To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements
are being made to return to Japan nuclear materials recovered
from reprocessing Japanese spent nuclear fuel at BNFL's Sellafield
The Government have been consulting the Government of Japan
for some time about arrangements for returning the nuclear materials,
including plutonium, recovered from reprocessing Japanese spent
nuclear fuel at Sellafield. This is in keeping with the terms
of the letters exchanged between the two Governments in 1978 in
support of reprocessing contracts between Japanese utilities and
BNFL and the policy of successive Governments.
"The Government of Japan's preferred means
of using the recovered plutonium is for it to be converted into
Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel for use in Japanese nuclear power stations.
The MOX fuel, including material produced by BNFL's counterpart
COGEMA in France, will be returned by sea and carried by UK-flagged
transport ships belonging to Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd. (PNTL),
a subsidiary of BNFL.
"The purpose of the consultations between
the UK and Japan has been to ensure that appropriate measures
are put in place for the physical protection of the material in
line with internationally agreed commitments and recommendations
on physical protection and reflecting the concern of all parties
to prevent the proliferation of sensitive nuclear materials. This
includes compliance with the recommendation of the International
Atomic Energy Agency that MOX fuel, like all other Category 1
nuclear material, should be accompanied during transport by an
armed security escort.
"All plutonium recovered from Japanese spent
fuel reprocessed in Europe originates from uranium which was enriched
in the US. Because of this, it falls within US rules of origin
under which the US retains certain rights and responsibilities
over its retransfer. This means that plans for the transport of
MOX fuel from Europe to Japan by sea must comply with specific
US requirements concerning safety and physical protection. These
are set out in the 1988 US-Japan agreement on nuclear co-operation
and include the requirement either that the transport ship should
be accompanied by an armed escort vessel or that alternative security
measures acceptable to the US should be in place.
"The security arrangements currently under
discussion with Japan and the US would involved 2 PNTL transport
ships travelling together for mutual protection. Each would carry
armaments, for defensive use only, under the control of specially
trained officers of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
Constabulary. These security provisions are solely for protecting
the ships, their crew and their cargo in the extremely unlikely
eventuality of an armed assault by terrorists."