Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.24
March 2004

Promotion of MOX Fuel Use in Thermal Reactors

ON DECEMBER 19, 2003, the MOX Energy Promotion Council, comprised of presidents from Japan 's electric power companies, reconfirmed that it will continue to work toward the goal of using MOX fuel in sixteen to eighteen nuclear power units by fiscal year 2010. The Council also presented a summary report showing the individual progress achieved thus far by each utility.

The utilization of MOX (mixed uranium-plutonium oxide) fuel, which is recovered from spent fuel, fabricated and reused in thermal nuclear reactors, will lead to the conservation of uranium resources. Its use has been promoted in Japan as part of the country's basic energy policy since the beginning of its nuclear energy development. In 1997, in accordance with a decision by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of Japan and with Cabinet approval, the country's power companies formulated a joint plan to use MOX fuel in a total of sixteen to eighteen reactors by fiscal 2010.

Plan of MOX Fuel Use in Thermal Reactors

Since then the power companies have made efforts to realize this goal; however, because of MOX fuel data falsification by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) in 1999, inappropriate behavior over voluntary inspections of nuclear power plants that came to light in 2002, and other related issues, implementation of MOX fuel is behind schedule. Despite these difficulties, our resource-poor country must continue to work to secure a steady and stable supply of energy. For this objective to be achieved, it is vital that we establish a domestic nuclear fuel cycle: the use of MOX fuel as an integral part of this cycle remains as important as ever.

This same point was also made in a comprehensive report on the nuclear fuel cycle prepared by the AEC in August 2003 entitled "On the Nuclear Fuel Cycle." Moreover, the national basic energy plan formulated in October 2003 also clearly states that the use of MOX fuel in thermal reactors should be promoted steadily as the central part of the domestic nuclear fuel cycle. The vital importance of MOX fuel to Japan's energy future has thus been clearly reaffirmed by the national government.

Under the current plan, five to eight tons of plutonium will be consumed annually through the use of MOX fuel in sixteen to eighteen power reactors nationwide. Meanwhile, when the Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) reprocessing plant situated in Rokkasho Village begins operation - scheduled for July 2006 - it should be possible to recover about five tons of fissile plutonium annually. We can therefore consume plutonium according to a fixed schedule, while bringing to Japan regular shipments of plutonium recovered in overseas reprocessing plants.

Nuclear Fuel Recycling Using Thermal Reactors

At present, power companies are doing their utmost to gain the understanding of residents living near power plant sites in order to implement the use of MOX fuel in thermal reactors. Companies such as Shikoku Electric Power Co., Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. have published detailed plans on how they intend to use MOX fuel, in line with the summary released by all the power companies in December 2003. As detailed in the same report, Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc.(KEPCO) is moving towards concluding a new overseas MOX fuel fabrication contract in order to get its MOX plans back on track.

KEPCO's Takahama PS
KEPCO's Takahama PS

We, the electric power companies, will continue to work toward concrete results; the entire industry is making concerted efforts to realize the use of MOX fuel in thermal reactors as soon as possible.