Spent fuel management strategy, practice and issues15

In accordance with the basic principle in the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy, the ‘Act for Deposit and Administration of Reserve Funds for Reprocessing of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation’ was estab­lished requiring operators to place funds for spent fuel reprocessing in a fund administration corporation. The objective of ‘the Act’ is to ensure the proper implementation of spent fuel reprocessing, disposal of radioactive wastes generated from reprocessing and decommissioning of the reprocess­ing facilities. The reserve fund held by the 10 utility companies at the end of March 2007 was a 1,390 billion yen. As a part of its waste management plans, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) designated the ‘Radioactive Waste Management Funding and Research Center’ as a non­profit ‘fund administration corporation’ (October, 2005) that is supervised by the METI through supervisory orders and on-the-spot inspection.

SF generated in power reactors is sent to reprocessing facilities after a period of on-site cooling and storage. SF has historically been reprocessed overseas in accordance with contracts with British and French companies, with the exception of a portion reprocessed by the Tokai reprocessing plant of the JAEA. However, considering the national need, JNFL con­structed the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, based on operational experience accumulated at the Tokai reprocessing plant and on overseas technologies and experience. The plant underwent active testing using SF in 2008 and started operation in 2008. Storage of SF in the plant storage facility started in 1999, and export of SF to foreign reprocessing plants ended in July 2001.

The Law for Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Mate­rial and Nuclear Reactors (Reactor Regulation Law) was amended in 1999 to incorporate provisions on interim SF storage. Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) jointly established the ‘Recycle Fuel Storage Company’ to prepare for commercial operation of the first interim fuel storage facilities planned for 2010. In March 2007, the company applied for a licence to construct and operate the Recycle Fuel Storage Center at Mutsu city, Aomori Prefecture, and the licence application is now undergoing the safety examination.

SF from research reactor facilities has been, and is to be, returned to the US, UK or France, or is to be reprocessed or stored in Japan.

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