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27 November, 2015

FEPC Plans to Store 6,000tU of Spent Nuclear Fuel by 2030

On November 20, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) integrated several measures for spent nuclear fuel, to be taken by individual power companies that operate nuclear power plants, into a comprehensive plan to deal with spent nuclear fuel. The plan was presented the same day to the Council on Promotion of Spent Fuel Measures, which is managed jointly by the national government and the nuclear operators.

According to the action plan on measures for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, issued in October 2015 by a Japanese ministerial group addressing final disposal, nuclear operators as a whole are to take steps to store some 6,000tU by the year 2030. The action plan was issued in light of increasing volumes of spent fuel, as more NPPs resume operation and moves toward decommissioning proceed, as well as because of the excessively long time already spent trying to resolve the issue of the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste (HLW).

According to the recently released plan, spent nuclear fuel will in principle be shipped to the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, owned and operated by the Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL). The plant is still undergoing examinations by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to confirm its compatibility with the new regulatory standards. During that period, operators will have implemented systematic storage measures at each nuclear power station. They will also try to expand their storage capacities for spent fuel, either inside or outside their power station premises.

Each operator is currently performing calculations assuming the maximum generation of waste, although there is uncertainty about the state of the NRA’s safety examinations of NPPs. By taking all actions possible —such as re-racking, increasing on-site dry storage installations, and constructing off-site interim storage facilities—they expect to be able to collectively increase the capacity to about 4,000tU in 2020, and by another 2,000tU by 2030, for a total of 6,000tU.

The interim storage facility under construction in Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture, to which spent fuel will be sent by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC), is to be commissioned in FY16 (starting April 2016).

Meanwhile, the Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kansai EP) has announced a plan for a new interim storage facility outside Fukui Prefecture. The power company will carry out activities to enhance understanding and conduct feasibility studies to determine a site in 2020 or so. It aims at starting operation in 2030 or so, with capacity on the order of 2,000tU.

A construction plan for a dry storage installation is also taking shape at the Chubu Electric Power Co., with a view to start operation in 2018. Other power companies are similarly analyzing their futures.

Against the backdrop of the measures taken by individual power companies, FEPC has established a liaison council for spent fuel measures, consisting of the presidents of the ten power companies with NPPs, to address technological issues and reinforce understanding toward the expansion of spent fuel storage capacities.

Although both the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and the MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant of JNFL have experienced delays in their completion, Japan’s plan to use MOX fuel remains unchanged. That plan foresees that the fuel will eventually be loaded into 16 to 18 reactors nationally. The timing, however, will be reconsidered. As announced in 2009, the plan had originally called for implementation by FY2015.

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