Production starts on MOX fuel for Takahama unit

02 September 2016

France's Areva has started fabrication of 16 mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies for use in unit 4 of the Takahama nuclear power plant, Kansai Electric Power Company announced on 30 August. Although the unit is one of five Japanese reactors to have been restarted, a court injunction has suspended its operation.

Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture resumed operation on 29 January. Takahama 4 was restarted on 26 February, but has remained offline since 29 February following an automatic shutdown of the reactor due to a "main transformer/generator internal failure". However, an injunction imposed by a district court on 9 March led to unit 3 being taken offline as well and both units have since remained idle.

Kansai said that four MOX fuel assemblies were among the 157 assemblies loaded into Takahama 4 before its restart in February. It said that the production of a further 16 assemblies for use in the unit is now under way at Areva's Melox facility in France.

The company noted that 24 MOX fuel assemblies were loaded into the core of unit 3 in December prior to its restart.

Areva signed a contract with Kansai in March 2008 to supply 12 MOX fuel assemblies for use in Takahama units 3 and 4. It signed a second contract in November of that year for the supply of a further 36 assemblies.

The first shipment of 20 MOX fuel assemblies under the second contract was delivered in June 2013. Of those, 16 have been loaded into Takahama unit 3, while four are being stored in the unit's used fuel pool.

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, and has not sent used fuel to Europe for reprocessing since 1998.

In February 1997, the Japanese government stated that, in line with the country's long-term commitment to nuclear energy, it was necessary for Japan to start using MOX fuel in its commercial nuclear reactors. Following this announcement, the Japanese electric power companies unveiled their plans to use MOX fuel in 16 to 18 reactors. Since then, several MOX fabrication contracts have started this process.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News