Thursday, March 07, 2002

The latest chapter in the Mox data falsification scandal opened this week when the US government gave its consent to plans to return the shipment of fuel at the centre of the controversy from Japan to the UK.

BNFL's chief executive Norman Askew said: "This enables us to honour the commitment I gave to the customer when I arrived at BNFL two years ago. We are now in a position to return the fuel to the UK this year, which is exactly what we set out to do.

"Returning this fuel will bring to an end a chapter in BNFL's operations from which many lessons have been learned."

The shipment of the fuel caused an international controversy which led to the embarrassment of BNFL and a delay in the licensing of the Mox plant, which was seen as vital to the future of reprocessing at Sellafield. BNFL insisted that the shipped fuel was not the subject of data falsification, but the Japanese refused to accept it. There have still been no further orders for Mox fuel from Japan, seen as an essential customer.

No decisions have yet been made as to when the eight fuel assemblies will be returned, or the route it will take. The assemblies will be stored at Sellafield while decisions on the fuel's future use is decided.

Because part of the original fuel, used to make the Mox fuel, originated in the USA, the agreement of the United States government was needed before the fuel could be reshipped, under the US-Japan bilateral agreement concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.