December 1999

UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate confirms BNFL Falsification Scandal extends to Plutonium Fuel now in Japan

Press Release
By Greenpeace International

[Posted 15/12/1999]

LONDON, Dec 15, 1999 - A letter dated 8 th November, released earlier today in Japan, from the UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to the Japanese Embassy in London, confirms that plutonium fuel shipped to Japan earlier this year from the United Kingdom, contains quality control data suspected of being falsified by the producers, British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL). The letter, from the NII's Deputy Chief Inspector, B.J. Furness, concludes that "MITI and Kansai Electric are ... in a position to reach their own independent conclusions as to the suitability of the fuel for use at Takahama".

The confirmation from the NII is a further blow to BNFL's prospects for securing large-scale MOX contracts with Japanese utilities. Such contracts are essential if BNFL is to receive approval to produce MOX at the new, but as yet unopened Sellafield MOX Plant. The UK government is currently considering whether to approve or not.

"The Japanese utilities and the public have been consistently deceived by BNFL over this affair. The government must now refuse BNFL approval to open its new Sellafield MOX plant," said Greenpeace UK Nuclear Campaigner, Pete Roche.

The NII confirmed yesterday that NII Inspectors were meeting with MITI, on Monday and Tuesday, at their offices in Bootle (near Liverpool) - but they were not meeting Kansai. They also confirmed that the subject of the meeting was the falsification of MOX fuel data - but also that the NII investigation into the problem was ongoing.

The UK's Guardian Newspaper, on 9th December, quoted the NII saying "no one in Britain is endangered by the falsified safety checks, the only people might have been were Japanese and they are outside our jurisdiction so we have no obligation to publish".

"It may sound callous, but this is exactly how the legislation is framed - unfortunately it is not the NII's responsibility to consider the safety of using this fuel in Japan" said Roche. "Given that the NII's letter to MITI has confirmed that the data for Takahama-4 fuel is suspect; that the NII has no remit to consider safety in Japan; and that the NII's investigation is still ongoing, Kansai Electric have only one option - abandon all plans for using this dangerous fuel."

Greenpeace UK, and two Japanese anti-nuclear groups, Green Action and Mihama no Kai, have written a joint letter to the NII Deputy Chief Inspector today, to ask him to look in detail at the evidence presented by Green Action to the Osaka District Court. The evidence examines the safety data on the Takahama-4 fuel released in Japan following earlier revelations about data falsification.

"It certainly looks like at least 20 lots of fuel have data which have been fabricated," said Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action. "We would like to know what the UK's NII make of our conclusions."

Notes to editors

The scandal first emerged in September when the UK Independent newspaper revealed that fuel quality control data that assures the dimension of the plutonium MOX pellets intended for Takahama-3 reactor was confirmed as having been falsified by BNFL. However BNFL claimed at the time that none of the fuel already shipped to Japan was affected. As a result of the scandal BNFL's MOX demonstration facility was closed on September 12 and it remains closed today.

Three workers accused by BNFL of undertaking the falsification, have been fired from their jobs, and have recently lost their second round of appeal against dismissal. They are currently considering further legal action to regain their jobs, and claim that BNFL has made them scapegoats.

Copies of the letter from the NII to the Japanese Embassy and of the letter from the three environment groups to the NII available on request.

For further information:
Pete Roche - Greenpeace UK - 44 171 865 8229
Shaun Burnie - Greenpeace International - mobile number 0621 296913
Ailleen Smith Green Action, Kyoto +81 75 701 7223

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