The Tokai reprocessing site in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture
The planned decommissioning of the Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture will take 70 years and cost taxpayers about 1 trillion yen ($8.9 billion), according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
The JAEA submitted its estimate to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on June 30 for approval.
By any measure, it will be a Herculean task to dismantle the facilities in the village of Tokai. Whether it will be possible to remove the high-level radioactive waste liquids and materials according to schedule is by no means certain.
Under the JAEA plan, the immediate task will be to assess the level of on-site contamination, decontaminate facilities and implement measures to secure safety of the site and workers, including enhancing earthquake-resistance of the facilities. That alone would take 10 years.
At the same time, the agency said it would start work to vitrify about 400 cubic meters of high-level radioactive waste liquids, a by-product of the reprocessing process.
Total costs during the first 10 years were calculated to come to 217 billion yen. Over the subsequent 60 years, the JAEA said it planned to demolish the facilities and decontaminate buildings at a total estimated cost of 770 billion yen.
That figure was broken down as follows: 250 billion yen to process the radioactive waste materials; 380 billion yen to dispose of the waste; and 140 billion yen to dismantle the facilities.
The NRA will first check safety and other issues before reaching a decision. If it gives the nod, the JAEA will start the project.
France is among countries that already have experience with dismantling reprocessing facilities, but it would be the first time to do it in Japan.
The Tokai reprocessing facilities were constructed at a total cost of 190 billion yen. It started full-scale operations in 1981, and has reprocessed 1,140 tons of spent nuclear fuel since then.
In 1997, the plant was rocked by an explosion at its bituminization facility to solidify waste.
Decommissioning of the Tokai plant was decided in 2014.