Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Furnace malfunction has Stalled Tests at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, Japan

AOMORI -- A furnace malfunction at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant here has stalled a planned trial run of the facility, throwing the future of Japan's nuclear cycle policy into doubt.

Yoshihiko Kawai, president of plant operator Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), announced at a regular press briefing on Jan. 30 that a problem with a furnace at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant has forced a halt to the preparatory work for a test of the plant before it officially goes into operation. The furnace is designed to mix molten glass with highly radioactive liquid waste.

The cause of the malfunction has yet to be determined, with no prospect of restoring the equipment to operation in the near term, JNFL said. The technical impasse could prompt calls for a review of the country's nuclear fuel cycle policy, under which spent fuel from conventional nuclear reactors would be reprocessed into MOX plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel for so-called "pluthermal" and "full MOX" reactors.

The plant has repeatedly delayed a full-scale trial run since December 2008 due to a spate of troubles. Read More