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17 February, 2021

Site for Spent Fuel Intermediate Storage Facility Outside Fukui Prefecture to Be Determined by End of 2023

On February 12, President Takashi Morimoto of the Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kansai EP) met Governor Tatsuji Sugimoto of Fukui Prefecture at the prefectural office in Fukui City, telling him that Kansai EP would determine a candidate site outside the prefecture for a spent fuel intermediate storage facility by the end of 2023.

Governor Sugimoto

Governor Sugimoto had expressed his intention to make presentation of a site for the planned facility a condition for starting discussions on operation of nuclear power plants (NPPs) beyond 40 years.

President Morimoto emphasized that the power utility would pursue all possibilities, including joint use (as the spent fuel intermediate storage facility) of a recyclable fuel storage center in Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture. He also said that Kansai EP would not operate NPPs for more than 40 years without the determination of an external site.

Kansai EP had told the prefecture that it “would present a candidate site in 2020” for the spent fuel facility, but acknowledged and apologized at the end of last year that it “cannot state a specific place as of this time.” The prefecture had asked the power utility, in coordination with the central government, to identify a site outside of the prefecture, and Hiroshi Kajiyama, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), had urged Kansai EP to strengthen its spent fuel measures.

Given that history and those developments, Director Shin Hosaka of METI’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) attended the meeting, and Minister Kajiyama joined online.

President Morimoto explained that the national government and the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) would start activities to gain local understanding in anticipation of addressing the joint use of an intermediate facility of the Recyclable-Fuel Storage Company (RFS) in Mutsu City. Seeing Kansai EP’s participation in joint use as an option, President Morimoto emphasized the company’s efforts to “pursue all possibilities.”

He then gave the end of 2023 as the deadline for determining a candidate site. If that does not come about, he said, “We will work until we reach a determination, with the unwavering resolve that we will not operate Mihama-3 (PWR, 826MWe) or Takahama-1 or -2 (PWRs, 826MWe each).”

ANRE Director Hosaka stated that his agency would work to alleviate local concerns about the proposed joint use of the facility, and that it would strive, together with Kansai EP, toward a determination in 2023.

Meanwhile, METI Minister Kajiyama stressed that it was essential to operate NPPs beyond 40 years to achieve the national government’s target energy mix. He then stated clearly that METI would provide maximum support for regional growth and development after the end of operations.

The Fukui governor met the press after the meeting. Saying that conditions were “clear” for entering discussions on the next issue, he demonstrated that he wanted to approve discussions at the prefectural assembly and elsewhere on operation beyond 40 years. He said, though, that he had no sense of a schedule for making his decision.

The deadlines for installation of facilities for responding to specific severe accidents (termed “specific safety facilities”) are June for Takahama-1 and -2, and October for Mihama-3. Whether those deadlines are met or not, as well as whether any of the units will be restarted, is yet to be seen.

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