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23 September, 2016

METI Approves New Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization

On September 20, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) approved the creation of the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization, the headquarters of which will be in Aomori City several hours north of Tokyo. The organization, classified as a "duly-authorized juridical entity," will aim at reprocessing spent fuel in a steady fashion amidst the changing business environment for nuclear power.

Ever since July, the presidents of the ten electric power utilities in Japan with nuclear facilities, as advocates of the organization’s creation, have been preparing for its formal establishment next month. Shigeru Inoue, chairman of the Tohoku Energy Conference and former vice president of the Tohoku Electric Power Co., has been unofficially selected as chairman of the new organization.

A special committee was established in July 2015 under the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy to discuss how to deal with funding, responsibilities and systems for the business of spent fuel reprocessing, so that it does not stagnate in the evolving environment created by power system reform and the nation’s existing commitment to reduce dependency on nuclear power.

Based on its deliberations, the Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Fund Act was enacted toward providing a fund contribution system, establishing the duly authorized juridical entity, and building a proper system of governance.

In the shift from the existing deposit system to a contribution system, based on the principle of generators’ responsibility, nuclear operators will be required to contribute funds to the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization according to their volumes of generated spent fuel, whereby necessary funds will be secured regardless of their business circumstances.

Under the law, the newly-established organization will prepare a comprehensive plan taking all related business activities into account, also deciding the amount of contributions and collecting them, then carry out the reprocessing.

The actual reprocessing activities, however, will continue to be commissioned to the Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), which has accumulated the necessary technology and human resources, and possesses the facilities and equipment.

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