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France sends its last nuclear cargo to Japan

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Cherbourg (France) (AFP) – Two ships carrying reprocessed nuclear fuel bound for Japan sailed from northern France on Saturday morning, an AFP photographer noted, despite criticism from environmental activists.

The fuel was due to leave the port city of Cherbourg in northern France earlier this month but was delayed by the breakdown of loading equipment.

Environmental activists have denounced the practice of transporting these highly radioactive materials, calling it irresponsible.

The previous shipment of MOX fuel to Japan in September 2021 sparked protests from environmental group Greenpeace.

MOX fuel is a mixture of plutonium and reprocessed uranium.

“The Pacific Heron and the Pacific Egret, specialized ships of the British company PNTL, left the port of Cherbourg on September 17. They will ensure the delivery of MOX nuclear fuel to Japan”, indicated on Saturday the French group of nuclear technology Orano in a press release.

They are destined for Japan for use in a power plant and Orano said it expected the shipment to arrive in November.

Japan lacks the facilities to process waste from its own nuclear reactors and sends most of it overseas, notably to France.

The operation was carried out “successfully”, Orano said, and it was the second shipment to arrive in Cherbourg from a factory in La Hague, located 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, after the first coming September 7th.

Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France had previously denounced the dispatch.

“Transporting such dangerous materials from a nuclear proliferation perspective is completely irresponsible,” he said last month.

MOX is composed of 92% uranium oxide and 8% plutonium oxide, according to Orano.

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The plutonium “is not the same as that used by the military”, he said.