• Kyodo

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The Aomori Prefectural Government on Thursday signed a safety accord on how to handle spent nuclear fuel that will be delivered to a reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in the prefecture.

The accord, concluded by the prefectural government, the municipality of Rokkasho and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which is constructing the fuel facility, represents a major step forward in Japan’s shaky nuclear energy program.

The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Aomori Gov. Morio Kimura, Rokkasho Mayor Hisashi Hashimoto, Tetsuo Takeuchi, president of Japan Nuclear Fuel, and Hiroji Ota, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies and president of Chubu Electric Power Co.

The accord obliges Japan Nuclear Fuel to bear responsibility for the safety of residents near the reprocessing plant by strictly supervising staff and disclosing information on its operations.

In Tokyo, International Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma said the agreement will help Japan forge ahead with its nuclear energy policy.

“We will do our utmost to establish a nuclear fuel cycle in Japan with the public’s understanding and cooperation, and on the condition that its safety can be ensured,” he said in a statement.

Japan Nuclear Fuel is expected to sign similar pacts with six municipalities adjacent to Rokkasho. It is expected to begin accepting spent fuel from power stations across Japan later this year.

Construction of the facility began in April 1993.

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