Photo/IllutrationA spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, that is being constructed by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Construction costs for the long-delayed spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, are likely to rise to 2.9 trillion yen ($25.67 billion), about four times the initial estimate, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) has disclosed.

The company attributes the latest cost estimate increase of 750 billion yen, revealed July 3, to the necessity of meeting more stringent safety standards introduced after the 2011 nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Estimated construction costs previously stood at 2.193 trillion yen as of 2005.

The total cost of the project, including operating the plant for 40 years and then decommissioning it, was initially estimated at 12.6 trillion yen.

However, it is expected to rise to 13.9 trillion due to the increase in maintenance and personnel costs.

The major electric power companies that jointly set up JNFL have to cover those costs, but ultimately consumers will shoulder the burden in the form of electricity rates.

JNFL is constructing the plant in the village of Rokkasho, with the Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan (NURO) contracted to handle the fuel reprocessing.

JNFL and NURO say the additional 750 billion yen to cover the new safety measures includes budgeting for a building to serve as a command center in the event of a severe accident, and installation of tanks to store cooling water.

The plant was initially scheduled to be completed in 1997 with construction costs of 760 billion yen, but equipment-related troubles struck the project in succession, and the completion date has been postponed 22 times to date.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), the country’s nuclear watchdog, is now conducting final-stage screening of the reprocessing plant ahead of the start of full-scale operations.

JNFL said previously that it is aiming to complete the plant by the end of September 2018 on the assumption that the NRA’s screening finishes by the end of March 2017.

However, a false report was found in relation to a safety rule violation that came to light in 2015, leading to the delay of the NRA’s screening.

Even if the NRA approves the new safety measures in the screening, the approval is expected to be made this autumn at the earliest, meaning the latest completion target of September 2018 is likely to be missed.