EPZ applies to use MOX fuel at Borssele

09 May 2008

EPZ has applied to the Netherlands Ministry of Environment for permission to use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in the Borssele nuclear power plant.

Borssele NPP 

Borssele (Image: EPZ)

The utility said that the use of MOX fuel would reduce its dependency on the volatile natural uranium market. EPZ said that it expects the cost of natural uranium to remain high due to the renewed international interest in nuclear energy.

The company has submitted a Project Initiative Document to the Ministry of Housing, Spatial planning and the Environment (VROM). It will now write an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the use of MOX fuel in Borssele. In addition to studying the feasibility of MOX use, the EIS will also consider alternative options and select the best available option. EPZ expects to submit the EIS during the first half of 2009.

In addition to recycling plutonium and depleted uranium as MOX, EPZ said it wants to "improve its use of recycled uranium," which it has been loading into Borssele for the past few years.

Construction of the Borssele pressurised water reactor was started in July 1969 and the plant was connected to the grid in July 1973. In 1994 the Dutch parliament voted to phase out the single pressurized water reactor by 2003, but ran into legal difficulties to implement that decision some caused by protests from unions representing the plant workers. In 2003, the ruling conservative government coalition moved the closure date back to 2013, and in 2005 the phase-out decision was abandoned.

In June 2006, the Dutch government concluded a contract with the Borssele operators and shareholders. The reactor would be allowed to operate until 2034 on certain conditions, including that it would be maintained to the highest safety standards. Following the extension of its operating life to 2033, a turbine upgrade boosted its capacity from 452 to 485 MWe. It also boasts extensive safety features, including a sparking mechanism to eliminate the possibility of an incident caused by any conceivable accident at nearby liquid natural gas storage facilities.

Used nuclear fuel from Borssele has been recycled at France's La Hague by Areva NC for some time, and a contract exists to continue this until 2015.


Borssele MOX 
How EPZ describes its nuclear
fuel strategy
MOX nuclear fuel is widely used in Europe and is also planned for wide use in Japan. Currently about 40 reactors in Europe (Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and France) are licensed to use MOX, and over 30 are doing so. Japan also plans to use MOX in up to 20 of its reactors. Most reactors use it as about one third of their core, but some will accept up to 50% MOX assemblies. France aims to have all its 900 MWe series of reactors running with at least one-third MOX. Japan aims to have one third of its reactors using MOX by 2010, and has approved construction of a new reactor with a complete fuel loading of MOX. Advanced light water reactors such as the ABWR, EPR and AP1000 can accept complete fuel loadings of MOX.

The use of up to 50% of MOX does not change the operating characteristics of a reactor, though the plant must be designed or adapted slightly to take it. More control rods are needed. For more than 50% MOX loading, significant changes are necessary and a reactor needs to be designed accordingly.