Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday granted its first approval to a plan to reuse nuclear fuel from decommissioned reactors.
The decision will allow Kansai Electric Power Co. to load some nuclear fuel assemblies from the Oi power plant’s scrapped No. 1 and No. 2 reactors into its No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, which resumed operation this spring.
A nuclear fuel assembly holds fuel rods, and those at the four reactors in Fukui Prefecture are interchangeable.
Fuel at a nuclear power plant is normally considered spent after three to five years of use. Kepco has stored some fuel assemblies from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors that are partly spent but still usable.
Of the 629 fuel assemblies from the two old reactors that the company has decided to scrap, 264 are still usable. The remaining 365 are expected to be sent to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture.
A total of 216 new nuclear fuel assemblies prepared for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors will also be used in the other two Oi reactors.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority will give its formal approval after hearing opinions from the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and other parties.
In March, Kepco notified the government of its plan to decommission Oi’s aging No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. The reactors, which have a capacity of 1,175 megawatts each, would have been in operation for 40 years by 2019.
Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, most of the country’s nuclear reactors remain offline. Opposition to restarts remains strong despite the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe maintaining its pro-nuclear policy.