MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. has started removing nuclear fuel, including spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, from a nuclear reactor in western Japan.
The work at the No. 3 reactor at the company’s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture, which began late Monday night, is the first time used MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel and uranium, has been removed from any commercial nuclear power plant in Japan excluding tests.
A total of 157 fuel assemblies, including 16 MOX fuel assemblies, will be removed. The work is expected to continue through Thursday.
The work was originally scheduled to start at 12 a.m. Monday, but was delayed as the firm was investigating an incident that occurred during preparation work Sunday, in which a control rod was removed from the reactor by mistake and was re-inserted seven hours later.
Japan is not equipped to reprocess spent MOX fuel. Shikoku Electric, therefore, will store the MOX fuel at the power plant for the time being.
In March, five new MOX fuel assemblies will be installed in the reactor.