Power companies likely to postpone MOX fuel use

Jun 4 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - The Yomiuri Shimbun

Power companies began a major review of a planned program to use
> plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel to power existing nuclear
> power plants, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
> The plan to recycle nuclear fuel has been at the heart of the
> country's nuclear power policy.
> However, the power companies were forced to review the plan,
> which was to be launched at 16 to 18 power plants across the nation by
> fiscal 2010, because they have failed to win approval of the plan from
> the local governments in areas where the power plants are located.
> The plan, known as the "pluthermal program," is to produce
> plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by mixing plutonium obtained
> from used nuclear fuel with uranium and use the MOX fuel at existing
> nuclear reactors as fuel for power generation.
> The program was intended to secure a stable energy supply for the
> nation, which possesses few natural resources.
> According to the initial program drawn up in 1997, MOX fuel was
> to be used at 16 to 18 nuclear reactors by fiscal 2010.
> However, a series of scandals involving nuclear power plants,
> including one uncovered in 2002 in which Tokyo Electric Power Co.
> falsified
> records of its inspections of a nuclear power plant, damaged the local
> governments' trust in the nuclear power plants in their midst.
> As a result, the power companies obtained approval from the local
> governments to start the MOX program at just seven reactors, including
> the No. 3 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai Nuclear Power
> Plant in Genkaicho, Saga Prefecture.
> The power companies had maintained their position of wanting to
> continue the MOX program as scheduled despite the local governments'
> opposition.
> However, Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the government's Atomic
> Energy Commission, criticized the power companies at the commission's
> meeting Tuesday, saying the program already was not reflecting
> reality, forcing the companies to review their stance.