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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 18:00 GMT
UK apologises for Japanese nuclear scandal

Tokyo demonstration Demonstrators greeted the UK delegation

A UK Government delegation in Japan has pledged to help restore trust in nuclear energy management after an embarrassing safety scandal.

Last October, a shipment of reprocessed nuclear fuel from British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) reached Japan carrying falsified quality control data.

The UK delegation arrived in Tokyo on Monday for a week-long mission aimed at overturning a resulting ban by the Japanese Government on the use of nuclear fuel from Britain.

In meetings on Tuesday with officials from Kansai Electric Power Limited, the senior British member of the delegation offered the UK government's promise to help raise public confidence.

'Deep regret'

Anna Walker, director-general of the UK's Department of Trade and Industry, said: "Both the Japanese and British Governments wish to assist BNFL in rebuilding confidence in nuclear energy matters on behalf of its clients and the Japanese people."

Japanese nuclear safety exercises Japan relies heavily on its nuclear industry

Ms Walker also expressed the UK Government's "deep regret and apologies".

BNFL has admitted its employees saved time by by-passing quality control checks on mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (Mox) fuel at the Sellafield plant in the north of England.

Some test data were falsified on the size of fuel pellets in a shipment of Mox sent to Kansai Electric Power.

The fuel arrived in Japan at a sensitive time following the major nuclear accident at Tokaimura nuclear plant which killed one worker and exposed hundreds to radioactive fall-out.

Restoring confidence

The British delegation was greeted by a small, but noisy, group of anti-nuclear protesters.

The UK still has an uphill battle to convince the Japanese Government that the highly radioactive fuel really is safe to use in its nuclear power stations.

An official apology was delivered on Monday to Hirofumi Kawano, director-general of the agency of natural resources and energy at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Kansai Electric Power insisted last month it would return the fuel to Sellafield as soon as necessary permits were obtained, although it believed the fuel itself was safe.

If Japan continues with its ban on using reprocessed fuel, the brand-new Sellafield reprocessing plant may be forced out of business even before it goes into full operation.

Japan is the largest potential customer for the new plant, which has yet to receive UK Government approval.

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