• Jiji, Kyodo

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The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan is considering a plan for member power suppliers that have nuclear power plants to jointly use a temporary storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in the city of Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, sources said Thursday.

The Mutsu facility is held by Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co., which is jointly owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. Recyclable-Fuel Storage aims to start facility operations in fiscal 2021, which starts next April.

Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita speaks to reporters Thursday in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture. | KYODO
Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita speaks to reporters Thursday in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture. | KYODO

The federation is in talks with parties including Tepco on allowing power firms other than Tepco and Japan Atomic Power to use the temporary spent fuel storage facility if they pay fees, informed sources said.

The joint use initiative is partly aimed at supporting Kansai Electric Power Co., according to the sources. The Fukui Prefectural Government is urging Kansai Electric, which has nuclear plants in the prefecture, to show by the end of this year a candidate site outside of the prefecture for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Selecting a candidate location early is a key challenge for Kansai Electric, which heavily relies on nuclear power generation, because it is a condition for local authorities to decide whether to approve the restart of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the firm’s Takahama nuclear plant and the No. 3 reactor at its Mihama plant, all of which have seen more than 40 years pass since the launch of their operations.

“There’s been no contact” from the power industry group about the shared use plan for the temporary storage facility, Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita told reporters Thursday. “If they are proceeding with the plan within themselves, that shouldn’t be the case.”

A media report said in 2018 that Tepco was considering a joint use of the facility with Kansai Electric and others. The reported plan went nowhere after the mayor opposed it.

Shared use of the facility requires approval by the Aomori Prefectural Government and the city of Mutsu. But it remains to be seen at the moment if such local permission can be obtained.

As of the end of September this year, the amount of spent fuel from nuclear power stations in Japan stood at about 19,000 tons.

Of the total, about 16,000 tons have been kept at locations including storage pools at nuclear power plants. The amount is about 75% of storage capacity as work to reprocess spent nuclear fuel has stalled, a situation stoking concerns among nuclear plant host municipalities.

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