The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has come to an agreement with ten Japanese utilities that will enable significant improvements at the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP).

In October 2009 the NDA concluded that the best course of action for SMP at that time was to continue to deliver the current manufacturing campaign whilst seeking to improve operational performance. In parallel, International Nuclear Services (INS) the commercial subsidiary of the NDA, were tasked with securing new commercial arrangements that would help to make the continuing operation of the plant economically acceptable to the NDA in the longer term. These arrangements are now in place.

The ten Japanese power companies, which have reprocessing carried out at Sellafield, have held discussions with INS and the NDA to aim to convert all their plutonium recovered in the UK into MOX fuel for use in the Japanese ‘Pluthermal’ programme. Agreement has now been reached between the NDA and the Japanese Utilities on an overall framework for future fabrication of MOX fuel in SMP.

Speaking about the deal on 12 May, the NDA Business Planning Director John Clarke said:

“We have reached agreement with the Japanese Utilities that will support significant engineering changes to the plant. After we complete the existing manufacturing campaign we will then manufacture fuel under a separate agreement with a Japanese customer. We will progressively establish if the changes made have resulted in improved performance and higher annual throughputs to sustain longer term manufacturing for other Japanese customers.”

The NDA has written to Sellafield Ltd., advising them of the position and asking them to complete the present fuel manufacturing campaign on the earliest timescale and then to make improvements to enhance its performance further ready to manufacture MOX fuel for Japanese customers.

In the longer-term, Japan is planning to carry out domestic reprocessing. It has already built the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori, and this is due to start operations before the end of 2010. A MOX fuel fabrication plant at the site still needs to be constructed.

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