Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News


Thursday, February 01, 2001

WHILE Sellafield is still not back on track with its own Japanese MOX business, BNFL is attracting fresh controversy in the South Pacific over its role in transporting a shipment of mixed uranium and plutonium oxide (Mox) from France to Japan.

Two BNFL ships carrying Mox fuel produced by a Belgian atomic energy group, left Cherbourg, France. last week and are expected to arrive in Japan in the second half of March.

The Pacific Pintail and its escort, the Pacific Teal, are carrying armed police from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary.

New Zealand ministers are lodging formal protests over the shipment with the Japanese, French and UK governments.

Shipments of Mox fuel to Japan from Europe have only just re-started following a moratorium imposed last year. Japanese authorities have been wary of allowing imports of Mox since BNFL's admission in 1999 that it falsified quality data on a batch of fuel sent to Kansai Electric Power Company.

Greenpeace, the environmental lobby group, said Japan was considering an alternative transport route with Russian shipping companies to transport nuclear fuel via the Northern Arctic. It claimed any such move by the Japanese would cause further commercial damage to BNFL, which last year faced record losses of 337m. BNFL said it was aware that commercial shipping companies were considering a shorter northern route as an alternative to its three existing southern routes via the Panama Canal, Cape of Good Hope and the Tasman Sea.