December 1999

Japanese anti-nuclear groups take KANSAI Electric to court over falsified quality contol data of mox fuel produced in britain

Green Action, November 19, 1999

[Posted 06/12/1999]

OSAKA-- Two hundred twelve citizens from the Kansai region of Japan submitted legal documents today to the Osaka Regional Court seeking a provisional disposition to prohibit Kasai Electric from loading plutonium uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel into the Takahama Unit 4 nuclear power plant. The MOX fuel in question was produced at the British Nuclear Fuels PLC (BNFL) MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) in Sellafield, Britain. Plaintiffs decided to pursue legal action after becoming convinced that Kansai Electric and the Japanese nuclear regulatory authorities are not prepared to carry out a thorough scientific investigation into quality control data falsification of the MOX fuel. The fuel in question is the first loading scheduled for Japan's pluthermal program. Under the program, surplus Japanese plutonium is to be burned in 16-18 commercial nuclear power plants by the year 2010.

Green Action and Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi, and Takahama Nuclear Reactors (Mihama no Kai) initiated the legal proceedings after finding discrepancies in Unit 4 pellet diameter measurement data which strongly suggests that tampering of quality control data took place at BNFL. Quality control of pellet size is vital for the safety of MOX fuel. Earlier on November 1st, Kansai Electric officially announced that fuel with falsified quality control data for Takahama Unit 3 would be re-fabricated at manufacture's cost by BNFL. Takahama Unit 3 fuel had not yet left the BNFL facility whereas the Unit 4 fuel arrived in Japan October 1st and is currently stored at the reactor site.

The data analyzed by the two groups was released by BNFL and Kansai Electric last month at the request of the Fukui prefectural government. The groups statistically analyzed the data and discovered that distribution graphs for the all-pellet inspection and the quality control inspection which normally broadly match if quality control was undertaken properly, did not match for some lots. On the 20th of October, the two groups sent their findings to Kansai Electric asking the company to prohibit the loading of the fuel until it could scientifically prove that no falsification had taken place.

On November 1st Kansai Electric published its final report on the BNFL MOX data falsification scandal without providing proof that Unit 4 fuel quality control data had not been tampered with. The next day MITI's Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) stated it was satisfied with the conclusions reached by Kansai Electric. ANRE is responsible for imported nuclear fuel assembly inspection which must be carried out prior to the loading of the fuel. The inspection is now expected to take place the end of November or beginning of December.

ANRE states it is unnecessary to prove by statistical analysis that falsification of quality control data did not take place. "The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, by failing to order a thorough investigation into this scandal and by not questioning Kansai Electric unfounded conclusions, is guilty of neglecting its regulatory oversight responsibilities. This is just like Japan Science and Technology Agency which is guilty for not having properly regulated the JCO facility at Tokai Mura", said Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action.

The goal of this court case is to prevent potentially dangerous plutonium-uranium fuel from being loaded into the Takahama nuclear power plant. Use of defective fuel could lead to a serious nuclear accident resulting in thousands, even tens of thousands of cancer deaths, said Stephen Ready of Green Action.

Hideyuki Koyama the director of Mihama no Kai said, It is statistically evident that quality control data for Takahama Unit 4 is extremely suspicious. Kansai Electric and ANRE however, have no intention of investigating the matter. Lack of regulatory control was one of the direct causes of the Tokai criticality accident. Even though the regulatory authorities are under heavy criticism for this, they are acting as though nothing ever happened. The JCO accident shows that accidents do happen, and we came to the conclusion that taking legal action is the only way to stop this dangerous fuel from being loaded into the reactor.

Kansai Electric will be required during the court proceedings to release further information about the MOX fuel quality control data for Takahama Unit 4. It is expected that analysis of this data will reveal a fuller picture of what type of data falsification took place at BNFL.

For more information contact:
Aileen Mioko Smith or Stephen Ready
Green Action Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden cho Sakyo-ku Kyoto 606-8203 JAPAN
Tel: +81-75-701-7223 Fax: +81-75-702-1952

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