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The governmental Nuclear Safety Commission concluded Monday that there are no safety problems at the suspended nuclear spent-fuel reprocessing plant at Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, paving the way for the plant to resume operations.

With the conclusion, the state-run Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, the plant operator, cleared all governmental procedures to resume operation of the plant, which had been suspended in the wake of the March 1997 fire and explosion of its bituminization facility, the nation’s worst nuclear accident.

The focus has now moved to when local governments will give their OK to the JNC, which has expressed its hope to resume operations by the end of the fiscal year. The JNC is expected to ask local governments for approval as early as July.

Following the accident, the JNC scrapped the bituminization facility and conducted comprehensive safety checkups in other reprocessing facilities.

In Monday’s announcement, the commission, which examined a report on the JNC’s checkups submitted to the Science and Technology Agency in February, concluded that the plant meets the latest safety standards and acknowledged that the JNC has appropriately renovated the plant.

It also confirmed an increase in safety awareness among plant workers, based on an inspection tour in March, the commission said.

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