Japan gets 1st post Fukushima MOX fuel

2013-06-27 18:30


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Takahama - A vessel under armed guard and loaded with reprocessed nuclear fuel from France arrived at a Japanese port on Thursday, the first such shipment since the Fukushima disaster as utilities lobby to restart their atomic reactors.

The cargo of mixed oxide (MOX), a blend of plutonium and uranium, arrived at the Takahama nuclear plant on the western coast of central Japan in early morning, an AFP journalist said.

The fuel left the French port of Cherbourg in mid April bound for Japan, French nuclear group Areva has said. The vessel was specially fitted to be able to transport nuclear material and was escorted by an armed sister ship.

Its route was not fully disclosed, but the ship was greeted by protesters and national media which captured images of the vessel from land and helicopters overhead.

Dozens of anti-nuclear campaigners voiced their opposition with loudspeakers.

"We do not accept MOX fuel," a protester shouted, wearing full radiation protection gear to make his point.

Residents of areas hosting Japan's atomic reactors are deeply divided over nuclear plants. They are often the backbone of regional economies but the memory of Fukushima remains raw two years after the world's worst nuclear accident in a generation.

Japan has few energy resources of its own and relied on nuclear power for nearly one-third of its domestic electricity needs until the meltdowns at the tsunami-crippled plant.

All but two of the country's 50 nuclear reactors are offline, shuttered for routine safety checks in the aftermath of the disaster and never restarted because of public resistance and new standards.

Own plant closed

Uranium reactors produce a mixture of depleted uranium and plutonium as a by-product of fission. These can be re-processed into MOX fuel, which can then be used in other reactors to generate more power.

Japan has built its own nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, in northern Aomori prefecture, but its opening has been delayed by a series of minor accidents and technical problems.

This has left Tokyo dependent on other countries - namely Britain and France - to deal with the plutonium it has produced.

Plutonium can be diverted for producing nuclear weapons, and there are fears that it could fall into the wrong hands and pose a danger from rogue regimes or extremist organisations.

According to a government report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Japan has about 44.3 tons of plutonium, of which 35.0 tons are held and being processed in France and Britain, and the rest, 9.3 tons is stored in Japan.

The fuel was originally due to be shipped back to Japan in the first half of 2011, but the disaster at Fukushima delayed its return and it has been stored in France.

Since coming to power in December last year, pro-business Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly spoken of his desire to restart Japan's idle reactors, citing the need to ensure a stable electricity supply for the country's power-hungry industries.

Read more on:    iaea  |  france  |  japan  |  nuclear

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.