Spent-nuclear fuel issues plague restarts


Spent fuel at the Hamaoka nuclear power station in Shizuoka Prefecture could exceed the capacity of storage pools some two years after the plant is restarted — much sooner than the previously assumed eight years, according to sources.

The faster pace is because the storage pools for reactors 1 and 2 at the Chubu Electric Power Co. plant will be removed from the complex’s total storage capacity following the decommissioning of the two units.

Previously, Chubu Electric planned to continue using the two reactors’ storage pools. The operations of the two reactors ended in 2009.

Last month, four power suppliers, including Kansai Electric Power Co., decommissioned a combined five aging reactors, significantly reducing storage pool capacity.

As of the end of March, the Hamaoka plant’s storage capacity fell by 440 tons in the past six months to 1,300 tons, reflecting the exclusion of the reactor 1 and 2 pools, according to Chubu Electric’s semiannual report to the Federation of Electric Power Companies. Meanwhile, the amount of spent fuel stored at the plant stood at 1,130 tons.

If the remaining three reactors at the plant are brought back online, the amount of spent fuel would exceed the storage capacity in 2.3 years, compared with the eight years estimated before the company’s decision not to use the reactor 1 and 2 pools.

Of all 15 domestic nuclear plants that operators are seeking to restart, storage space capacity appears to be lowest at the Hamaoka plant.

Only four of the plants have more than 10 years before they run short of capacity, including Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari plant, which has the longest time, at 16.5 years. The three others are Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Higashidori plant, with 15.1 years, Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika plant, with 14.4 years, and Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant, with 10.7 years.

All nuclear reactors in Japan are now offline.

Some nuclear plant operators are working to increase their spent-fuel storage capacities while pinning hopes on fuel recycling at Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s facilities in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

Chubu Electric has applied to build a dry-cooling storage facility at the Hamaoka plant to boost its total capacity to store spent fuel. It hopes to put the facility into operation in fiscal 2018 if the plan is approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

A Chubu Electric official said storage capacity prospects remain unclear at the plant because it is uncertain if any reactors will be allowed to restart.

  • jimhopf

    Another attempt to invent an “issue” for nuclear restarts, as though waste issues are relevant to the restart decision. This issue can easily be addressed, at little cost, with well-developed mature technology, i.e., dry cask storage. It is simply not a problem.

    You know what’s a real “issue”. The indefensible decision to use fossil fuels instead of nuclear over the last several years, which has greatly increased both power costs and CO2 emissions, and is likely to have caused the deaths of thousands of Japanese (from air pollution). That is, an environmental, health and economic impact that likely exceeded those from the Fukushima accident itself. There is universal scientific consensus that the public health risks and environmental impacts of nuclear power (including accident risks) are orders of magnitude smaller than those associated with fossil fuels.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The fabled Rokkasho solution has proven to be a super expensive failure, and hence the spent fuel cannot be reprocessed, cannot be stored safely (or anywhere in Japan because of NIMBY), can only be “temporarily” stored in the facilities themselves, waiting to have potential natural disasters release them.

    Japan needs a better thought through solution.