government has approved an advisory report which concludes it is safe
to use plutonium/uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at nuclear plants
AFX-ASIA, Tokyo, April 2002
The government has approved an advisory report which
concludes it is safe to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel
The Nuclear Safety Commission said a "sufficient
technological basis has
been established" to ensure the safe use of plutonium at light-water
provided the ratio of MOX to total fuel of a plant is about one-third.
But the advisory panel also called for special care
in an annual report on
nuclear safety, citing the fuel's extremely high radioactivity level,
200,000 times that of a type of uranium.
The commission also reaffirmed its support for plans
by the Japanese
electric industry and government to use the so-called "pluthermal"
16-18 nuclear reactors in the country by the year 2010.
In the pluthermal process, plutonium extracted from
spent nuclear fuel is
combined with uranium oxide to create MOX fuel, which is then burned
The plans stalled in May last year when residents in
the small northern
Japanese village of Kariwa rejected a move by Tokyo Electric Power Co
convert an existing nuclear reactor there to a pluthermal plant.
The resistance was seen as a blow to the government's
scheme to promote the
method as an answer to the needs of the resource-poor nation, which
relies on 51
nuclear reactors to provide about one-third of its electricity.
The pluthermal scheme took another knock in 1999 when
Kansai Electric Power
Co, which serves Osaka and its vicinity, suspended its planned use of
imported from British Nuclear Fuels PLC (BNFL).
The commission's annual report added it was necessary
for MOX users to
inspect on the spot the quality of such nuclear fuel to be shipped to
Japanese ecology group, Green Action, said that the
report was deceptive.
What the NSC (Nuclear Safety Commission) fails to inform
public and international community is that experience with MOX fuel
power plants in Japan is virtually non-existent, and that use of MOX
internationally is minimal when compared to use of uranium fuel,"
the group said
in a statement.
It added that the commission had also failed to say
that the "scale of MOX
fuel use in Japan will be unprecedented."
"There is to be a higher concentration of plutonium
in the fuel, and a
higher burn-up rate," it said.