Aomori nuclear fuel plant needs another ¥200 billion for safety measures

JIJI

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. plans to spend around ¥200 billion for additional safety measures at a plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, sources said Tuesday.

The measures are designed to meet the new safety standards for nuclear fuel facilities that will come into force Dec. 18.

The additional costs are expected to be borne by JNFL shareholders, including power utilities operating nuclear power plants, and could help push up electricity rates.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. , which has the largest stake — 28.6 percent — in JNFL, is expected to incur more than ¥60 billion of the bill.

JNFL plans to apply for a safety inspection, a prerequisite for starting operations at the plant, with the Nuclear Regulation Authority as soon as the new standards take effect.

The measures will safeguard the plant against severe accidents, such as natural disasters. JNFL hopes to start operations in autumn 2014 at the earliest.

The reprocessing plant, which is a key part of the country’s nuclear fuel cycle program, removes plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. It was initially scheduled to start operations in December 1997, but a string of problems has forced the company to postpone operations as many as 20 times.

Construction costs totaling ¥2.2 trillion have been included in costs to calculate electricity rates at power utilities operating nuclear power plants.

The planned additional spending will raise total construction costs by around 10 percent.