Our Business

Reprocessing

Once such fuels as petroleum and natural gas are burned, it can no longer be used. In contrast, uranium fuel continues burning for three to four years and can be used repeatedly through reprocessing. In the light-water reactors used in many nuclear power plants, energy is primarily obtained from U-235, whereas, when U-238 absorbs neutrons, part of it changes into plutonium.

The plutonium and residual unburned U-235 is extracted by reprocessing for reuse as raw materials for uranium fuel or Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.

This reprocessing is done at the reprocessing plant. Thus, the reprocessing plant may be considered to be "a site where semi-national energy resources are generated". Using reprocessed uranium and plutonium in a light-water reactor allows for 10% to 20% uranium-resource-saving effects. Moreover, in the future, if plutonium were to be used in the Fast-Breeder Reactor that excels in conversion efficiency, utilization efficiency can be expected to improve significantly.

The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant is the first commercial reprocessing plant in Japan. The Plutonium Uranium Reduction Extraction (PUREX) process introduced to this plant has proved high performance in Japan and abroad.

To reduce the proliferation risk, the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant adopted the Plutonium-Uranium Co-extraction Technology that combines recovered uranium with separated plutonium before denitration. Through this process, plutonium is recovered as uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) at the end of the process, so that the plutonium is never recovered on its own.

The maximum capacity of the plant is 800 ton-U/year, enough to reprocess spent fuel produced from about 40 reactors at 1,000 MW class nuclear power plants.


Reprocessing flow

Progress of the Reprocessing Plant up until now

We started constructing the Reprocessing Plant in 1993. After undergoing the water flow operational test, the chemical test and uranium test, currently the plant is in the final stage of the active test. In spite of facing various difficulties until now, we have brought together knowledge and technology and have gotten over several difficult situations. Leveraging our past experiences, we will devote ourselves entirely towards the completion of the Reprocessing Plant, which is pivotal to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.

  • First half of FY 2018
    Scheduled completion
  • 2016
  • June 2015
    JNFL facility visit by Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan
  • 2015
  • January 2014
    Application for conformance with the New Regulatory Requirements

    The application for approval of change in safety regulations for nuclear facilities and the application for license to modify the reprocessing activities were filed, in preparation for the examination for verifying conformance with the New Regulatory Requirements.

  • 2014
  • December 2013
    Enforcement of the New Regulatory Requirements for the nuclear fuel facilities
  • October 2013
    Completion of the vitrification technology development facility "Rokkasho Vitrification Laboratory (RVL)"

    The credibility of vitrification technology will be further improved by carrying out research and development such as various tests in the new glass melter, by testing the remote operation and by conducting technical proficiency training for the operators.

  • June 2013
    Consent and signing of "The Joint Communique regarding the Future Nuclear Fuel Cycle" with AREVA

    It was agreed upon that it would be beneficial to cooperate with each other in order to ensure safe and early recycling of spent fuel, and to ensure a long-term and sustained contribution to the nuclear power industry of Japan.

  • May 2013
    Completion of the A series of vitrification tests

    By completing this test, all tests that needed to be confirmed for the purpose of the pre-service inspection have been completed.

  • January 2013
    Completion of the B series of vitrification tests

    Operational performance was verified at the maximum discharging capacity designed, and a given number of batches can be operated while the glass temperature, gas phase temperature, and the temperature of the furnace bottom is within the target range.

  • 2013
  • August 2012
    Completion of the pre-confirmation test of the glass melter
  • January 2012
    Drop in speed of discharge flow of glass When simulated glass beads were fed in the glass melter (System B) in the vitrification facility, and the glass was allowed to discharge, there was decrease in the flowing property.
    February 2012
    Recovery work

    Implementation of measures such as controlling the occurrence and deposition of foreign material at the discharge nozzle.

    May 2012
    Cause and measures
    July 2012
    Completion of pre-confirmation test

    After the measures were implemented, it was confirmed that the flowing properties had recovered. Hence the process moved on to pre-confirmation tests.

  • 2012
  • December 2011
    Commencement of operation of the New Emergency Response Facility.
  • March 2011
    Tohoku Pacific Ocean Earthquake

    Since external power supply was lost, events such as having to use the emergency generator etc. occurred. The areas outside the power station were not affected and there was no leakage of radioactive substances from JNFL.

    • Situation at that time
    • Results of monitoring samples from the environment after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • January 2009
    Dripping of high level liquid waste at the vitrification cell in the vitrification facility.

