First quarter of 2001

TEPCO admits referendum could kill MOX program

WISE-Paris, 29 January 2001
Green Action, Press release, 25 January 2001

[Posted 29/01/2001]

A Japanese electric utility, in an unprecedented move, announced that it would respect the outcome of a local referendum over its MOX program. "In the referendum, if the number against the Pluthermal Program [the MOX program] is in majority, we cannot implement it", stated Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) President Naoya Minami, at a press conference in Kariwa, Japan, on 23 January 2001, according to the Kyoto based environmental group Green Action. The head of Japan’s largest utility declared that no MOX fuel would be used in its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa-3 reactor if more than half of the population in Kariwa voted against MOX use program. Meanwhile, the 32 MOX assemblies delivered to TEPCO in September 1999 by Belgonucleaire are still unused, waiting for the judgement of the lawsuit filed by Greenpeace Japan, the Tokyo based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Tokyo Electric Citizens Group and 2000 citizens, over suspicious quality-control procedures in the Belgian MOX plant. (see also "Belgonucleaire hit by quality-control default suspicion").

The following is press release published by Green Action on 25 January 2001:

Green Action
TEL: 075-701-7223 - FAX: 075-702-1952
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8203JAPAN
TEL: +81-75-701-7223 - FAX: +81-75-702-1952 - Email:

Fate of MOX Fuel On Board "Pacific Pintail" en Route to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Uncertain



For immediate release: 25 January 2001

For more information contact: Stephen Ready, or Aileen Mioko Smith +81-90-3620-9251

Kyoto, Japan — At a press conference in the village of Kariwa, Niigata Prefecture on 23 January, Tokyo Electric President Naoya Minami suggested that the company would cancel MOX (plutonium uranium mixed oxide) fuel use in the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 3 reactor if more than half of the population in Kariwa votes against the MOX use program in a referendum. (The program is called "Pluthermal" in Japan.) Minami stated "in the referendum, if the number against the Pluthermal Program is in the majority, we can not implement it." His comments were welcomed by anti-MOX activists in Kariwa and all over Japan.

On 9 January citizens and legislators of Kariwa announced plans to collect signatures from the public to try to force a referendum on the implementation of the Pluthermal Program. According to Japanese law, the group has one month to collect signatures from the residents of the village. Starting on 4 February, if they receive signatures of over 1/20th of the population by 4 March a motion requesting a referendum will be put to a vote by the village legislature. If passed, Kariwa citizens will be voting for or against the use of MOX fuel at Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. The vote would be expected to take place in May.

Although the village assembly of Kariwa initially voted 9-8 in favor of a motion to hold such a referendum last December, this attempt failed when mayor Shinada of Kariwa called such a referendum "inappropriate", and ordered the village assembly to redeliberate the measure on 2 January 2001. The measure failed to garner two-thirds majority necessary to over-ride the mayor’s veto. In the second referendum attempt, taking place in February, signatures will be collected directly from the electorate. Supporters of the petition hope to gather enough eligible signatures to convince the mayor the referendum must go forward.

On 15 January, Tokyo Electric responded to the referendum signature drive by announcing a door-to-door visit of all households in the village. At the same time the company announced plans to ship the 28 MOX fuel assemblies fabricated for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant at Belgonucleaire from Europe to Japan. Monday’s statement by Minami comes just days after the MOX fuel assemblies departed Cherbourg, France on 19 January on board the "Pacific Pintail". The two-armed vessels, the "Pacific Pintail" and its escort vessel the "Pacific Teal" are now headed south in a route that is scheduled to round the Cape of Good Hope, sailing east, through the Tasman Sea, and north to Japan through the South Pacific. The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Japan in mid-March.

Meanwhile in Fukushima Prefecture the judge in the case to seek an injunction on the use of 32 MOX fuel assemblies delivered to Tokyo Electric from Belgonucleaire in September 1999, called on Tokyo Electric to provide the court with further information about the state of quality control at Belgonucleaire and answer plaintiff allegations (made in a submission by Dr. Hideyuki Koyama of Osaka Prefecture University) concerning serious irregularities in the fuel’s quality control data.

In response to the statement made by President Minami at yesterday’s press conference, Stephen Ready of Green Action stated, "It is clear that the utilities have had reservations about the Pluthermal Program even before the BNFL quality control data falsification scandal occurred in December 1999. MOX fuel is several times more expensive than conventional uranium oxide fuel, and reactor safety margins are reduced when MOX is loaded into a reactor. Minami’s statement clearly indicates that Tokyo Electric is no longer interested in promoting this dangerous program against the will of the people. Green Action calls on the company to immediately turn the MOX shipment around, return to France, and cancel all future plans to fabricate, ship, and use MOX fuel."

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