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Nuclear fuel reprocessing plant hit by 26th postponement

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, by Shuichi Doi, Makoto Takada, Ryo Sasaki, Junichi Miyagawa and Takuro Yamano.) September 29, 2022 ,

ROKKASHO, Aomori Prefecture—Frustration, impatience and costs continue to soar as Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy has again reached an impasse.

The completion date for a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant here, a key component in the cycle policy, was pushed back for the 26th time.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the operator of the facility, notified Aomori Prefecture and Rokkasho village of the latest delay on Sept. 7.

The reprocessing plant was scheduled for completion in the first half of fiscal 2022…………….


Construction of the reprocessing plant started in 1993, followed by a string of problems.

A water leak was reported at a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel in 2001. Rainwater was found leaking into an emergency power source building in 2017.

The NRA decided to suspend screening of the plant in light of these and other safety flaws.

As recently as in July this year, equipment to cool highly radioactive waste fluid stopped working for eight hours.

The construction cost of the reprocessing plant was initially estimated at 760 billion yen ($5.34 billion). The price tag is now 3.1 trillion yen.

The total sum, including the 40-year running costs and the expenses needed to scrap the plant following its closure, is projected to reach 14.4 trillion yen.

Masuda indicated the price may rise further.

“Nuclear power may not be adopted in Japan if electricity production costs keep rising,” Masuda told a news conference.

The operator’s basic safety policy for the reprocessing plant met the NRA’s new standards in July 2020. But the facility’s design, submitted in December that year, is still being studied.

So far, the NRA has said data is missing and the design contains insufficient precautions.

At one time, Japan Nuclear Fuel was supposed to submit a document, but it failed to even prepare it.

At a news conference in January this year, NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa, alluding to the safety problems, raised serious doubts about Japan Nuclear Fuel’s chances of finishing construction by the first half of fiscal 2022.

“It appears overly ambitious,” Fuketa said. “It seems impossible to foretell the schedule under these circumstances.”


Despite all the setbacks, the government continues to pursue the nuclear fuel cycle policy.

Under the plan, spent nuclear fuel would be reprocessed at the Rokkasho plant, and extracted plutonium could be reused for nuclear power generation……………………………

About 3,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from plants around Japan is now stored at the reprocessing plant, nearing its capacity.

Spent fuel kept at Japan’s nuclear plants has reached around 80 percent of capacity as well.

If reactors resume operations while the reprocessing plant is still not functioning, Japan could quickly run out of space to store spent nuclear fuel, and the power plants could be forced to suspend operations.

A final dumpsite for highly radioactive waste generated from reprocessing the spent fuel has also not been determined.


September 27, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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