A mixed oxide MOX fuel containing plutonium and uranium has arrived at a Kansai Electric Power Co. nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture after a year-long delay caused by the French plant that made the fuel turn out a string of defective products.
A ship carrying the made-in-France MOX fuel docked at the Takahama nuclear plant in the town of Takahama on November 22. It is planned to be used for pluthermal power generation in the station's No. 3 reactors are in the works.
Plutonium used for fuel was extracted from the uranium fuel of Kansai Electric's nuclear power plants by separating the substances at the Melox plant in southeastern France. In 2017, Kansai Electric ordered 32 MOX fuel assemblies, including the latest shipment. A streak of defective fuel assemblies in which the plutonium and uranium were not mixed evenly was found at the French plant. The first 16 assemblies arrived at the Takahama station in November 2021 for use in the No. The final delivery of the remaining 16 was delayed, holding up final delivery for about a year.
This is the sixth MOX fuel delivery to the Takahama plant. The first batch arriving in the U.K. in October 1999 had been manufactured, but it was later discovered that inspection data had been falsified and the fuel returned to the manufacturer unused. The fuel has been made from the second batch of Melox, but a number of defects have been reported. The technical complexity of the MOX fuel production is believed to be partially attributable to these defects. An official for Kansai Electric told the Mainichi Shimbun: "We've confirmed that the delivered assemblies meet a certain level of quality." In Japan, no other power companies have plans to use MOX fuel by fiscal 2023. The power company says the production or delivery dates remain to be determined, while Kansai Electric signed a contract in January 2020 to have another 32 MOX fuel assemblies manufactured at the French factory. As of December 2021, Japan had a stockpile of 46 metric tons of plutonium, which can be used for nuclear weapons, and has promised the international community that it would not hold excess quantities of the radioactive element. Only so much plutonium will be used for the pluthermal generation. Some question this, as it would increase Japan's plutonium reserve, because of the nuclear reprocessing plant currently being built in Aomori Prefecture, which is planned to chemically process spent nuclear fuel from across Japan.