Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on 4 April decided to resume assessing the safety of the Rokkasho used fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture. The checks, which are required before for Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) can start operating the plant, were suspended for several months following revelations about the JNFLs lax safety management. The plant was originally scheduled for completion in 1997, but the timeline has been pushed back 24 times for various technical reasons. The facility is designed to handle up to 800 tons of used nuclear fuel a year, extracting about 8 tons of plutonium to re-use in mox fuel.
JNFL applied for the state safety assessment in 2014, hoping to meet the more stringent standards introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster. However, in August 2017, about 800 litres of rainwater was found to have seeped into a building housing key emergency power sources because the ageing equipment had not been checked for about 14 years. The findings drew harsh criticism from NRA and the review process was halted in October. JNFL’s latest timeline had aimed for the plant to be completed in the first half of fiscal 2018, but it said in December that it will have to push back the schedule by three more years.