Areva of France has signed a contract for the supply of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for Kansai electric Power Co's Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan.
|MOX fuel assembly (Image: Areva)
Under the contract, Areva will supply 16 MOX nuclear fuel assemblies for use in units 3 and 4 of the Takahama plant. Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI), a fuel vendor, was selected by Kansai to participate in this contract, one of several agreements Areva made recently with Japanese utilities worth a combined €2 billion ($3.2 billion).
The plutonium Areva recover during the processing of Kansai's used nuclear fuel at its La Hague reprocessing plant will be recycled in the Melox facility before return to Kansai in the form of MOX fuel.
Areva said that the contract follows the renewal of Japan's recycling program. In 2006, the company signed agreements to supply MOX fuel to three other Japanese utilities: Chubu, Kyushu and Shikoku.
Japan's Federation of Electric Power Companies has said that all of its nine members would use plutonium as MOX fuel in 16-18 reactors from 2010 under the 'pluthermal' program. About six tonnes of fissile plutonium per year is expected to be loaded into power reactors. Meanwhile, MOX fuel fabricated in Europe from some 40 tonnes of separated reactor-grade plutonium from Japanese used fuel can be used. However, local concerns about MOX fuel use slowed implementation of the 1994 pluthermal program.
MOX consists of a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides, recovered from used nuclear fuel. More than 30 power reactors in Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland use MOX fuel, typically as one third of their cores. Some units can use up to 50% MOX and some modern designs could use 100% MOX.