First quarter of 2000

Proposal to the British Government for Plutonium Immobilisation and Re-Negotiation of THORP Reprocessing Contracts

Green Action's proposal to Anna Walker, Director General for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry released to press on 7.2.00 at MITI press conference in Tokyo, 7 February 2000 (Green Action is an environmental group based in Kyoto)

[Posted 09/02/2000]

Britain and Japan are at an important crossroads of their nuclear business relationship. The quality assurance data falsification scandal could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, having brought to the fore this opportunity to re-examine this relationship at this important time.

A wise decision made now will lead to a better path. A short-sighted decision concerned only with immediate benefits may lead to decades of quagmire for both countries. It is therefore now crucial to embark on decisions that have the future in mind.

In this light, we firmly believe that it is of the utmost importance that the Department of Trade and Industry takes this opportunity with MITI to co-operate in facilitating a discussion leading to the re-negotiation of THORP reprocessing contracts to temporary storage contracts. It is worthy to note that the McKerron Report commissioned for UK NGOs including Friends of the Earth states that Britain could save money if this were done. We note also that Japanese utilities raised the issue of storage, rather than reprocessing, of their spent fuel at the 1999 Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, JAIF, held in Sendai in April 1999.

The troubled operational history of THORP provides a further opportunity to halt further reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel. The vast majority of Japanese utilities spent fuel now sitting in Sellafield is still to be reprocessed. Additional stockpiling of plutonium at Sellafield will only add significantly to a problem already recognised by the UK House of Lords in 1999.

Taking the courageous decision not to go forward with the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) and negotiating for the immobilisation of Japanese plutonium at THORP is the path compatible with current political, technical, and economic trends in both Britain and Japan.

What is needed now is leadership. It cannot come forward from BNFL or the Japanese electric utilities. This is the mandate for government.

We will be frank and state that we think the possibility of the British and Japanese governments taking this opportunity now to facilitate this re-negotiation is slim. But we remain optimistic in the belief that governments can indeed correct past mistakes and make decisions that will have in mind what is best mutually for the future.

We know it is not simple. There are a host of complications. However, such a decision should be able to be made with skilful negotiation on the part of both governments.


*For Britain at this time, recovering BNFL's credibility is vital. To this end, a comprehensive investigation of MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) quality assurance data falsification, full and complete disclosure of results, and a thorough and timely review of BNFL management practices is indispensable. The British government must not state to the Japanese that quality assurance is not a safety issue. This will only serve to further undermine British credibility.

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