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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2000

British visit aims to restore public trust in MOX fuel


Staff writer OSAKA -- In an effort to restore trust in Britain's mixed oxide uranium plutonium fuel program, high ranking British officials will visit Japan next week to meet with Ministry of International Trade and Industry officials, executives of Kansai Electric Power Co. and an antinuclear group. The delegation will be led by Laurence Williams, head of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, which oversees British nuclear facilities, and Anna Walker, director general for energy at the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry. The purpose of the visit is to present MITI and Kepco with the results of the NII's investigation into the falsification of MOX fuel data at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.'s plant in Sellafield last autumn, and to explain what measures have been taken since. In addition, the British officials will ask Kepco to reconsider its decision Wednesday to drop BNFL as a supplier of MOX fuel. As a result of the data falsification, Kepco announced it would no longer purchase MOX from BNFL, and that some uranium contracts would be suspended for four months. Although Kepco said it intends to send the fuel back to England, the British government is resisting the plan, saying that the fate of the fuel must be decided by both governments, not just the companies involved. Antinuclear groups in England and Japan oppose returning the MOX to Britain for safety reasons, while some British politicians oppose shouldering all the costs of returning the fuel, which, according to BNFL senior commercial manager Jeremy Rycroft, would amount to millions of pounds. The issue of what to do with the MOX in Takahama is not officially on next week's agenda, but antinuclear groups say Walker, as a representative of the DTI, will unofficially ask Kepco to reconsider its decision. The British delegation will also meet with representatives of antinuclear group Green Action Kyoto to present the results of their meetings with MITI and Kepco officials.



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