• Kyodo

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Serious malfunctions at a British Nuclear Fuels PLC (BNFL) facility have delayed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from Japan, a British antinuclear civic group said Sunday.

According to CORE, recent malfunctions at a reprocessing facility in Sellafield, central Britain, have impaired its capabilities and may delay the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from Japanese power companies by eight to 10 years beyond schedule.

If true, the development will likely deal another blow to the so-called pluthermal project, Japan’s plan to burn plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in reactors nationwide. The government has been unable to sell the public on the controversial new fuel because of concerns about its reliability and the safety of the nuclear power industry itself.

The BNFL has a contract with Japan to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel in order to produce MOX fuel, and has asked Japan to extend the completion date of the contract one year beyond the original 2004, the group said. However, the group said the completion of the reprocessing operation for Japan could be delayed to 2012 or 2015.

The British government’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has admitted in general that the BNFL facility has been causing problems, the group said.

MOX fuel is made by mixing uranium with plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel. The Japanese government and power companies such as Tokyo Electric Power Co. plan to use MOX fuel in light-water reactors.

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