Japan - Plutonium Investigation n°2

Future use of MOX fuel in Japanese reactors

At the beginning of 1997, the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) outlined its plans concerning the use of MOX fuel. FEPCO intends to use MOX in 18 reactors before the year 2010. Kansai Electric has planned to load two of its PWRs, Tokyo Electric two of its BWRs with MOX between 1999 and 2000. An unrealistic schedule given the fact that no Japanese reactor currently has a MOX license.

Japan does not have a commercial Light Water Reactor MOX fabrication facility. Japanese utilities are willing to accept plutonium recovered from spent fuel reprocessed in France and the UK converted into MOX fuel supplied by European MOX fuel fabrication plants. A first batch of MOX fuel will be produced in Dessel in Belgium with 483 kg of plutonium from the La Hague plant. The transfer of this plutonium from France to Belgium required a trilateral agreement between Belgium, Japan and the European Atomic Energy Agency Euratom. Further transfers are not yet agreed upon.

Recently, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) issued a report analysing the plutonium industry in Japan. One of the results is to show that a future shortage of spent fuel storage capacity is foreseen for the year 2010. JAERI proposes not only increasing spent fuel storage capacity, but - acknowledging the delay in the building of the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant - to have more spent fuel reprocessed in France and in the UK. However, little attention is given to possibilities to enlarge the existing spent fuel storage capacities, on-site or away-from reactor.

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