Home > Man-Made Disasters > Fukushima Nuclear Reactor No. 3 Using Controversial, and Dangerous, MOX Fuel

Fukushima Nuclear Reactor No. 3 Using Controversial, and Dangerous, MOX Fuel


As many who have been following developments in Japan are now well aware, reactor No. 3’s housing at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan exploded on March 14, 2011 following the massive 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s east coast.  What many may not have been aware of, however, is the fact that, according to an August 2010 announcement by Shikoku Electric Power Co. Inc., reactor No. 3 was filled with a controversial fuel called MOX (Mixed OXide) — a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides — and was to begin producing electricity about one month following the announcement:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. loaded plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel Saturday into a reactor at its nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture in preparation for the largest Japanese utility’s first plutonium-thermal power generation.

The No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant would be the third in Japan to be used for the so-called pluthermal generation…

Tokyo Electric plans to activate the reactor on Sept. 18 and let it start generating electricity on Sept. 23

Of particular interest here is the fact that MOX is a highly controversial fuel.  In a 1997 letter written to then President Bill Clinton, 171 organizations joined together requesting that the President prohibit the use of MOX plutonium fuel in commercial nuclear reactors.   Not only was this type of fuel “experimental” at the time the letter was written, it was also more easily utilized into weapons-grade material and “increased reactor hazards” due to technical issues inherent with this type of fuel.  “Plutonium in the system makes more — and more dangerous — types of radioactivity.  This affects the discharges to air and water, and all waste types.  Plutonium also affects the fission process itself, making it more difficult to control and leaving an even narrower margin for human error, as well as affecting the physical integrity of the reactor itself.”

Additionally, an article by retired physical-chemistry engineer Jean-Pierre Morichaud highlights data provided by Jean-Paul Schapira, a well-known French nuclear physicist, and Monique Sené of the Association of Scientists for Nuclear Energy Information. In his article, Morichaud notes that some of the safety concerns posed by MOX when compared to traditional uranium fuel includes a more delicate fabrication of fuel rods to protect against contamination, greater risk of loss of control during reactor operation despite the presence of extra control rods, release of fission gases, and corrosion of fuel rods during reactor operation.

For what it’s worth, this was enough of a concern for even Greenpeace to designate an entire page against the use of MOX fuel on their website.  “MOX in a reactor is more unsafe because plutonium is more reactive and this hotter fuel can cause increased localised melting of fuel in the reactor.”  Additionally, “The first shipment of MOX from Europe to Japan in 1999 ended in an international nuclear scandal. Crucial safety data of the MOX had been deliberately falsified by BNFL” (British Nuclear Fuels Ltd).

For about an hour this evening the Kyodo News Agency had been reporting that Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, had said that a “partial defect” had been found inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  This would have been disastrous.  Fortunately, however, that announcement seems to have been premature and, at this time, there may not be any “partial defect” on reactor No. 3.  Indeed, let’s hope it remains that way and that the integrity continues to hold, not only for this reactor, but for all affected by this disaster.  It’s big enough as it already is.

The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of MidnightWatcher's Blogspot. Although differences of opinion are welcomed, please refrain from personal attacks and inappropriate language. This blog reserves the right to edit or delete any comments that fail to do so.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: