A portal site connecting Fukushima and the World

» Utilities are reluctant to response the Gov’t call to build dry storage for fuel rods

Power companies have resisted government calls to construct safer storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel and are instead waiting for a fuel reprocessing plant to finally start running after nearly two decades of delays.

The utilities say that building dry storage facilities, which hold spent nuclear fuel encased in metal or concrete casks, could prove a waste of money if the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture begins operations and takes all the spent fuel off their hands.

They also cite concerns in communities that host nuclear reactors that dry storage facilities could lead to permanent storage there.

Under Japan’s basic energy plan approved by the Cabinet in April last year, the central government promotes the construction and use of dry storage facilities.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has repeatedly referred to the importance of such facilities, which are deemed safer and less expensive to operate than the traditional method of keeping spent nuclear fuel submerged in storage pools at nuclear plant.

Spent fuel pools are usually located next to reactors for swift transport because the fuel rods continue to be highly radioactive and emit heat after use.

The risk of using storage pools was exposed when all power sources were lost at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011.

TEPCO, not only had to deal with three reactor meltdowns, but it was also forced to take measures to prevent the release of radiation from spent fuel storage pools at the site.

Under the dry storage method, the encased spent fuel is cooled with circulating air at a facility built separate from the reactor building. Dry storage is mainly used for spent fuel whose radioactive decay heat has already dropped to a certain level.

One big advantage that dry storage has over storage pools is that it can continue to cool spent fuel even after a power failure in the event of a nuclear accident or natural disaster.

In fact, spent fuel in a dry storage facility at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant did not suffer any major damage in the 2011 disaster, according to TEPCO.

The only other nuclear power station currently equipped with a dry storage facility within its plant site is Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

<Media Report>
Utilities balk at safer storage of spent nuclear fuel to avoid ‘wasted investment’ (Asahi Newspaper)

Tags:, , ,



Fukushima Stories&Facts