J-Power forges ahead with Oma nuclear plant despite local tensions

Kyodo

Electricity Power Development Co. applied Tuesday for safety checks at the Oma nuclear power plant, a facility under construction in Aomori Prefecture slated for startup in fiscal 2021.

It is the first time a power producer has sought safety checks on a reactor under construction since the Nuclear Regulation Authority was set up in September 2012.

The screening is likely to last a year. Final construction would then take another five years, and a further year would be needed for trials before the plant can fully go live, said the company better known as J-Power.

The plant, located on the northernmost tip of Honshu, would be the world’s first reactor using only plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.

It is expected to play an important role in Japan’s fuel recycling policy, as MOX fuel comprises uranium and plutonium recovered from reprocessed spent uranium fuel.

But concerns persist about nuclear safety following the March 2011 Fukushima No. 1 crisis.

The city of Hakodate is only 30 km away but is in Hokkaido — and therefore in a different administrative region — and has little say in the plant’s construction. It is suing the government and J-Power in an attempt to halt construction.

Work on the facility started in 2008 but was suspended following the Fukushima accident. It resumed in October 2012.