FUKUOKA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. plans to begin using the controversial nuclear fuel known as MOX at its atomic plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, as early as fiscal 2008, sources said Monday.
Environmental groups oppose use of the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel due to its potential dangers.
The power industry’s plans to introduce MOX fuel have met with fierce public resistance, especially after it was revealed that safety data on the fuel had been falsified. Shipments from Europe at the time were subsequently rejected.
Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa voiced surprise at the utility firm’s announcement, saying, “I understand that there is no such plan at the moment.”
Yet proponents of the MOX project say they believe Kyushu Electric’s plan will go ahead smoothly because the firm maintains favorable ties with local governments in the area.
MOX is the core component of the government’s pluthermal power generation scheme, under which the fuel is burned in light-water reactors to produce energy.
Kyushu Electric had said it wanted to start using MOX by 2010.
The utility wants to introduce the fuel quickly. It combines plutonium and uranium oxide recycled from spent nuclear fuel, and Kyushu Electric’s spent fuel stockpiles have been increasing at a rapid rate.
“We want to start (using MOX) as quickly as possible,” a senior Kyushu Electric official said.
The utility said it would take at least four years before starting to use the fuel, in view of procedures to apply for government approval and sign contracts with MOX providers.
MOX can be used at existing nuclear power stations after modifications.
It is considered desirable by power plant operators because it reduces uranium consumption and is a way to use the plutonium produced by burning other sorts of nuclear fuel.
Sources said the new fuel would probably be introduced at the relatively new No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant.