Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News


Thursday, May 03, 2001

SELLAFIELD may have moved a step closer to winning vital new Mox fuel orders following Jack Cunningham's talks with Japanese government ministers and BNFL customers in Japan all last week.

Describing his Japanese mission as a "huge success", Copeland's MP declared: "The talks were both constructive and encouraging and I am pleased to report that the confidence of BNFL's Japanese customers is now returning. It was an extremely important visit and has done a great deal in helping with the case for the Sellafield Mox plant."

BNFL is hoping that the latest round of public consultations, into the economic case for Sellafield's full-scale Mox production plant, will result in the British government giving it a licence to operate after four years of delays.

Japanese orders for the recycled plutonium fuel are seen as vital to sustain the plant, which will underpin Sellafield's long-term future and many thousands of jobs, but last year's Mox fuel data falsification scandal which led to the resignation of BNFL's chief executive and the sacking of four Sellafield process workers shattered business confidence all over the world.

On his return from Japan, Dr Cunningham said: "It was essential the Japanese understood just how much progress has been made, both at Sellafield and within BNFL, since last year. Equally as important the Japanese needed to know that Sellafield still enjoys the support of the West Cumbria community.

Thanks to the existence of the 'Sort Out Sellafield' campaign the Japanese have been enormously reassured that this is the case. In fact, they were so impressed by the Campaign and its achievements that they now wish to replicate it in areas where they themselves have nuclear facilities."

While in Japan, Dr Cunningham addressed the Japan Atomic Industry Forum. "BNFL were extremely pleased with my contribution and considered it to be vital in rebuilding the trust of their Japanese customers and of crucial importance towards the commissioning of the Sellafield Mox plant."

Copeland Council leader, Robin Simpson, said: "Dr Cunningham's visit has played a massive role in protecting the 11,000 jobs on the Sellafield site and the other 5,000 jobs that depend upon these. All the signs suggest that his visit has had a positive impact on the Japanese government and BNFL's customers there. Japanese business is at the heart of the Mox business case."

John Kane, Sellafield union convenor, said he was now even more optimistic that the Mox plant would get the go ahead, adding: "Eventually, I think Jack's visit to Japan will bring wide- ranging benefits to Copeland and West Cumbria, but not least to Sellafield. In Japan, they now know the truth about what's happening here at Sellafield."