Protesters greet ship carrying mixed-oxide fuel from France

TAKAHAMA, Fukui Prefecture–About 100 protesters shouted anti-nuclear slogans as the first shipment of mixed-oxide fuel since the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant arrived in Japan on June 27.

The shipment of MOX fuel for the No. 3 reactor had been suspended due to Fukushima No.1 plant accident. Kansai Electric Power Co.hopes to use the fuel from around the fall of 2014.


1999 – First Shipments of MOx arrive at Fukushima.

Albion Monitor, 1999.


Plutonium to Arrive in Japan Amid Protests

by Suvendrini Kakuchi
Japan has world’s only nuclear fast-breeder reactors
(IPS) TOKYO — Ignoring widespread international protests, two armed British-flagged ships carrying enough plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) to produce at least 60 nuclear weapons, are expected to arrive off the coast of Japan this week.

The highly dangerous shipments, coming from France and the UK, are the first of Japan’s expected 18 MOX imports to supply the nation’s nuclear fast-breeder reactors, the only ones operating in the world today.

A second plutonium shipment is also reported to be departing from Europe in November, with the South Pacific again a potential route despite vigorous opposition from countries in the region.

The shipments mark a new and dangerous phase of Japan’s nuclear industry with the start of a pilot program to use plutonium fuel (MOX) in conventional nuclear reactors.

“Japan’s market for spent fuel, capable of producing nuclear weapons, is the largest in the world and is directly aiding the possibility of a nuclear weapons build-up in East Asia,” says Shaun Burnie, head of the plutonium campaign at Greenpeace, Netherlands.

He says operators of plants in the UK and France hope to massively expand production of plutonium fuel if Japan signs contracts based on a successful transport this year.

….Yet another blow that environmentalists hope would be the death blow to Japan’s nuclear power program was a report released by the British nuclear reprocessing company that acknowledged serious “irregularities” in the manufacture of nuclear fuel rods destined for export.

A press statement by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the utility companies that ordered reprocessed MOX from the British company, British Nuclear FuelsLtd (BNFL), confirmed the discrepancy.

MITI’s safety management division has ordered an investigation into the problem which is suspected to be in the size of the pellets that contain plutonium. These pellets are loaded into fuel rods that are welded before put into steel casks to be packed into the ships for the trip.

According to Greenpeace, that followed the ships, there are 40 drums of MOX containing some 450 kilograms of plutonium. Environmentalists hope the latest report would prove to be too big an embarrassment for the Japanese government and utility companies to carry on the plutonium program.

Japan’s nuclear power program has been dogged recently by several accidents and the new report of blatant discrepancy is bound to increase public fear.

Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International and a plutonium expert, points out that loading a reactor with defective MOX pellets would have serious safety implications, a frightening situation for the public.

“The pellets will have to be pulled apart and checked, thus calling for an expensive new program. It is a huge embarrassment for the government and hope it could force Japan to make this the last shipment to be carried out ever,” he explained.

The ships are expected to be make their first stop at the pier of the No 1 Fukushima nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co in Fukushima.

The vessels will then be at Takahama nuclear power plant of Kansai Electric Power Co by the Sea of Japan on Sept 27.

The ships are carrying armed British soldiers, who will have to be disarmed before entering Japanese waters, after which the vessels will be accompanied by Japan’s Self Defense Forces.

After MOX is taken from the ships, the fuel is expected to be stored on the site for around three weeks before being installed in the reactors. Opponents worry that during the storage period, the sites could be targets of terrorist attacks.

Activists contend the reasons why Japan stubbornly refuses to stop its MOX shipments is pride as well as a lingering desire to be able to have the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Under the Japan-U.S. Security Pact, signed after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the country is prohibited to have a weapons program. end quote. That was 1999. The fuel was subsequently loaded into reactor No. 3. at Fukushima.

I have been unable to find out what “Australian Oblgated Plutonium” means in the situation in Japan. It appears that plutonium which results from the fission of Australian uranium in Japan and which is then subsequently reprocessed from Japanese spent fuel rods and used in the making of new MOx fuel rods and sent back to Japan is subject to an agreement which uses the term “Australian Obligated Plutonium”.
The link to the older post which covers this is

However, there is an agreement in place in which the term is used, and which implies obligations on both Japan and Australia in regard to the control of the MOx fuel as far as it is relevent to the plutonium.

That’s all I’ve able to find out.

I have not recieved any response from Mr Rudd, the government minister for Foriegn Affairs. I sent him an email asking him to explain what the term “Australian Obligated Plutonium” means in terms of the export and use of the MOx fuel used in Japan.

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