On 29 March the French nuclear company AREVA announced the signature of a new MOX fuel fabrication contract. The deal, signed between the AREVA subsidiary MELOX SA and Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel (MNF), "in charge of designing the fuel for the utility", according to an AREVA press statement, covers the fabrication of plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel for the Tomari-3 unit of Hokkaido Electric Power Company (HEPCO).
AREVA does not indicate the tonnage or the number of fuel assemblies covered by the new agreement. However, according to knowledgeable Kyoto based NGO Green Action (see Status of Japanese MOX Program), the contract would be limited to four MOX assemblies that in turn would be roughly equivalent to the total amount of plutonium (ca. 0.1 tonne of fissile plutonium) separated from HEPCO spent fuel at La Hague.
AREVA states that between 2006 and 2009 it has signed MOX fuel fabrication contracts also with Japanese utilities Chubu, Kyushu, Shikoku, KEPCO, EPDC and Chugoku. AREVA's MELOX plant in Marcoule is currently the only commercially operating MOX fabrication facility in the world. The UK Sellafield MOX plant keeps underperforming at a few percent of its nominal capacity.