FUKUI - The transfer of spent nuclear fuel from the Fugen converter reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, will be postponed for nine years until a new reprocessing facility can be chosen, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.
JAEA President Toshio Kodama announced the delay until fiscal 2026 in a meeting with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa. The state-backed agency initially wanted to ship the fuel out by March.
The fuel was originally supposed to be taken to a reprocessing facility in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, but the JAEA decided in 2014 to scrap the plant because meeting the tighter safety regulations adopted after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011 was too difficult.
The agency thought about having the spent fuel reprocessed overseas, but the discussions haven’t gone smoothly, sources close to the matter said.
The Fugen is a prototype reactor that is in the midst of being decommissioned. It was shut down in March 2003 without the prospect of entering commercial use after a project for a next-stage experimental reactor was scrapped due to its high cost. It went online in 1979.
Of the 738 fuel assemblies at the site in Tsuruga, 272 were taken to the reprocessing facility in Tokai by 2007. The rest were stranded because the facility decided to upgrade its earthquake resistance in 2008.
The JAEA is set to ask the Nuclear Regulation Authority for permission to alter its decommissioning program soon to reflect the delay in removing the spent fuel.
Its fiscal 2033 deadline for decommissioning the reactor, however, will be retained.