Fuel shunned by Japan's Kansai
Financial Times, 12 January 2000
By Andrew Taylor, Utilities Correspondent
A leading Japanese electricity company plans to
return suspect nuclear fuel to Britain after the manufacturer, British
Nuclear Fuels, admitted that quality control records may have been falsified.
Kansai Electric Power (Kepco) said that it will
send the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (mox) fuel back to BNFL as soon
as it gains permissions to ship the nuclear fuel through international
The Japanese government has suspended further deliveries
of mox fuel from BNFL following the discovery that records may have
The British government plans to send a senior Department
of Trade and Industry official to Japan next month in a bid to rebuild
bridges and get the nuclear contract reinstated. Anna Walker, director
general of energy at the DTI, is expected to visit the Japanese Ministry
of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Kepco.
The Japanese company said on Tuesday (11 January)
that it would return the suspect fuel, which was delivered to its Takahama
power station last Autumn. While there has been no accusation that the
fuel is unsafe, Japanese authorities are anxious to be seen not be taking
risks following the country's worst ever nuclear disaster at a uranium
processing plant at Tokaimura last September.
Ryuzo Hasegawa a Kepco spokesman said on Tuesday:
"There is no problem with fuel but we decided not to use it because
they (BNFL) did not follow proper procedures."
The British company said: ``The question of how
to deal with the fuel assemblies currently in Japan is a matter on which
there will need to be further discussions between the governments involved
as well as the companies. This is not a safety issue but a quality assurance
A freeze on future fuel imports could threaten the
future of BNFL's £300m ($492m) Mox production plant at Sellafield in
Cumbria and delay government plans for a partial privatisation of the
nuclear group. A sale of up to 49 per cent of BNFL could raise about
Japan accounts for about 50 per cent of the potential
market for BNFL's Sellafield Mox Plant. The plant was completed 18 months
ago but the government has delayed giving full clearance to operate
until its economic viability can be proved. Shipments of nuclear fuel
from Britain and France to Japan have attracted strong protests from
environmental groups which previously have attempted to prevent ships
sailing by blocking ports.
Tokyo Electric Power Company last week said it would
postpone loading a Belgian shipment of mox fuel into its Fukushima 1
nuclear plant, originally planned for next month, until checks had removed
any doubts over its safety.
The fuel shipment to Tepco was manufactured by
Belgonucleaire, a nuclear power group owned equally by Suez Lyonnais
des Eaux, the French multi-utility, and the Belgian state, under a subcontract
to Cogema, the French nuclear company.