John Leland, Nuclear Engineering Graduate Student, University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign】
The trip was amazing. It was a tremendous opportunity to learn about nuclear safeguards and security. This trip was essentially my introduction to nuclear safeguards as my undergraduate curriculum focused heavily on reactor kinematics, thermodynamics, materials, and neutronics. It was an eye-opening experience, and it has peaked my interest in safeguards and applications of my research in the field. For me the highlight of the trip was the tour of the JAEA and the ending presentation given by Victor Siregar. His talk on how safeguards have changed over his career from human inspection to increased automation and remote monitoring.