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Nuclear authority approves decommissioning plans for 5 aging reactors

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's nuclear authority approved decommissioning plans for five aging reactors at four power plants on Wednesday, the first such approvals since a government regulation was implemented after the 2011 Fukushima disaster to stop the operation of reactors beyond 40 years.

    The five reactors are the Nos. 1 and 2 units at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture, the No. 1 unit at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture, the No. 1 unit at Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture and the No. 1 unit at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.

    While the utilities indicated it will take about 30 years to complete the decommissioning of each reactor, the disposal sites for the radioactive waste from the facilities have yet to be determined.

    The decommissioning work will involve removing spent fuel from pools, dismantling reactors and demolishing surrounding facilities.

    The regulation brought in following the 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant prohibits nuclear reactors from operating for over 40 years in principle, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority can approve the operation of a unit for up to 20 more years if the operator makes safety upgrades and the unit passes screening.

    It was decided in March 2015 to scrap the five reactors, mainly due to profitability, as huge amounts of additional investment would be needed to meet the new safety requirements to keep the reactors operating beyond 40 years.

    Meanwhile, the authority has given approval for the extended operation of the No. 3 unit at Kansai Electric's Mihama plant as well as the Nos. 1 and 2 units at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, which are also around 40 years old.

    The authority is currently examining Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s decommissioning plan for the No. 1 unit at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, after the utility decided in March 2016 to scrap the reactor.

    In Wednesday's meeting, the authority also decided that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s uranium enrichment facility in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, satisfies regulatory requirements, virtually giving a green light for its operation. The decision will become official after consultation with the industry minister.

    It will become the second fuel plant to clear new regulatory requirements after Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Co.'s plant in Kanagawa Prefecture.

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