National

Kansai Electric denies it plans to ship nuclear waste from Fukui plants to Aomori site

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Kansai Electric Power Co. has denied reports earlier this week that it was planning to ship nuclear waste from its Fukui Prefecture plants to the town of Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, after the idea was opposed by Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita.

“There is no truth to some media reports that our company has established a policy of sending spent fuel to the Mutsu interim storage facility and temporarily storing it,” Kepco said in a statement released Sunday.

However, the mayor’s opposition is likely to complicate the utility’s efforts to make good on its work to assure Fukui Prefecture that spent nuclear fuel will be stored outside the prefecture for a half century before being transferred to another site, also outside Fukui, for permanent disposal.

In exchange for those promises, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has agreed to the restart of Kepco reactors despite concerns in neighboring Kyoto and Shiga prefectures about their safety and economic viability.

At a hastily arranged news conference Sunday, Miyashita said he confirmed with the central government, the prefecture and with Kepco that earlier media reports claiming that spent nuclear fuel from Kepco’s Oi, Mihama and Takahama plants would likely be sent to Mutsu’s interim storage facility were not true.

“We never envisioned Kepco coming in,” Miyashita told reporters at the news conference, a video of which was uploaded to a website Tuesday.

“Even if they were to say they wanted to store the waste here, it would ignore local sentiment and is not something we would say ‘yes, fine’ to,” he said.

Mutsu, a city of about 59,000 on the northern coast of Aomori Prefecture, agreed to host an intermediate storage facility for nuclear waste in 2005. Construction of the first part of the facility, which can hold up to 3,000 tons of spent fuel, was completed in 2013. It is now aiming to win final approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority to start operations in the latter half of this year.

The Mutsu facility, built at a cost of ¥100 billion, is managed by Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co. On its website, the company responded to reports of Kepco wanting to use the Mutsu facility by saying the main investors are Tepco and Japan Atomic Power Co. and that only their fuel will be taken in.

“Our company will provide interim storage of spent nuclear fuel from those two firms for a maximum of 50 years. We will not accept spent nuclear fuel from other companies,” the statement said.

Last November, Kepco President Shigeki Iwane promised Fukui Prefecture that a detailed plan for storing nuclear waste outside the prefecture would be drawn up this year, even though there are no prospects for a new interim facility to be built anytime soon.