The commercial start-up of Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant has suffered a further delay. On 30 January its owner, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), filed an application with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to change its construction plan, pushing the scheduled completion date of the plant back to August 2009.

Meanwhile, the restart could be approaching for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, shut down since the Niigata Chuetsu offshore earthquake hit on 16 July 2007. The safe performance of the plant during and after the earthquake has been confirmed by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, published in January. The report is the third and final in a series issued by an IAEA-led team of international experts, invited to the plant by the Japanese government and plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

The levels of seismic ground motion estimated in the plant design process were significantly exceeded during the 2007 earthquake. However, according to the IAEA, there is now scientific consensus about the causes of the unexpectedly large ground motions. Precautions that need to be taken in case of future seismic events, which could be much stronger than that one, have been identified and a number of plant repairs and upgrades are being implemented.

Now it is up to the local and national authorities, including the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) to give permission for the reactors to restart.

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