FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) -- The transportation of spent nuclear fuel from the site of the Fugen prototype advanced converter reactor in central Japan will be postponed by nine years to fiscal 2026 as a reprocessing facility has yet to be determined, its operator said Monday.
Japan Atomic Energy Agency President Toshio Kodama announced the delay in a meeting with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa. The state-backed agency had initially aimed to complete transportation of the fuel from the reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, by next month.
It was originally planned that the reprocessing facility in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, would receive the fuel, but the agency decided in 2014 to scrap the plant due to the difficulty of satisfying tighter safety regulations adopted following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The agency had been looking to transport the fuel overseas for reprocessing but discussions have not gone smoothly, sources close to the matter said.
The Fugen reactor is currently undergoing decommissioning after being shut down in March 2003 without the prospect of being put to commercial use, as a project to build a next-stage experimental reactor was scrapped due to its high cost. Operation of the reactor started in 1979.
Of the 738 fuel assemblies stored at the reactor site, 272 had been transported to the reprocessing facility in Tokaimura by 2007, but the process to transport the remainder has been suspended since work to boost the quake resistance of the reprocessing facility was launched in 2008.
The agency is set to ask the Nuclear Regulation Authority soon for approval to change in its decommissioning program, reflecting the delay in the time frame for the removal of the spent fuel. The agency will retain its plan to complete the decommissioning of the reactor in fiscal 2033.