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13 May, 2016

Upper House Passes Bill Creating Spent Fuel Reprocessing Contribution System

On May 11, a plenary session of Japan's House of Councillors (Upper House) passed a bill creating a spent fuel reprocessing contribution system, enabling it to become law. The legislation focuses on establishing three things: a contribution system, a duly-authorized juridical entity, and a system of proper governance.

The new law is in anticipation of major changes in the business environment surrounding nuclear power as a result of the full deregulation of Japan’s power retail market. It is also an effort to avoid hampering the development of the reprocessing business owing to difficulties in securing stable funding.

Under the new law, which does away with the previous “deposit system,” nuclear operators are required to contribute all the necessary funds (more specifically, their approximate estimates thereof) for reprocessing and the like to a new juridical entity—called the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization—to be established as a business operator. That will ensure that stable funding is unaffected by such things as an individual operator’s business considerations.

The new organization will engage in such matters as issuing business action plans and receiving funds. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), with its accumulated technology and human resources, will continue to be responsible for work-site operations under a commission for the organization.

Upon the enactment of the law, Chairman Makoto Yagi of the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) released a comment saying that FEPC members, to fulfill their responsibilities as spent fuel generators, would not only contribute the necessary funds but would also fully cooperate as nuclear operators in establishing the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization.

Governor Shingo Mimura of Aomori Prefecture, the host of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, commented that all parties, in establishing and managing the new organization, needed to “fully consider that the nuclear fuel cycle business in Aomori has been carried out based on the understanding and support of its citizens.”

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