Thanks to the technological help from France, in 1970 in Tokaï-Mura, south of Fukushima, Japan opened a pilot irradiated fuel-reprocessing factory.
In 1987, Cogema (COmpanie GEnérale des MAtières nucléaires) signed a contract for 1.4 billion francs, equivalent to 213 million Euros, to help construct a new reprocessing factory in Rokkasho-Mura, north of Fukushima – a replica of la Hague’s inland factory near Cherbourg. It should have started service in 2005, but today we are still waiting. As a result, the Fukushima-Daiichi accident site also houses a pool of irradiated fuel, common to the six reactors. The pool is supersaturated and serves as buffer storage pending the start of the Rokkasho-Mura factory. The vice president of Tepco, Tokyo Electric Power Company, declared in 2002 while the local and hostile nuclear referenda were multiplying that “the extraction of plutonium was vital.” The Rokkasho factory must then serve to extract the irradiated plutonium fuel and to re-inject the new fuel associated with the enriched, mixed oxide uranium plutonium fuel. In waiting for the eventual opening of the Rokkasho-Mura factory, France furnished the Japanese reactors with MOX. On March 10th 2011, the day before the earthquake, Areva, the leading French nuclear company, announced to the French High Committee for the Transparence of Information on Nuclear Safety the imminent departure of a new sea transport of MOX between Cherbourg and Japan, which would include fuel for the 3rd reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi.
France and Japan have had relations for 40 years in the nuclear domain, a friendship sealed by the spent fuel reprocessing, with over a hundred shipping deliveries of materials and radioactive waste between Cherbourg and Japan, the intensive use of MOX, but also the great venture of the interrupted fast breeder reactors at Creys-Malville and at Monju.