Sixth MOX nuclear shipment leaves France for Japan

Protesters say the nuclear shipment is too dangerous
Protesters say the nuclear shipment is too dangerous

A cargo of reprocessed nuclear fuel containing highly radioactive plutonium left the French port of Cherbourg for Japan under heavy security on Wednesday as demonstrators protested against the transport.

The controversial shipment from a plant of the French nuclear group Areva located some 20 kilometres (12 miles) away arrived at the port before dawn aboard two trucks escorted by dozens of security vehicles as a helicopter flew overhead.

Around 20 Greenpeace activists carried protest banners and threw smoke bombs at the convoy shortly before it arrived at the port.

It is the sixth shipment of mixed oxide (MOX), a blend of plutonium and uranium, from France to Japan since 1999.

"We are warning of how dangerous this shipment is and especially the risk of nuclear proliferation and the possible diversion for military purposes," Greenpeace France activist Yannick Rousselet told AFP.

Areva spokesman Alexandre Marinot described the cargo as being of "a maximum safety level."

Uranium reactors produce a mixture of depleted uranium and plutonium as a by-product of fission. These can be re-processed into MOX fuel, which can then be used in other reactors to generate more power.

Japan has few energy resources of its own and relied on nuclear power for nearly one-third of its domestic electricity needs until the 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima plant.

On Tuesday, the Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire (Nuclear Phase-Out) said in a statement: "Areva profits from selling this dangerous fuel to a country devastated by a nuclear accident to supply reactors whose resumption the Japanese people reject."

There are currently five reactors in operation in Japan compared with 54 before the Fukushima accident.

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© 2017 AFP

Citation: Sixth MOX nuclear shipment leaves France for Japan (2017, July 5) retrieved 16 September 2019 from
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Jul 06, 2017
The following is not accurate -

"Uranium reactors produce a mixture of depleted uranium and plutonium as a by-product of fission. "

Depleted Uranium, naturally occurring Uranium-238 is not produced in reactors. Uranium fuel pellets contain enriched uranium which contains a higher percentage of Uranium-235 than natural uranium and a smaller (but still present) percentage of naturally occurring Uranium-238 (aka Depleted Uranium). Plutonium-239 is created when Uranium-238 captures a neutron from the fission process.

Jul 06, 2017
In what sense is that quote not accurate?

Although the plutonium is not a fission product, it is indeed a by-product of the fission process. And after the fuel has been used, much of what's left is either the original U238 (which even after enrichment in fact usually far exceeds the U235 in the fuel) or the P239 to which some of it was converted by neutron capture. Although the U238 was there from the outset and so not "produced" by the reaction, the new *mixture* of U238 and P239 (and various fission products) is indeed produced from the old mixture of U238 and U235.

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