Yamaguchi Town OK’s Survey for Spent Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nagashima Island, where Chugoku Electric Power Co. plans to build a nuclear power plant, is seen in Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Wednesday.

YAMAGUCHI — The municipal government of Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, agreed Friday to allow Chugoku Electric Power Co. to survey a possible location for constructing a spent nuclear fuel interim storage facility in the town.

“We’ve decided to accept the firm’s proposal,” said Mayor Tetsuo Nishi following an extraordinary session of the town assembly. “The survey and the construction are separate issues.”

The local government reached its conclusion 16 days after Hiroshima-based Chugoku Electric presented its plan.

The assembly session, held in the town hall, started at 9 a.m. while about 100 people, including local residents who opposed the proposal, gathered outside. The session did not include a vote and no questions were taken from assembly members.

“Twelve years have passed since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and the town has deteriorated rapidly,” Nishi said at the start of the session. “I intend to accept the survey offer.”

Thereafter, 10 assembly members, including the speaker, expressed their views on the proposal: Seven members supported the plan, while three opposed it. Following the session, the municipal government notified Chugoku Electric of its decision to accept the survey proposal.

Chugoku Electric had planned to build two nuclear reactors in the town, but development was suspended in the wake of the 2011 accident that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.

In February this year, the town asked Chugoku Electric to consider a new plan geared toward local revitalization. In response, the company submitted its proposal on Aug. 2.

The survey will assess the feasibility of jointly constructing a facility to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel in conjunction with Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power Co.

According to sources, Chugoku Electric and Kansai Electric intend to conduct a borehole survey near the suspended nuclear power plant construction site as early as this year. The survey is expected to take about six months. If the envisaged facility is deemed feasible, Chugoku Electric will present the municipal government with a firm construction plan.

“We have to accept that it might take a long time,” a company source said, adding that it might take several years for construction to be completed and for operations to begin.

If built, the facility would temporarily store spent nuclear fuel in metal containers.

The government provides subsidies to potential host municipalities from the survey stage. Kaminoseki could get up to ¥140 million a year during the survey phase, and, if the prefectural governor approves the construction of the facility, a maximum of about ¥2 billion over a two-year period. Subsidies would also be paid during the construction stage and after the facility begins operating.

If approved, the facility would be the second of its kind in Japan, following a similar complex in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture.