No smoke without fire – Japan nukes being readied for restart
In a sign that Japan is to restart its idled reactors, Areva, the French energy group said it was preparing to send the first nuclear fuel shipment to Japan since the Fukushima disaster of March, 2011.
The shipment of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) is likely to be controversial in Japan, where public opposition to nuclear power and reactor restarts remains strong in the run-up to the second anniversary of the March 11, 2011 catastrophe.
The fuel will be shipped from Cherbourg in northern France in early April, according to anti-nuclear group Greenpeace. Areva officials declined to comment on the timing.
France’s state-owned nuclear group, whose activities range from uranium mining and enrichment to reactors and waste recycling, said it was in talks with Japanese authorities to prepare a shipment, which had been delayed since the Fukushima meltdowns.
“We believe there could be half a dozen reactors which will restart at the end of 2013 (in Japan),” Areva chief executive officer Luc Oursel told a news briefing this week.
The long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has returned to power and has said it will reassess the previous government’s decision to abandon atomic power after Fukushima, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Because MOX fuel contains around 7-per-cent plutonium, it is perceived as a national security threat, and special precautions are taken during transportation.
The Fukushima crisis prompted the gradual shutdown of all of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors until there were none left operating in May, 2012, leaving the country without atomic power for the first time since 1970.
Now two reactors at Kansai Electric’s Ohi plant near Takahama are the only ones operating in Japan so far, and the country has had to resort to imports of fossil fuel to run power stations, pushing it into a record trade deficit.