Kansai Electric Power Co. said Thursday that its controversial plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, or MOX, will soon be shipped from France to the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture because the reprocessor is tired of storing it.
The hybrid fuel, which contains discarded weapons-grade plutonium, is scheduled to be burned under the Takahama plant’s fledgling pluthermal (plutonium-thermal) power generation project using reactor 3.
It will be the first MOX delivery since the Fukushima No. 1 power plant was crippled by three core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Kepco said the delivery will take place at the request of French nuclear conglomerate Areva SA, which processed the MOX and was planning to send it to Japan before the disaster.
Kepco said the timetable for burning the hybrid fuel is still up in the air because nearly all of the nation’s 50 viable commercial reactors are offline until beefed-up safety standards for atomic power can be issued.
Because the government intends to keep its nuclear fuel recycling policy in place despite public opposition, Kepco held talks with companies, including Areva, about the MOX shipments, officials of the utility said.
Kepco will decide whether to restart pluthermal generation at the idled reactors after the government completes the process of setting new safety standards and the views of local communities are taken into account, the officials said.
Areva said the secretive shipment would be handled by British subsidiary Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd.
Kepco activated reactor 3 in December 2010 as part of its first foray into pluthermal operations. It planned to add more MOX to the core but froze the plan after the Fukushima crisis erupted.
The utility hopes to restart reactors 3 and 4, which already has MOX on hand, in July.
For that to occur, however, all of the reactors will have to clear the new safety checks, which will be based on new standards scheduled to be issued in July.
Nuclear authorities have said additional surveys of the geologic faults beneath the Takahama plant aren’t necessary.