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Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and Nuclear Complex, Aomori, Japan

After over 20 years of safety concerns, project delays and huge costs, the controversial Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant is still scheduled to go ahead.


Rokkasho is a small village in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan. Historically it has been primarily a fishing town, however today it is more famous for its nuclear complex. This complex includes a uranium enrichment plant which started partial operations in 1992, a MOX (plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel) fabrication facility, a low level nuclear waste storage facility which opened in December 1992, a high level nuclear waste temporary storage facility, and lastly the Rokkasho reprocessing plant which began construction in 1993 and has now been delayed for the 24th time since then [1]. The central government of Japan has provided monetary compensation for the town of Rokkasho, including around 20bn yen in 1995, which was used to build a new gymnasium, museum and a golf course [6]. Apart from the monetary subsidies, the huge nuclear project owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) provided a lot of jobs for Rokkasho residents, thus making the entire village highly dependent on the nuclear complex. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and Nuclear Complex, Aomori, Japan
State or province:Aomori Prefecture
Location of conflict:Rokkasho
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Specific commodities:Uranium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant is owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited. It has an annual capacity of 800 tons of uranium or 8 tons of plutonium. The spent nuclear fuel storage plant capacity is 3000 tons.

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project$25 billion
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:11,000
Start of the conflict:1985
Company names or state enterprises:Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) from Japan - Owner of plant
Relevant government actors:Japanese central government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace,
Stop Rokkasho,
The Ten Thousand Plaintiffs Coalition
Surfrider Foundation Japan,
Consumers Union of Japan,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is still ongoing despite protests.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Karan, P., & Gilbreath, D. (2005). Japan in the 21st Century: Environment, Economy, and Society. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved from

[9] Rokkasho Rhapsody 2006 (Documentary)
[click to view]

[2] 1992, 'Japan activists protest nuclear waste dump'
[click to view]

[3] The LA Times 1998, 'Ship carrying tons of nuclear waste barred from small Japanese port'
[click to view]

[4] The Economist 2012, 'Rokkasho and a hard place- Japan's nuclear future'
[click to view]

[5] The Japan Times 2008, 'Fishery, consumer groups say no to nuclear reprocessing in Rokkasho'
[click to view]

[6] The Independent 1995, 'Japanese nuclear dump poisons village goodwill'
[click to view]

[7] Foreign Policy 2017, 'Tokyo and Washington have another nuclear problem'
[click to view]

[8] Wired 2007, 'Kraftwerk contribute track to Sakamoto's Stop-Rokkasho project'
[click to view]

[10] The Diplomat 2016, 'Why Japan's Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant lives on'
[click to view]

[11] The Japan Times 2017, 'Japan nuclear fuel skipped safety checks at Rokkasho plant for 14 years'
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Mariko Takedomi Karlsson, research intern @ EnvJustice, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3100
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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