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State urged not to make Aomori final n-waste disposal site

  • October 21, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 8:11 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Oct. 21 (Jiji Press)–Aomori Prefecture urged the Japanese government on Wednesday to reconfirm its policy of not building in the northeastern prefecture a facility for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the nation.


The request was made during a meeting of a council for discussions on issues related to the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy between relevant cabinet ministers and officials of the prefecture, where a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility is under construction. It was the first meeting of the council since November 2010.


Although the nuclear fuel cycle policy remains in place, restarting idled nuclear plants in the country and selecting a final disposal site for nuclear fuel are still difficult due to safety concerns, which have grown since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, pundits said.


Aomori Governor Shingo Mimura called on the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office last month, to maintain the promise not to make the prefecture a final disposal site, upheld by past administrations.


“It’s necessary for the state and the operator (of the reprocessing plant) to make the utmost efforts to promote, with support from Aomori, the nuclear fuel cycle policy, including the launch of the plant,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at the start of the meeting.


Mimura told reporters after the meeting that he asked the central government to abide by the promise and promote the nuclear fuel cycle policy, in which uranium and plutonium are extracted from spent nuclear fuel and reprocessed into fuel for use at nuclear plants.


The governor indicated that Kato showed the state’s understanding on his requests.


In July, the central government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that the basic design of the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori village of Rokkasho meets the country’s nuclear safety standards, which were crafted after the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in northeastern Japan.


Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. aims to complete the plant in fiscal 2022. The NRA spent over six years on screening the Rokkasho facility’s design.


Following the NRA’s conclusion, the Aomori side asked the state to hold a meeting of the nuclear fuel cycle policy council.


Aomori has agreed to accept spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants across the country on condition that a final disposal facility is not located in the prefecture.


The central government regards the nuclear fuel cycle as a pillar of its nuclear energy strategy.


Besides the reprocessing plant, a facility to make mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel from extracted uranium and plutonium is also under construction at the same site in Rokkasho.


Only four of the nine domestic nuclear reactors reactivated since the Fukushima accident can carry out so-called pluthermal power generation using MOX fuel, far fewer than 16 to 18 reactors targeted by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, an industry association.


There is no guarantee that demand for MOX fuel will increase, pundits said.


Other major challenges for the nuclear fuel cycle policy include the selection of a site for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste.


Two municipalities in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido this month agreed to accept a first-stage survey related to the disposal facility site selection. But Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki has said he would oppose plans to move to a second-stage survey.


“There are many challenges to overcome,” a senior industry ministry official said.

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