The Deadly MOX Fuel Story
In Japan's Reactors
From Gary Jacobucci
Blown Fukushima 3 Was The Third Japanese Reactor To Load MOX
August 10, 2010
Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco's) Fukushima I unit 3 is set to become the third Japanese nuclear reactor to load mixed oxide (MOX) fuel after receiving approval from the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Yukei Sato. The unit follows Kyushu Electric's Genkai 3, which started using MOX fuel in November 2009, and Shikoku's Ikata 3, which was loaded with some MOX fuel in March 2010. According to the Denki Shimbun, the 760 MWe boiling water reactor will be loaded with MOX fuel by 21 August and the unit will restart in late September. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has so far approved the use of MOX fuel in ten reactors, but utilities must also secure approval from prefectural governments before they can go ahead and use the fuel, which contains plutonium recovered from spent nuclear fuel.
MOX Fuel Arrives In Japan
May 19, 2009
Two cargo ships carrying recycled nuclear fuel arrived Monday in Japan from France for the planned introduction of plutonium-thermal power generation in the fall, power company officials said.
One of the two armed ships entered a port near Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, the first stop for the delivery of plutonium and uranium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel.
The ships will also deliver the fuel, a combination of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel, to Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture and Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.
The fuel was manufactured in France on an order placed by the three utilities and will be used in conventional uranium-burning light-water reactors.
The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Heron left the northern French port of Cherbourg in early March and reached Japan after sailing through the southwestern Pacific via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
The Pacific Heron was escorted by Japan Coast Guard ships and helicopters as it entered the port of Omaezaki.
Antinuclear groups staged demonstrations against the pluthermal power generation plan, shouting, "No transport of dangerous MOX fuel." Pluthermal is a Japanese word combining the English words plutonium and thermal.
Critics point to the potential dangers of MOX fuel, warning that use of fuel containing plutonium exposes residents to greater health risks in the event of serious accidents.
Kyushu Electric plans to put MOX fuel into the No. 3 reactor of the Genkai plant at the time of the next regular inspection in August.
Japan's Nuclear Program
What is MOX fuel?
Fuel consisting of a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides is referred to as a MOX (mixed oxide) fuel. Uranium fuel consists of enriched uranium in which the concentration of uranium 235 -- the combustible element in natural uranium -- is artificially increased. In MOX fuel, by contrast, anything from 4 to 9 percent plutonium is used in place of enriched uranium to mix with natural uranium or with the uranium that is left after enrichment (i.e., depleted uranium).
Japan's MOX Program
Part of Japan's nuclear policy is to implement the MOX utilization program; that is, to irradiate MOX fuel in conventional light water reactors (LWRs). Because of the fact that discussions are still under way with the local governments and citizens, the commercial use of MOX fuel has yet to begin. Nevertheless, as mentioned at the outset, Japan, scarce in energy resources, is continuing its policy of establishing a nuclear fuel cycle. MOX utilization, therefore, remains a crucial part of completing the fuel cycle. The Japanese electricity industry intends to continue its efforts to garner support and understanding from related parties in order to carry out the MOX utilization program in accordance with this policy.