Kansai awaits MOX return for Takahama 3 and 4

02 April 2019

Kansai Electric Power Company (Kansai) will receive a shipment of MOX fuel assemblies in 2020, according to a report in Asahi Shimbun. They would be used at Takahama 3 and 4, which are among the nine reactors operating in Japan. Mixed oxide fuel, or MOX, is nuclear fuel made from reprocessed plutonium and uranium.

Takahama units 3 and 4 (Image: Kansai)

The recycled nuclear fuel met around 5% of global demand, but given the extended shutdown of most Japanese reactors since the Fukushima accident, in March 2011, orders and shipments of MOX have been reduced. However, the Japanese government's policy is now to reduce the amounts of plutonium stocks and MOX held overseas.

In 2017, French Orano delivered MOX fuel assemblies for Takahama. At the same time, Orano signed a contract with Japan's NFI (Nuclear Fuel Industries) for the fabrication of 32 MOX fuel assemblies for the same plant.

Takahama 3 and 4 restarted operation in March 2016 but were forced to shut down and remove fuel for a time by a court injunction, which was lifted in March 2017. On restart, unit 3 was loaded with 24 MOX assemblies among its total of 157, and unit 4 with four.

MOX fuel contains plutonium recovered from used fuel by reprocessing. Used fuel from Japan, and other countries, has been routinely reprocessed in Europe, with MOX fuel and high-level waste being returned. Japan is working towards opening its own MOX fabrication facility at Rokkasho, and has not sent used fuel to Europe for reprocessing since 1998.

Voluntary measures

Kansai submitted a safety evaluation report regarding unit 4 on 29 March, as directed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Going above and beyond regulation, Kansai said it had sought to enhance measures to prevent accident progression and improve accident response capability.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News