The country’s Nuclear Safety Commission submitted a report to MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) on 7 December which concludes that MOX fuel can be safely used in Kansai Electric’s Takahama reactors. MITI is expected to give formal approval before the end of the year.
Kansai Electric intends to operate the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors with one quarter MOX cores and the first MOX fuel assemblies should be loaded into Takahama 4 during next spring’s refuelling outage. The assemblies have been manufactured in UK and will be shipped to Japan by sea. However, the Prefectural government and the local residents have still not agreed to the plan. They withdrew their support after the sodium leak accident at the Monju FBR and there is a lot of interest in seeing whether they are prepared to approve new nuclear activities again. Their approval is awaited not only for MOX fuel but also for the construction of two advanced PWRs at Tsuruga and the restart of the Monju reactor.
Another potential problem has arisen which could affect the schedule for loading MOX fuel into the Takahama 4 reactor. MOX fuel transport containers require neutron shielding and one of the containers which Kansai Electric was planning to use has neutron shielding material supplied by Genden Koji. As reported elsewhere this company has falsified the material test data for some of the shielding material used in spent fuel transport casks and MOX fuel containers and the results of this action are still being investigated. There is some possibility that Kansai Electric may not be able to obtain approval to use the container.