voices doubts about UK nuclear contracts
Financial Times, 22 February 2000
By Ralph Atkins in Berlin and Matthew Jones in London
on Monday threw into doubt the future of contracts with British Nuclear
Fuels in a move that will further endanger the UK government's plans
to partially privatise the company.
Berlin environment ministry appealed to the country's private sector
power utilities to consider whether they wished - or were able - to
continue to co-operate with a partner "that has proved itself to be
Friday BNFL was heavily criticised in three safety reports published
by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the UK's safety regulator,
for "systematic management failures" which allowed the falsification
of quality control documents for batches of mixed oxide (Mox) fuel manufactured
at its Sellafield plant.
spokesman for Jürgen Trittin, the German Green party environment minister,
said it had become apparent that the problems at Sellafield were not
just a one-off but reflected a general neglect of stipulated tests and
"inherent deficiencies in the organisation of BNFL".
Trittin, who has been among the most aggressive in pushing for an end
to atomic power in Germany, said the incident confirmed his determination
to halt the "plutonium economy" as soon as possible and end the reprocessing
of spent fuel rods.
is an unprecedented occurrence, the consequences of which cannot yet
be estimated," it said. The comments followed confirmation by PreussenElektra,
the north German electricity generator, that it had discovered shortfalls
in BNFL documentation associated with four fuel rods at its atomic power
station in Unterweser, Lower Saxony.
atomic power stations in Germany are licensed to use Mox fuel, which
has been developed as a way of disposing of plutonium produced by reprocessing
spent fuel. Berlin has demanded from British authorities "the quickest
and most comprehensive possible" update on the information they have
on the "scandalous" incident.
German environment ministry has also ordered an urgent investigation
into precisely when PreussenElektra and the atomic supervisory authority
in Lower Saxony knew about the document manipulation and possible security
insisted, however, that "the lack of documentation had no influence
on the safe running of the power station". Berlin and Lower Saxony officials
are expected to hold talks with the company today.
has already been banned indefinitely from selling Mox fuel in Japan
and has been told by Kansai Electric Power Company, one of its main
customers, that it cannot tender for other fuel supply contracts for