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Friday, 18 February, 2000, 06:08 GMT
Japan vents fury on BNFL

Tokyo demonstration Local citizens are furious with British Nuclear Fuels


Any hope British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) had of restoring its reputation in Japan appears to have disappeared after it admitted that staff at its Sellafield plant faked safety records.

BNFL is heavily criticised in an official report by the UK's nuclear watchdog over its running of the new mixed oxide (Mox) plant in north-west England.

Gaia Hoerdner of the Centre of Nuclear Information in Tokyo said Japan was furious at the latest developments and that BNFL had almost certainly lost its largest potential customer.


The Japanese companies have totally lost face because they received this defective quality controlled fuel and it is very unlikely that they are going to resume trade with BNFL again
Gaia Hoerdner of the Centre of Nuclear Information in Tokyo
"We are very angry about the whole thing," Ms Hoerdner told BBC News 24, adding that Japan had "lost complete trust" in BNFL.

BNFL has admitted staff deliberately falsified quality control records on batches of uranium and plutonium mixed oxide fuel rods and that there were serious shortcomings among management at the plant.

The false records were discovered when a shipment of BNFL's reprocessed nuclear fuel reached Japan last October.

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

Japan first announced a ban on further BNFL imports and then demanded the consignment be sent back, prompting the UK to send a government delegation to Japan last week to try to smooth over the row.

Sellafield The Sellafield plant in Cumbria
But asked if trust could be regained and trade resumed, Ms Hoerdner replied: "Not likely. We don't expect that it will resume.

"Most likely the trade will be centred in France from now on.

"The Japanese companies have totally lost face because they received this defective quality-controlled fuel and it is very unlikely that they are going to resume trade with BNFL again."

She said if BNFL could not assure quality then the neither the Japanese government, people or business community would be convinced of the safety of the fuel.

"The plutonium fuel programme has been postponed at all power plants that had the plans and the utilities and the government are very angry over this scandal," she said.

Local fury

Ms Hoerdner said Kansai Electric, the company which received the reprocessed fuel from the UK, was furious, along with the local population near the Takahama 4 power station, where the British assignment of Mox fuel had been delivered.

"The local citizens especially have been very angry," she said. "And also Kansai Electric which imported the fuel, as they have lost face."

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.

The country relies on 51 commercial nuclear power plants to supply one-third of its electricity.

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See also:
18 Feb 00 |  UK
Nuclear plant safety condemned
12 Oct 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan admits fresh radiation leak
02 Oct 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Pressure on Japan's nuclear industry
18 Feb 00 |  UK
What is nuclear reprocessing?

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