NRA sets new safety regimen for fuel reprocessors

Kyodo

The Nuclear Regulation Authority unveiled new safety standards Wednesday for spent fuel reprocessing facilities and fabrication plants, obliging operators to take measures against severe crises, including hydrogen explosions and criticality incidents.

The standards, to take effect Dec. 18, are basically in line with those imposed on commercial reactors in light of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster.

Facilities the NRA will check before they reopen include a fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which had been expected to play a key role in Japan’s fuel recycling policy.

Operator Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. started a trial operation of the reprocessing plant in March 2006, but a series of problems have prevented its completion.

Japan Nuclear Fuel President Yoshihiko Kawai said Wednesday the company seeks to apply for the NRA safety checks swiftly after they take effect.

“We are thinking about filing an application by the end of the year, or early next year,” he said.

Regardless, the NRA will let the plant keep accepting spent fuel from domestic nuclear plants for up to five years, as doing so is unlikely to impact the site’s risk level.

A high-level radioactive waste storage facility, also in Rokkasho, can also keep taking vitrified waste produced abroad through the reprocessing of Japan’s spent fuel.