NRA approval for Japan’s enrichment plant

19 May 2017

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved a report confirming that the uranium enrichment plant owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) in Rokkasho is compatible with new regulatory standards introduced following the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Rokkasho, in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan, is the second nuclear fuel facility to be approved since the new standards took effect. The first was a fuel fabrication plant owned by Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Company in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, southeastern Japan. The enrichment plant is the only facility in Japan able to enrich uranium to a degree where it can be used for nuclear fuel.

The plant began operation in 1992. The new regulatory standards came into effect in December 2013 and JNFL filed an application for an examination of the plant in January 2014. The plant was given a licence to continue operation for five years after the new standards came into effect under the terms of an agreement for existing facilities that did not pose a substantial exposure threat to surrounding areas. As a result, a part of the plant has remained in operation. The enrichment plant is part of a larger nuclear fuel cycle R&D facility that includes plants for reprocessing, recycling and the production of mixed-oxide (mox) fuel. The reprocessing plant has been under construction since the late 1980s and according to the Japan Times has had its schedule pushed back 23 times by a number of technical and safety issues. The Japan Times said it is now scheduled to begin operation in 2018.

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