November 1999


BNFL Mox Fuel Scandal Continues

WISE-Paris note: The following information has been put together and translated by Aileen Smith on behalf of Green Action, Kyoto, Japan. The reader should keep in mind that so far no MOX fuel has been introduced into any operating commercial light water reactor in Japan. Therefore, the start up itself of a significant programme of plutonium fuel use is currently at stake in Japan.

[Posted 08/11/1999]

BACKGROUND

The scandal over BNFL's Takahama Unit 3 MOX fuel which broke out in September has resulted in another scandal building in Fukui Prefecture over Takahama Unit 4 fuel. Unit 4 fuel arrived at the Takahama port aboard the Pacific Pintail on October 1st, the day following Japan's worst yet nuclear accident which took place at the JCO Plant at Tokaimura, and just after the scandal broke out over the Takahama Unit 3 fuel.

As a direct result of the scandal breaking out over Takahama Unit 3 fuel, the Fukui prefectural government (where Kansai Electric's Takahama Nuclear Power Plant is located) demanded disclosure of BNFL quality control information on both Takahama Unit 3 and Unit 4 fuel. Two Japanese NGOs, "Green Action" based in Kyoto and the "Osaka Group Opposing the Mihama Oi and Takahama Plants", conducted analyses of Takahama Unit 4 fuel using this disclosed information and found that several lots in Unit 4 were highly suspicious of having also been tampered with when undergoing quality control tests at BNFL. This was then reported in the Fukui area papers and television.

Since then members of the Fukui Prefecture legislature and Fukui ANKANKYO (the "Nuclear Power Environment Safety Management Consultation Committee" an advisory council made up of mayors of villages, towns and cities, presidents of local legislatures, and key organizations throughout Fukui prefecture such as the Fukui Agricultural Cooperative) have raised the issue concerning suspicions over Takahama Unit 4 fuel. Citizen organizations in Fukui and Kansai have demanded that this fuel not be put into the plant. Kansai Elecric management at first insisted the fuel would be put into the reactor on schedule in November. However, this now seems virtually impossible.

In the meantime both the government's Nuclear Safety Commission and MITI's Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) appear on the surface to continue "business as usual" and have so far taken up the issue only to state that there are no problems with Takahama Unit 4 fuel. However, with Takahama town citizens currently conducting a signature drive campaign to demand a public referendum on the MOX issue and public sensitivity after the JCO accident at Tokai-mura concerning the government's ability to regulate nuclear safety, it is possible that business cannot continue as usual for the Japanese safety authorities and Kansai Electric.

English translations (excerpts) of articles which have appeared recently on the Takahama Unit 4 scandal:

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Fukui Shinbun, 5 November 1999
(Note: Fukui Shinbun is the largest circulation paper in Fukui Prefecture)
ANKANKYO MEETING HELD AT TSURUGA CITY-TAKAHAMA MOX 4 FUEL "SAFETY" REMAINS QUESTIONABLE

At the Ankankyo meeting held November 4th at Tsuruga City's Fukui Nuclear Power Center, a barrage of questions were asked seeking substantiation from Kansai Electric about the company and other's position that there are no irregularities with Takahama 4 MOX fuel data. Comments from committee members questioned the reliability of the data, questions such as, "The same company made the Takahama Unit 4 fuel as well as Unit 3 fuel. On what basis can Kansai Electric conclude that there was no data falsification in one when there was in the other?"

Although Eiji Hiraoka (head of MITI's Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, Nuclear Power Generation Safety Management Section) explained at the meeting that during the government's Foreign Fuel Examination to be conducted probably this month, the government would send inspectors and examine Kansai Elecric's examination records and conduct an outside physical examination of the (Takahama Unit 4 MOX) fuel, Ankankyo committee members stated, "No matter how many times we hear these explanations, we cannot be satisfied with the answers supplied." and other opinions stated for example driving the spike in, "We want the government to go into this examination with the intent it will take on full responsibility for any accident that may occur."

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Chunichi (Fukui Edition) 5 November 1999
PREFECTURAL ANKANKYO MEETING - CITIZEN SIDE LEVIES SEVERE CRITICISM ISSUES COVERED: TSURUGA UNIT 2 RE-START, PLUTHERMAL (MOX) PROGRAM, CRITICALITY ACCIDENT STILL NOT SOLVED

On the pluthermal mixed oxide (MOX) fuel data falsification problem, opinions such as the following were stated: "It is societally unacceptable to renew a contract with such a British company that would go about falsifying data. This is the type of thing that increases suspicion of nuclear power."

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Nikkei (Fukui Edition) 5 November 1999
FUKUI PREFECTURE NUCLEAR POWER SAFETY MANAGEMENT CONSULTATION COMMITTEE (ANKANKYO) - SEVERE CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT FOLLOWS ONE AFTER THE OTHER - 3 SPECIAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

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Mainichi (Fukui Edition) 5 November 1999
KANSAI ELECTRIC, SOON TO CONDUCT EXAMINATION OF MOX FUEL TOWARD PLUTHERMAL USE AT TAKAHAMA UNIT 4 GOVERNMENT AND UTILITY BRIEFING CONCLUDED

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Asahi (Fukui Edition) 31 October 1999
TAKAHAMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT-HAS SAFETY ASSURANCE BEEN GUARANTEED!? MOX FUEL DATA FALSIFICATION SUSPICIONS REVEALED-KANSAI ELECTRIC. CITIZEN ORGANIZATIONS ANALYZING SECTION OF DATA STATE: "UNIT 4 ALSO A PROBLEM" GRAPHS SHOW IRREGULARITIES
(Translator's note: This is a very large article with photos and graphs.)

By the 29th, Kansai Electric released to the prefecutre inspection data on Takahama Unit 3 fuel who's data was falsified and Takahama Unit 4 fuel data which Kansai Electric states "has no problem". This release took place after being attacked at the Fukui Legislature committee that, "Unless raw data of the inspection is made public, you will not be able to gain the understanding of prefectural citizens." The information is in 15,000 pages of finely packed data, contained in 19 large looseleaf files. A portion of the data has been analyzed by citizen groups which keep nuclear power under watch, and these groups have stated, "Takahama Unit 4 data also has irregularities." This data is connected to prefectural citizens "safety" and "peace of mind". How much of it can be understood.

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Fukui Shinbun 3 November 1999
GOVERNMENT (MITI) AND NUCLEAR SAFETY COMMISSION RESPONSIBILITY PURSUED.

NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT EXPLAINED AT PREFECTURAL LEGISLATURE. QUESTIONS CONCENTRATE AROUND TAKAHAMA UNIT 4 FUEL MOX DATA FALSIFICATION-"SUSPICIONS ARE FAR FROM BEING CLEARED UP" DEMANDS MADE ON MITI'S AGENCY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY TO CONDUCT A FULL EXAMINATION

Kazuo Sato, chairman of the (government's) Nuclear Safety Commission stated that the committee was "satisfied with ANRE's explanation" of the Kansai Electric's investigation report on the Takahama Unit 3 fuel which stated that there were "no problems" with Takahama Unit 4 fuel.

The government stated it will conduct an external physical inspection of the Takahama Unit 4 MOX fuel to which legislator Tomihisa Noda (Kenmin Rengo Party) stated, "That is absolutely insufficient to clear up suspicions (concerning this fuel)."

Also during questioning of the utility, legislator Okuyama (Communist Party) stated, "There is a referendum drive now underway by Takahama town citizens. Citizen agreement concerning MOX fuel use has not as yet been gained", to which Kansai Electric's Managing Director Yamasaki commented: " We would like to keep a watch over the decisions of the townspeople."

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