By Rintaro Sakurai and Hiroki Ito
The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) is considering a plan for its members with nuclear plants to jointly store spent nuclear fuel at an interim storage facility in Mutsu City (Aomori Prefecture).
The Recyclable-Fuel Storage Center is slated to start operating next fiscal year under the management of the Recyclable-Fuel Storage Company (RFS), a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) and the Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC). The facility was built to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from the two companies before reprocessing.
According to multiple sources, the FEPC is in talks with member companies to enable the facility to accept the spent fuel from utilities other than TEPCO and the JAPC. The users of the facility will likely pay fees or invest in RFS. Once the plan is finalized, an announcement will be made as early as this month.
The initiative aims to help Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) restart existing reactors. Fukui Prefecture requires KEPCO to secure an interim storage facility for spent fuel outside the prefecture if it is to restart operating older reactors such as Takahama 1 and 2. Access to the Mutsu storage facility will enable KEPCO to clear that hurdle.
All of TEPCO’s and the JAPC’s nuclear plants have been shut down; there is no need for them to remove the spent fuel. The joint-usage arrangement will enable the two companies to secure a source of revenue.
In 2018, a similar plan surfaced involving the joint usage of the facility with KEPCO. It was derailed by an objection from Mutsu City Mayor Soichiro Miyashita. This time the FEPC, instead of TEPCO, is leading the initiative on behalf of the industry to gain the understanding of the local community. It may not be easy, however, because the joint use of the facility may entail revising the previous agreement over its usage.
According to the FEPC, there was a total of approximately 16,000 tons of spent fuel stored at nuclear plants across the country as of the end of September. Most of the spent fuel is stored in spent fuel pools at the nuclear plants. The power companies are already at 75% of the storage capacity because of the delay in the government’s planned “nuclear fuel cycle.”
The Mutsu facility is the first facility built outside a nuclear plant for the exclusive purpose of storing spent fuel. Its current capacity is 3,000 tons. (Abridged)