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All nuke facilities concerned

April 16, 2013


Non-commercial nuke plants face order to beef up safety measures



Non-commercial nuclear facilities such as nuclear fuel processing and reprocessing plants will also be mandated to take safety measures against severe accidents like the Fukushima nuclear disaster, an expert panel to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has decided.

At the panel's first meeting on April 15, experts decided to legally obligate a total of nine nuclear facilities -- including Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture -- to abide by new safety measures to come into force in mid-December.

Since the NRA is requesting plant operators to withhold from running nuclear fuel processing and reprocessing facilities until the new regulations are put into effect, the operation of those facilities -- including the Rokkasho plant scheduled to be completed and put into operation in October -- is expected to be further delayed if safety measures against severe accidents and other emergencies are beefed up under the new regulations.

The panel decided that strict standards should be applied to those facilities because nuclear fuels undergo various forms of chemical processing, stating, "Accidents could occur under various scenarios." Just like at commercial nuclear plants, the panel plans to demand plant operators to equip those processing and reprocessing facilities with emergency headquarters such as seismic isolation buildings and mobile power-supply and cooling systems.

The panel is tasked with examining regulation standards to be applied for a total of 51 facilities, including the abovementioned nine facilities and research reactors.

In Japan, there are two nuclear fuel reprocessing plants -- one in Rokkasho and the other in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture -- and seven nuclear fuel processing plants, including Japan Nuclear Fuel's uranium enrichment plant, radioactive waste burial center, and MOX fuel fabrication plant in Rokkasho. The panel will finalize its draft regulation standards for those facilities by sometime around September.

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