The plant, in the village of Rokkasho in the northern prefecture of Aomori, is a key facility in the country’s plans to close the nuclear fuel cycle by extracting uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. It will produce MOX fuel from powders of uranium and plutonium extracted at a spent fuel reprocessing facility being built at the same site.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said earlier this month that the facility had officially passed screenings for the start of operations. The NRA formalised a report stating that the plant, owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, meets new safety standards that Japan introduced after the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station.
JNFL had aimed to complete construction of the Rokkasho facility in the first half of fiscal 2022. But press reports in Japan said the company notified Aomori Prefecture on Wednesday the schedule has been extended to the first half of fiscal 2024.
Company president Masuda Naohiro was quoted as saying that that more time is needed for additional fireproofing measures.
This is the seventh postponement of the facility’s projected completion date, NHK World Japan reported.
The MOX plant is part of a larger nuclear fuel cycle R&D facility that includes a plant for reprocessing. The reprocessing plant is also not operational. Construction began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. However, its construction and commissioning have faced several delays.