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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Completion of nuclear fuel processing plant postponed for 21st time

The Rokkasho project ( the nuclear waste treatment plant in Japan) postponed for the 21th time!  
Too many risks ... Will Japan finally take the only right decision: to never restart reactors ? 
To give up the Rokkasho could just lead them to that...

October 31, 2014
AOMORI--Complications in safety screening have led to the 21st postponement of work to complete a key nuclear processing facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
The latest delay, announced Oct. 30 by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the operator of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, could affect future operations at nuclear plants across the country.
“This is the only facility (to process spent nuclear fuel in Japan),” Japan Nuclear Fuel President Kenji Kudo said at a news conference here. “We are doing our best.”
Under the government’s plans, the Rokkasho plant will recycle plutonium in spent nuclear fuel generated at nuclear power plants across the nation, helping to reduce the amount of radioactive waste accumulating in storage pools at the plants.
In January, Japan Nuclear Fuel applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a safety inspection--a precondition to proceed with the construction of the facility.
The company expected the safety screening to end around June and planned to complete work on the processing facility by the end of October.
But discussions for the inspections only started in September because of the risk factors unique to the Rokkasho plant, such as complex piping between buildings and the huge amount of high-level liquid radioactive materials stored there.
In addition, the reprocessing plant came under stricter NRA safety standards after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The extra time needed for the safety screening led to the decision by Japan Nuclear Fuel to postpone the completion date to March 2016.
The facility was originally scheduled to be finished in 1997. Just a year ago, Japan Nuclear Fuel announced its 20th postponement.
Under the latest schedule, Japan Nuclear Fuel plans to pass the NRA screening by June next year and complete construction in the following nine months.
But approval from the nuclear industry watchdog is not guaranteed.
“It is not clear at all how things will work out for the processing plant,” an NRA official said.
Currently, all nuclear reactors in Japan are offline, and electric power companies have applied for NRA screenings to restart their reactors.
With the continued delays at the Rokkasho facility, its storage pools have filled to near capacity with spent fuel brought from nuclear power plants throughout Japan.
Even if the electric power companies can restart their nuclear reactors, they could be forced to shut them down if the Rokkasho plant cannot accept additional nuclear fuel and their own storage pools become filled.
Under the planned fuel recycling program, plutonium and uranium in spent fuel will be removed through chemical processing at the Rokkasho plant. Processed high-level radioactive substances will be stored on the site after being encased in glass.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
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