November 2000

Japanese MOX fuel fabrication to be commercialised

NucNet, 16 November 2000

[Posted 20/11/2000]

The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced that nine Japanese power utilities (excluding Okinawa Electric Power) and Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) plan to begin joint commercial production of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel.

Under the proposal, Japan Nuclear Fuel (JNFL) will be the main producer, and the MOX fuel will be fabricated at a new facility adjacent to JNFL's Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which itself is currently under construction. The reprocessing plant and the fabrication plant are to be connected underground, and raw reprocessed uranium and plutonium will be transferred to the fabrication facility, where it will be used to make MOX powder, which will then be used to produce MOX fuel.

The fabrication facility's capacity will be to a maximum of 130 tonnes of MOX fuel per year, although the normal production level is expected to be about 90 tonnes per year - 40 tonnes for BWRs, 20 tonnes for PWRs, and 30 tonnes for the full-MOX core at Ohma nuclear power plant. Construction costs are estimated at JPY 120 billion (about USD 1.1 billion).

The project began in October 1998, when FEPCO asked JNFL to assess the possibility of commercial MOX fabrication in Japan. JNFL concluded that it would be possible to ensure safety of production by employing both domestic and overseas MOX fabrication techniques, coupled with Japan's uranium fuel processing technology.

The fabrication facility will now move into the detailed design stage, and is due to begin commercial operation some three or four years after July 2005, when the reprocessing plant is expected to start.

A request for the concurrence of local communities is expected to made in spring next year, and FEPCO plans to convene a policy committee in February, both at Rokkasho Mura and at the city of Aomori, to evaluate the project's progress.

Meanwhile, Masaru Hashimoto, governor of Ibaraki Prefecture, and Tatsuya Murakami, mayor of Tokai Mura, have agreed to the proposed restart of the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC)'s Tokai reprocessing plant. The agreement means that JNC could restart the plant as early as the end of this month - just over three years after the fire and explosion at the then Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC)'s facility.

JNC president Yasumasa Togo said: "In restarting operations, reformation of awareness of all employees will be continued to ensure safety... We will do our best to complete the nuclear fuel cycle from the viewpoint of a stable energy supply."

Source: JAIF

Back to contents