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8 March, 2017

Fuel Fabrication Plant Clears Safety Examination, the First Under New Regulatory Standards

On March 8, the Nuclear Regulation Authority NRA) approved a draft review report confirming that a fuel fabrication plant owned by the Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Co. (GNF-J) in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, is compatible with the new regulatory standards. This means that the plant has essentially cleared the examination – the first nuclear fuel production facility to do so since the new standards took effect.

The company, which produces nuclear fuel for boiling water reactors (BWRs), is under the umbrella of a joint venture among the General Electric Company (GE) of the United States, Hitachi, Ltd. and Toshiba Corporation. In April 2014, it applied for an examination under the new regulatory standards.

At the plant, uranium dioxide powder is sintered into pellets, which are fabricated into fuel assemblies. Currently there are no BWRs in operation, and only small amounts of fuel are produced in order to maintain the technology.

The new regulatory standards for nuclear fuel production facilities came into effect in December 2013, requiring measures against severe accidents, including criticality and hydrogen explosions, as well as measures against terrorism. Given that the risk of serious accidents is lower than at nuclear power plants, the NRA is allowing operation of such fuel facilities without examinations until December 2018.

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