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Safety Concerns Bedevil Nuclear Ocean Shipment

Two ships carrying plutonium-based mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel from Europe to Japan may be forced to return because safety-related documents were faked by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

BNFL informed Kansai Electric Power Co. that safety checks were bypassed and data was falsified to save time. But the company claims the false data covered recently manufactured fuel awaiting shipment to Japan in November, not the fuel in transit (PanAfrican News Agency, 20 Sep). BNFL also has acknowledged serious "irregularities" in the manufacture of nuclear rods destined for export (Inter Press Service/TerraViva, 20 Sep).

Japanese concerns have prompted demands that the fuel in transit be checked. The fuel recently passed through the Tasman Sea and is in the South Pacific Ocean (PanAfrican News Agency).

According to Inter Press Service, "the shipments mark a new and dangerous phase of Japan's nuclear industry with the start of a pilot program" to use MOX in conventional nuclear reactors. The nation's 11 electric utilities face "massive public protests" as well as conflicts with various governments along the ships' sea route (IPS/TerraViva).


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