April 2002

BNFL moves to repair relations with Japan

FT.com, April 26, 2002
By Matthew Jones

[Posted 29/04/2002]

British Nuclear Fuels on Friday began the process of returning an unwanted consignment of plutonium mixed oxide (mox) fuel from Japan back to Britain.

The move aims to repair relations between BNFL and Japanese customers after the fuel was delivered with falsified quality records in 1999.

But it met strong protests from environmental campaigners, who claimed the shipment posed an unacceptable security risk and breached international and UK law.

Two armed nuclear transport ships left Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria on Friday to collect the fuel from Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama reactor. They are expected to arrive in Japan in June, in the middle of the World Cup football competition.

Japan is the largest potential customer for BNFL's new £470m ($684m) mox plant at Sellafield, but had refused to sign contracts until the unwanted consignment was returned to Britain. The exercise is expected to cost tax payers £113m, including £40m of compensation paid to Kansai Electric.

Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group, said it had written to the UK government calling for the transport to be abandoned on security grounds. Irish campaigners separately delivered 1.3m postcards to UK prime minister Tony Blair in a protest against Sellafield, designed to mark the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.

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