More delays for Japan’s Ohma NPP

6 September 2018

Construction of Japan’s Ohma NPP in Aomori Prefecture, world's first commercial reactor to operate solely on plutonium-uranium mixed oxide mox fuel, is to be postponed for a third time to accommodate prolonged safety checks, Electric Power Development Co (J-Power) said on 4 September. The company had been planning to begin construction of major facilities at the plant later this year, but told a local assembly it has now decided to delay it by about two years to start operation in fiscal 2026, The Mainichi reported.

Construction of the reactor began in 2008 after state approval, but was frozen following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011. J-Power initially sought to start the operation of the 1,380MWe plant in fiscal 2021 but put it back by one year in 2015 and postponed it again to fiscal 2024 in 2016. The latest postponement could negatively impact Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy as the reactor was intended to play a key role in fuel recycling. Japan is also facing international pressure to reduce its stockpile of plutonium.

Industry minister Hiroshige Seko told a press conference: "We would like Electric Power Development to make safety a top priority and respond appropriately to the Nuclear Regulation Authority's (NRA’s) screening.” About 40% of the construction has been completed, mostly on office buildings and road repairs. J-Power applied for safety checks in December 2014, but NRA inspections have centered on tsunami and earthquake risks and not on facilities. J-Power said it hopes to start construction of the reactor and other facilities in the latter half of 2020 and complete it by the second half of 2025. Although the plant has the support of Oma Mayor Mitsuharu Kanazawa, it has also faced lawsuits by residents seeking suspension of the construction.

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