A Japanese nuclear power plant yesterday started using recycled mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel from a controversial shipment from France that arrived in the country amid protests in May.
A reactor at the Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture was activated after being loaded with MOX, a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium, a spokesman of the plant’s operator said.
The 1.18 million kilowatt reactor is expected to reach the state of nuclear chain reaction overnight and generate power from Monday, said the operator, Kyushu Electric Power Co, one of three that ordered the MOX.
The recycled fuel, produced by French nuclear giant Areva, arrived in Japan by ship in May amid international protests led by environmental group Greenpeace, which has called for an immediate ban on MOX shipments. The MOX ship took a secret route and traveled under armed guard.
The protesters argue that shipping MOX around the world represents an unacceptable risk because of the danger of an accident or a terrorist attack.
Greenpeace said the widening use of MOX increases the dangers of nuclear proliferation, arguing that the plutonium in it is easier to extract than the plutonium in conventional spent nuclear fuel.
Japan, which relies on nuclear power from 53 plants for nearly one-third of its electricity needs, had previously obtained MOX, most recently eight years ago, but none was used amid a data cover-up scandal and a series of accidents at nuclear plants.