The U.S. and Japan confirmed Monday that they have held discussions with Mongolia about nuclear waste management, but both denied that they have any plans to send their spent nuclear fuel to the lightly populated Asian nation.
On Monday Japan’s Mainichi newspaper reported that the U.S., Japan and Mongolia were set to sign an agreement over the project in February, but put it off after objections from Japan’s Foreign Ministry. The newspaper said it would be easier for the U.S. and Japan to sell their nuclear-reactor technology overseas if they could offer countries a place to put their nuclear waste.
A Department of Energy spokeswoman said: “The U.S. government is not negotiating a deal to send spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia.” She added, “No discussions or potential fuel leasing services involve U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel.”
Asked whether Japan was talking with Mongolia about nuclear-fuel storage, Japan’s deputy foreign minister, Chiaki Takahashi, said at a news conference Monday that the countries had held an “informal exchange of views” about the subject. He said the talks didn’t reach a conclusion and Japan doesn’t intend to send its spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia.
The U.S. and Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear power in September 2010, when deputy energy secretary Daniel Poneman visited the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. A U.S. official said that accord included “waste management” but didn’t give details.
A U.S. State Department official in charge of nuclear issues, Richard Stratford, said March 29 that the U.S. Department of Energy was talking to Mongolia about storing other countries’ spent fuel, including possibly fuel that originated in the U.S.
In April, the U.S. Embassy in Ulan Bator said Mr. Stratford’s comments “may have been misinterpreted” and it is “not correct” that the U.S. was talking to Mongolia “about the establishment of a storage facility to accept foreign spent nuclear fuel.”
Both the U.S. and Japan are struggling with the long-term handling of nuclear waste. Under a 2002 U.S. law, Nevada’s Yucca Mountain is the designated repository site for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste, including spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants, but construction has stalled amid political and legal fights.
Source: Wall Street Journal