The Japan Times

Friday, February 11, 2000

Britain reiterates promise to act quickly on MOX fuel

A top British energy official reiterated Friday her nation's determination to promptly propose action on the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel that was delivered to Kansai Electric Power Co. by a British company and later rejected because of falsified safety data.

"We're committed to putting proposals forward as quickly as possible, looking at all the options, including the return of the fuel," Anna Walker, director general for the energy department of British Trade and Industry, said in Tokyo.

On the previous day, Walker and the British delegation -- including officials from Nuclear Installations (NII) in the Health and Safety Executive, Britain's independent regulatory body -- wrapped up a week of talks with Japanese officials.

Walker said the proposals will be made sometime after Feb. 18, when the health and safety body publishes NII's report on the falsification of quality assurance data at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.'s MOX facility in Britain.

The report will also detail the state of the fuel in question and measures for preventing recurrence of the incident.

On the fuel remaining at Kepco's Takahama site in Fukui Prefecture, Walker went on to say: "The issue raises the contractual issues between the two companies, which need to be clarified first," before a decision is made by Britain on whether to retrieve the rejected MOX fuel.

"We'll then have to simply look at what options are open and what the advantages and disadvantages of each of these options are," she said.

Although the fuel was deemed safe by NII after its own investigations, Walker said the British government will wait for the Japanese government's response to the NII report before deciding its next move.

"The U.K. government and BNFL recognize the seriousness of the issues related to data falsification of BNFL," Walker repeated. "We're here to express our deep regret and to offer sincere apologies on behalf of BNFL for the falsification.

"Most importantly, we're here trying to begin the process of rebuilding the relationship between the U.K. and Japanese governments and BNFL and Japanese companies," she said.