Japanese Atomic Reprocessing Plant May Open by October

A Japanese company hopes to gain approval by October to begin using a facility that would make mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear reactors from spent materials.

Japan Nuclear Fuel has applied for a state safety review that could allow the plant, located in the country's northeast region, to convert used uranium and plutonium into fresh fuel for civilian energy production, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.

The assessment could take some time to complete, because of the complexity of the nuclear processing method and possible environmental risks, including geologic concerns posed by a nearby fault line. The Rokkasho MOX facility also would require winning local approval.

Once up and running, the plant could reprocess as much as 800 tons of spent fuel annually, allowing for the extraction of some eight tons of plutonium. Japan is the only non-nuclear-weapons nation around the globe with this type of commercial reprocessing effort, and has justified the activity as a way of reducing excess stored waste.

The company began construction of the plant in 1993 and launched trial operations in 2006. However, the site has yet to become operational because of a string of challenges, including leaks of highly radioactive waste fluid, the wire report noted.

At the same time, it remains unclear at what rate Japan could consume any newly produced MOX fuel, as all of the East Asian country's nuclear power plants remain offline following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Kyodo reported.

January 7, 2014
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A Japanese company hopes to gain approval by October to begin using a facility that would make mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear reactors from spent materials.

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