News and Facts: Nuclear Industry and Radioactive Science

Japan Gets Set to Burn Plutonium

June 10, 2009 By: John Category: In The News, Nonproliferation

[From IEEE Spectrum, Energy Wise.]

Two of the largest Japanese utilities, Kyushu Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power, are preparing to fuel nuclear reactors with rods containing recycled plutonium starting this fall, John Boyd reports from Tokyo. In the middle of last month, two ships arrived from France with loads of mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) containing plutonium that originated in Japanese spent fuels, which Japan is contractually obligated to take back. The MOX consignment from France‚Äôs La Hague reprocessing complex weighed an estimated 1700 kilograms.

The recycling of nuclear fuels has been intensely controversial for decades, mainly because of concerns that fuel containing plutonium could fall into the hands of terrorists. Well before Al Qaeda appeared on the scene and fanatics were killing themselves in bomb attacks, experts worried about the ease with which the plutonium in MOX could be separated from uranium, to provide the explosive material for an atomic bomb. [Would you like to know more?]