    Dripping of radioactive liquid waste from the flange part closing the high level liquid waste supply pipe was detected.

    February 2009
    Dripping occurred again

    When the monitoring was stepped up by means of ITV camera, once again dripping of high level liquid waste occurred.

    October 2009
    Pool of water in the tray

    It was confirmed that there was a pool of water in the tray (leakage had recurred) set up under the flange closing the pipes transporting high level liquid waste.

    February 2010
    Final report
  • 2009
  • December 2008
    Bend in the stirring rod inside the glass melter

    The movement of the stirring rod had become slow. When the inside of the melter was checked with a camera it was found that the stirring rod was bent.

    December 2008
    Progress report
    December 2008
    Some of the glass melter ceiling bricks were damaged

    When the inside of the melter was checked with a camera, it was confirmed that some of the glass melter ceiling bricks had been damaged.

    February 2010
    Progress report
    June 2010
    Retrieving of fallen bricks

    The fallen bricks were successfully retrieved

    July 2010
    Final report

    When the causes and the measures taken were summarized and investigated, it was confirmed that there was no problem in terms of safety of operation in the future.

  • July 2008
    Discontinuation of the glass melter operational performance verification test

    The operational performance verification test of the glass melter had been started. However, as sufficient discharge flow of glass could not be confirmed, the operation was stopped.


    October 2008
    Final report
  • 2008
  • November 2006
    Start of production of uranium and plutonium mixed oxide product
  • March 2006
    Safety agreement pertaining to the active test of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant was concluded with the Aomori Prefecture and the Rokkasho village

    #Ongoing Status of implementation

  • 2006
  • June 2005
    Water leakage from the burnable poison handling pit pool in the spent fuel receiving & storage building
    June 2005
    Identification of the leakage location
    July 2005
    Cause and future course of action
    August 2005
    Results of re-inspection
  • 2005
  • December 2004 - January 2006
    Implementation of Uranium test
  • 2004
  • February 2003
    Water leakage from the fuel delivery pit pool in the spent fuel receiving & storage facility
    April 2003
    Identification of the leakage location
    August 2003
    Results of the investigation & inspection and maintenance plan
  • 2003
  • November 2002 - December 2005
    Implementation of chemical test
  • 2002
  • August 2001
    Water leakage from the PWR fuel storage pool in the spent fuel receiving & storage facility
    November 2002
    As a result of the investigation, it was concluded that there was leakage from the pool
    August 2003
    Results of the investigation & inspection and maintenance plan
  • April 2001 - September 2004
    Implementation of water flow operational test
  • 2001
  • December 2000
    Full-scale loading of spent fuel was carried out for the first time
  • October 2000
    Safety agreement pertaining to the spent fuel receiving & storage facility was concluded with the Aomori Prefecture and the Rokkasho village
  • 2000
  • December 1999
    Commencement of the reprocessing business

    (Completion of the spent fuel receiving and storage facility)

  • 1999
  • April 1993
    Commencement of construction of Reprocessing Plant
  • 1993

Development of the new vitrification technology

Overview of the vitrification research and development facility “Rokkasho Vitrification Laboratory (RVL)”

  • Research & development base to develop the vitrification technology
  • Remotely operability confirmatory tests & education and training of the operators, etc.
  • Constructed inside the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant site so that the information or findings obtained at this facility are promptly fed back in a real machine

<Building overview>

  • Construction site: Inside the reprocessing plant site
  • Construction area: Approx.5,200m2
  • Total floor area: Approx.9,500m2
  • Scale of the building: Approx.91m x Approx.55m (5 stories above the ground)
  • Start of construction: May, 2011
  • Completion: October, 2013

<Main facilities>

  • Testing area where the solidification cell is simulated
  • Remote maintenance facilities
  • Simulation area for disassembling the melting furnace

External view

From the southwest direction of the building
From the southwest direction of the building
Mock-up melter
Mock-up melter

Operational Status at Reprocessing Plant

Update: August 2, 2016(As of July 31, 2016)

Topics

Current Status

Currently, the Reprocessing Plant is in the stage of "Final Commissioning-Test" and planned to complete its construction in the first half of FY 2018.

Up to now, total of 3,389 tons of spent fuel has been received.

Construction Schedule of Reprocessing Plant

Spent fuel receiving

graph of spent fuel receiving