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Japan approves 70-year plan to scrap nuclear reprocessing plant

A nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and other facilities are seen in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in this Dec. 11, 2011 file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's nuclear watchdog on Wednesday approved a plan to scrap a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant northeast of Tokyo over a 70-year period with the cost projected at 1 trillion yen ($9 billion).

The facility in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture went into operation in 1977. It was Japan's first spent-fuel reprocessing plant built under the nation's nuclear fuel cycle policy, which aims to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel in order to reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel in the resource-scarce country.

But the policy has run into a dead end as the completion of a separate fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture, built on the technological expertise of the Tokaimura plant, has been delayed by more than 20 years.

The decommissioning cost will be shouldered by taxpayers as the Japan Atomic Energy Agency operating the Tokaimura plant, is backed by the state. Where to store the waste accumulated at the plant is undecided.

In 2014, the agency decided to decommission the plant due to its aging and the huge cost to run it under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

According to the plan approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, around 310 canisters of highly radioactive vitrified waste and some 360 cubic meters of radioactive waste are currently stored at the facility.

About 770 billion yen is estimated for the disposal of such waste and decommissioning of the facility and roughly 217 billion yen for the 10-year preparation work.

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