Uranium & Fuel

Japan / Rokkasho MOX Fuel Processing Plant Passes Safety Screenings

By David Dalton
10 December 2020

Operations could begin in 2022, says JNFL
Rokkasho MOX Fuel Processing Plant Passes Safety Screenings
The Rokkasho nuclear fuel processing plant in northern Japan. Photo courtesy Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said a mixed oxide, or MOX, nuclear fuel processing plant in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan, has officially passed screenings for the start of operations.

The NRA formalised a report stating that the plant, owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, meets new safety standards that Japan introduced after the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station.

The MOX fuel plant in the village of Rokkasho is a key facility in the country’s plans to close the nuclear fuel cycle by extracting uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. It will produce MOX fuel from powders of uranium and plutonium extracted at a spent fuel reprocessing facility being built at the same site.

The MOX plant is part of a larger nuclear fuel cycle R&D facility that includes plants for enrichment, recycling and reprocessing. The reprocessing plant is also not operational. Construction began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. However, its construction and commissioning have faced several delays. According to the Japan Times the schedule has been pushed back 23 times by a number of technical and safety issues.

JNFL aims to complete construction of the MOX fuel processing plant in the first half of fiscal 2022, to coincide with the completion of the spent fuel reprocessing facility, which passed NRA safety screenings in July.

In October, the NRA approved a draft report concluding that the MOX fuel plant’s seismic design and measures to deal with a possible fire during the process to treat uranium and plutonium powders meet the new safety standards.

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