Electric Power Development Co. had been planning to begin construction of major facilities at the Oma nuclear power plant in the prefecture during the latter half of this year, but told the Oma Municipal Assembly on Tuesday it has decided to delay the work by about two years. The delay means the new target for the reactor to begin operations is fiscal now 2026.
The move clouds the course of Japan’s policy for the nuclear fuel cycle, in which the reactor was supposed to play a key role. Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is produced by extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and mixing it with uranium. Tokyo is also under international pressure to slash its stockpile of plutonium, which has the potential to be used to produce nuclear weapons.
The Oma plant has also faced lawsuits seeking suspension of the project.
Residents in Hakodate, Hokkaido, which is some 23 kilometers northwest of Oma across the Tsugaru Strait, filed a lawsuit against the company and the central government with the Hakodate District Court in July 2010, claiming they are concerned about the large amount of highly toxic plutonium that will be used as reactor fuel.
The city of Hakodate also filed suit against the two parties with the Tokyo District Court in April 2014, saying it fears the impact of an accident at a so-called full-MOX reactor will be far more devastating than that of the Fukushima disaster, which led to the long-term evacuation of many local residents.