Thursday, May 02, 2002

One of the most expensive apologies by BNFL started last week as two ships, both of them armed, left Barrow to sail to Japan to bring back eight MOX nuclear fuel assemblies that led to Sellafield loosing key business.

It will cost state owned BNFL several millions of pounds to bring back the unwanted MOX fuel.

The fuel will then stay at Sellafield as nuclear waste. BNFL said: "The future use of the fuel is yet to be determined but will be in accordance with the customer's wishes and with the relevant regulatory requirements.''

Cumbrian anti-nuclear group CORE said: "Heightened security around BNFL's two armed MOX ships and increased dockside activity over the past week has preceded the ships' departure. The security has included UKAEA police squads guarding the terminal around the clock, sweeps of the ships' hulls by a police diving team and police inflatables patrolling the dock waters.

"Despite the ships carrying no more than empty transport flasks, Barrow Docks were sealed off for the departures and both ships were escorted out to sea by police inflatables. The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal will take around 6 weeks to reach Japan where they will collect the MOX fuel produced at Sellafield's MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) and subsequently rejected by BNFL's customer Kansai Electric after BNFL was forced to admit that the plutonium fuel's quality assurance data had been deliberately falsified by MDF workers.''

The ships are expected to arrive back with the rejected fuel sometime in August. The waste fuel will be transported under heavy guard by rail to Sellafield.

CORE added: " The THORP reprocessing plant has no licence to process the degraded plutonium fuel rods which are therefore likely to languish indefinitely as yet more nuclear waste at Sellafield. "We are wholly opposed to its return. The shipment is at raised risk of terrorist action and represents a blatant breach of Government policy which forbids the import of nuclear waste into the UK.''

BNFL Chief Executive, Norman Askew said: "This is an important milestone for BNFL as it begins to draw a line under the issue."