Nuclear fuel manufacture and storage

28 April 2010

Approvals are coming for the J-MOX nuclear fuel manufacturing plant as well as a used fuel storage facility in Japan's Aomori prefecture.


The Ministry of Ecomony Trade and Industry (Meti) has made positive decisions based on advice from the Atomic Energy Commission and Nuclear Safety Commission as well as its own Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa). The bodies agreed that the financial and technical aspects of the plans were appropriate, as were non-proliferation measures and Meti should soon issue formal approval notices.


From next month Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) should be permitted to begin construction of J-MOX, which could produce 130 tonnes of heavy metal in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel annually. Construction would take five years.


A separate fuel storage facility should now also come from a joint venture of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco), dubbed Recyclable Fuel Storage Company. It has permission to build a facility in Mutsu City able to accept 3000 tonnes of used fuel per year - approaching half of Japan's total annual use.


It would contain the highly radioactive fuel assemblies from the firms' boiling water and pressurized water reactors until they are reprocessed at the Rokkasho plant, about 50 milometres away. A mix of recovered uranium and plutonium oxides - where the plutonium is never separated - would then be recycled into fresh mixed-oxide nuclear fuel at J-MOX, alongside Rokkasho.


The application for J-MOX was submitted to Meti in 2005 and for the storage facility in 2007. At that time construction was envisaged in mid 2007, but the powerful Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki earthquake that year caused a re-evaluation of nuclear seismic safety rules, revisions to the plans and a corresponding delay.


About 300 people will work at the J-MOX plant, which is to measure about 80 by 80 metres with three basement levels and two floors above ground. It will be resistant to earthquakes and aircraft impact.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News