June 2003

Mutsu OKs plan to store used nuke fuel

The Asahi Shimbun, 12 June 2003

Original address: http://www.asahi.com/english/politics/K2003061200512.html

[Posted 12/06/2003]

MUTSU, Aomori Prefecture - A special committee of the city assembly here has given the go-ahead for the construction of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) storage facility for spent nuclear fuel rods.

The decision paves the way for the mayor to announce the city's acceptance of the plan, probably early next week.

The special investigative committee, in a report released Tuesday, said it was viable for Mutsu to host the nation's first facility for temporarily storing spent fuel rods.

Mayor Masashi Sugiyama could now formally announce the city's acceptance of TEPCO's plan to build the facility at the next city assembly meeting, which is slated for June 17.

The committee's endorsement of the plan is a boon for TEPCO, which hopes to have the facility up and running by 2010.

The facility would be used to store spent fuel rods before they are transferred to a reprocessing facility.

A nuclear fuel reprocessing facility with a capacity to reprocess about 800 tons of spent fuel annually is under construction in Rokkasho, south of Mutsu. The facility is scheduled to begin operations in July 2005.

But according to government and TEPCO officials, between 900 and 1,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods are produced annually.

As a result, an intermediate storage facility would be needed from 2010 to store rods awaiting reprocessing.

TEPCO officials have suggested to Mutsu city officials that the storage facility would have a capacity of between 5,000 and 6,000 tons-the equivalent of 20 years' worth of spent nuclear fuel rods produced by TEPCO and Japan Atomic Power Co.

The facility would be able to store the spent fuel for up to 50 years.

In November 2000, Sugiyama asked TEPCO officials to study the feasibility of building the storage facility in Mutsu.

As a result of a study conducted from 2001 near the harbor of the former nuclear-powered vessel Mutsu, TEPCO released a report in April saying there were no obstacles to bringing the facility to the site.

The Aomori governor must approve the construction plan before work on the facility can begin. The governor's decision is expected to be made after about one year of study.

TEPCO must also conduct its own detailed study and apply with the central government for approval to operate the facility.

Final approval will be given after a secondary inspection is conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

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