Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. has announced another delay to the start of its ¥2.4 trillion nuclear fuel reprocessing plant to March 2016, citing the need to meet new safety standards drawn up in the wake of the triple meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture.
After multiple postponements due to construction and equipment failures, the new schedule puts the Rokkasho plant in Aomori Prefecture 19 years behind the original 1997 completion date.
The facility is the hub of Japan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing strategy and was designed to separate as much as 8 tons of plutonium a year for use as reactor fuel.
China has criticized Rokkasho’s construction, saying it raises concerns the plutonium could be diverted for use in atomic weapons. Japan has denied any such intentions.
Japan Nuclear Fuel needs to ensure the plant meets safety guidelines set by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, according to an Oct. 30 company statement.
The regulator was set up after the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.
Rokkasho suffered a power failure following an April aftershock to the March 2011 earthquake that wrecked the Fukushima facility. Emergency diesel generators supplied electricity until main power was restored.
The company said it planned to use the additional time to improve measures to deal with serious accidents and to prevent water leakage within the facility, according to the statement.
It will also need to resubmit its application to the regulator for safety checks, which the plant must pass before it can begin separating plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, the company said.