Japanese fuel plant meets revised safety standards

08 March 2017

Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan's (GNF-J's) fuel fabrication plant in Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture meets new regulatory standards, the country's nuclear regulator has concluded. It becomes the first fuel cycle facility to be confirmed to meet the revised safety standards, introduced in December 2013.

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) today approved a draft review report confirming that GNF-J's facility is compatible with the new standards.

Following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, new safety standards for power plants were introduced by the NRA in July 2013.

In December of that year, new standards came into force that apply to the country's fuel fabrication plants and its reprocessing facilities. Used fuel and radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities are also subject to the revised rules, as are research reactors (except the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor) and nuclear fuel research centres.

GNF-J applied to the regulator in April 2014 for an assessment to confirm the Yokosuka plant meets the revised safety standards.

The requirements vary from facility to facility, but generally include reinforcement measures against natural threats such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and in some cases tornadoes, volcanoes and forest fires.

The standards require that fuel fabrication plants are able to contain radioactive material in the event of an accident, and have measures in place to prevent accidental criticality events. Reprocessing plants need to demonstrate these as well as countermeasures specifically for terrorist attacks, hydrogen explosions, fires resulting from solvent leaks and vaporisation of liquid waste.

The NRA has allowed Japan's fuel cycle facilities to continue operating, but have until the end of 2018 to undergo inspections to ensure they meet the revised safety standards.

GNF-J is part of the GE-led Global Nuclear Fuel joint venture with Hitachi and Toshiba, which designs and manufactures fuel for boiling water reactors (BWRs).

According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, "Currently there are no BWRs in operation [in Japan], and only small amounts of fuel are being produced in order to maintain the technology."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News