Environmental NGO Resolution
Eighth International Energy Forum Osaka, Japan
20 September 2002
Green Action Press Release and Briefing
On Eve of Return Shipment of Falsified BNFL MOX Fuel
3 July 2002
For immediate release
Contact: Aileen Mioko Smith or Stephen Ready
Kyoto, Japan – BNFL and Kansai Electric are in the final stages of preparation for loading 8 falsified MOX fuel assemblies onto the Pacific Pintail for a return shipment to the United Kingdom. The falsified MOX has already been loaded into the transport cask, and the cask is expected to be loaded onto the Pacific Pintail on 4 July 2002.
Green Action’s message is: ‘BNFL never again in Japan! Japan’s plutonium utilization plans should be scrapped.’ BNFL continues to cover up the real extent of the 1999 safety data falsification scandal and is attempting to use this shipment to re-start its business in Japan. En route countries strongly oppose this shipment.
MOX Fuel Scandal Cover Up Continues – BNFL has not improved
In December 1999, BNFL and Kansai Electric admitted quality control safety data for the Takahama Unit 4 MOX fuel had been falsified after citizens’ groups analyzing the data and found it falsified, and 212 residents of Fukui and Kansai took Kansai Electric to court seeking an injunction on the use of the fuel.
A February 2000 report by the British government’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) determined that falsification at BNFL had taken place since 1996, and that ’systematic management failures’ allowed data falsification to take place. In July 2000, BNFL formally agreed to Japanese demands to return the falsified MOX fuel to the United Kingdom at it’s own expense.
BNFL’s objective for taking back the fuel is to pave the way for negotiations with Japanese electric utilities for new MOX fuel fabrication contracts at the company’s Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) which was given permission to operate in October 2001, in spite of a lack of contracts.
BNFL claims that it has learned from the data falsification incident and has taken steps to improve it’s management but this is far from the truth. BNFL has neglected to get to the bottom of the 1999 MOX scandal including refusing to examine evidence that it deliberately falsified safety data for the Takahama nuclear power plant in order to pass sub-standard fuel on to Japan. BNFL has also never pursued an investigation to get to the bottom of who and how the Kansai Electric fuel was sabotaged where screw and concrete were mixed in with the fuel. Since 1999, BNFL has been prosecuted for various violations at Sellafield and the company has continued to cover up incidents and accidents at their facilities.
JAPAN’S MOX FUEL UTILIZATION (PLUTHERMAL) PROGRAM AT A STANDSTILL
Since the December 1999 data falsification scandal, Japan’s MOX fuel utilization plans, commonly referred to as the pluthermal program, have been suspended in all three prefectures (Fukui, Niigata, and Fukushima) scheduled to implement the program.
In a May 2001 referendum in Kariwa, Niigata Prefecture, a majority voted against implementation of the pluthermal program in Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 3 reactor. Following the referendum, the mayor of the village and the mayor of neighboring Kashiwazaki City and the governor of Niigata determined that the program could not go forward without a change in the will of the people. On the one-year anniversary of the Kariwa referendum, an opinion poll conducted by the Niigata Nippo newspaper concluded that there had been little change in opinion since the referendum, and that a majority of people is still opposed to MOX utilization.
In February 2001 Fukushima Prefecture governor Eisaku Sato decided that he would not allow the loading of Belgonucleaire fabricated MOX fuel stored at the reactor site into the Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 3 Reactor. Instead, he announced that the prefecture would carry out a fundamental review of the national government’s energy policy, including reprocessing and the pluthermal program.
Governor Sato recently announced that the review committee will issue its interim report prior to the September 2002 legislative session. On 3 June 2002, Governor Sato met with regional Fukushima mayors, and suggested the review will conclude that the pluthermal program should be frozen. The governor pointed out the high cost of implementing the program, and questioned the national government’s policy of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel when fast breeder reactor development plans have collapsed and uranium resources are plentiful. He has suggested a ‘once-through cycle’ where there is no MOX fuel utilization and spent nuclear fuel is stored rather than reprocessed.
The falsification scandal put a complete stop to the pluthermal program in Fukui. Governor Yukiio Kurita’s position has been that only after the return of the shipment would Fukui even deliberate on the pluthermal program again.
In Fukui, in November 1999 just before the Takahama Unit 4 fuel was officially found to be falsified, 21% of the population of Takahama had signed a petition seeking a referendum on the pluthermal program. Although in January 2000 the town legislature turned down this request, subsequent actions taken by the Fukushima governor and in Kariwa, Niigata by citizen referendum have most likely had an effect on stalling the program further in Fukui.
One thing is clear. Trust in BNFL has been destroyed in Fukui Prefecture. On 1 July Takahama and Obama residents from the prefecture visited the British Embassy in Tokyo. Their message, ‘ We, the residents of Takahama, are against the pluthermal programme itself, but above and beyond this even more anxious about having fuel used in our town which is manufactured by a company like BNFL. We also cannot believe the British government’s claim that ‘BNFL has improved’. We will adamantly refuse MOX fuel to be brought into Japan from a company such as BNFL, and this resolution will never change.’
CASK CORROSION AND TRANSPORT VESSEL CORROSION CONCERNS PLAGUE FALSIFIED MOX FUEL SHIPMENT
On 2 July, Green Action and Mihama-no-Kai submitted a letter to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation (MLIT) not to use the MOX transport cask for the BNFL falsified fuel, because safety checks on the cask have not been performed. Of particular concern is corrosion of the cask. Kansai Electric has also skipped the ‘cask approval’ application. MLIT admits skipping this approval for a nuclear transport cask is ‘unprecedented’.
On 27 June, MLIT issued an official notification instructing Tokyo Electric and Kansai Electric to refrain from using ‘TN model’ MOX transport casks until a corrosion inspection has been carried out to guarantee safety of the casks. This notification follows an investigation by the two utilities which determined that metal corrosion may be the cause of the rising of heat radiation fins on these the TN model MOX transport casks currently stored in France.
Kansai Electric claims that there is no corrosion on the Excellox model cask which is to be used in the upcoming BNFL MOX fuel return shipment because the ’structure of the cask is different.’ However, the company admitted that Excellox model casks were regularly exposed to water during their use as a spent nuclear fuel transport casks, and that no tests for corrosion have taken place on the current Excellox transport cask since it was modified to be used as a MOX fuel transport cask six years ago.
There are also concerns that the nuclear transport freighters the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal to be used for the imminent shipment themselves have serious corrosion problems.
GREEN ACTION CALLS ON PLUTONIUM TO BE IMMOBILIZED, NOT UTILIZED
Japanese electric utilities currently have more than 32 tons of separated plutonium, and no realistic plans to consume it. Utilization of MOX fuel in light water reactors reduces the safety margin of these reactors, and there are proliferation concerns involved with the fabrication and transportation of plutonium fuel. For these reasons, Green Action is calling for the immediate immobilization of all Japanese civil plutonium.
EN ROUTE COUNTRY PROTESTS
Over 50 countries are on record as having protested shipments of Japanese nuclear materials. The upcoming shipment is taking place without prior notification of the transport route and consent of en route countries. No environmental assessment has been undertaken, and there is no adequate liability regime or contingency plans in case of emergency. Kansai Electric is on record stating there will be no additional ‘post September 11′ security for the shipment. The utility also states, ‘It would take a lawsuit to substantiate who is the owner of these MOX fuel assemblies.’Green Action
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