Utility unable to unload damaged Hamaoka fuel rod for 17 years

Kyodo

Chubu Electric Power Co. revealed Thursday it has been unable to remove a spent fuel rod that was damaged in an accident 17 years ago from its Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Spent fuel is normally sent to the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, or elsewhere, but the damaged rod remains in a special container inside the fuel pool of the plant’s decommissioned No. 1 reactor, it said.

The utility said it had asked domestic research organizations and foreign nuclear fuel firms to take it but to no avail. It is still pondering how to get rid of the rod in the absence of clear government rules on how to dispose of damaged fuel that requires more delicate handling.

Chubu Electric denied Thursday that it had urged employees and workers at the Hamaoka plant to express support for its “pluthermal” nuclear power generation project in a government-sponsored promotion event in 2007 when it let them know the event would be held in advance.

After Kyushu Electric Power Co. recently became embroiled in a scandal in which it admitted trying to fake public backing in a similar event, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry instructed utilities to check whether they have conducted similar campaigns and submit results of internal probes by Friday.

Chubu Electric asked its employees and workers at its contractors to attend a symposium hosted by the ministry in August 2007 for local people to get a better grasp of the pluthermal project planned for the plant, sources said Thursday.

Of 524 people who attended the event, 357 expressed support for the project, the sources said.

The Nagoya-based utility, which postponed the project after the Fukushima nuclear crisis erupted in March and then shut down the Hamaoka plant at the government’s request, says it will inform METI as soon as it compiles the results of an in-house investigation.