Restarting a second reactor at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture will raise the amount of highly toxic spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel present there to an estimated 18.5 tons, Jiji Press has learned.
The plant run by Kansai Electric Power Co. in the town of Takahama had 5.3 tons of MOX — a blend of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel — there before Friday’s restart of the No. 3 reactor.
But lingering problems threaten to ruin the government’s long-laid plans for recycling nuclear fuel, leaving spent MOX in need of a home. This means it is likely to join the standard uranium fuel being kept in the nation’s rapidly dwindling storage pools until a solution can be found.
The Takahama plant is set to hold the largest amount of spent MOX among domestic nuclear facilities that have engaged in so-called pluthermal power generation utilizing the blended fuel, which can contain weapons-grade plutonium.
Takahama No. 3 is slated to use 24 units of MOX, according to Kansai Electric. Reactor 4 will use four units. Each fuel unit weighs about 660 kg, according to statistics from the Finance Ministry and other data.
Kepco imported 12 French-made MOX units in June 2010 and an additional 20 in June 2013. The utility’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture and Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture have about 10.7 tons of spent MOX each — more than any other commercial nuclear plants in japan.
Among noncommercial facilities, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency currently has 63.9 tons stored at Fugen, an advanced converter reactor in Fukui, 23.1 tons at its nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, and 6.1 tons at the experimental Monju fast-breeder reactor in Fukui.
Takahama No. 3 is the nation’s third reactor to be rebooted under new safety standards compiled since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began in March 2011.
Kansai Electric plans to reactivate Takahama’s No. 4 reactor later this month.