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Japanese MOX Programme In Disarray

Japanese MOX Programme In Disarray

JAPANESE MOX PROGRAMME IN DISARRAY AS PREFECTURES ANNOUNCE DELAY IN LOADING OF FUEL

Greenpeace Press release:


LONDON, Feb 15, 2001 - The Japanese plutonium (MOX) fuel programme is in disarray today after a key Prefecture announced a major delay in the loading of the controversial nuclear fuel and demanded "total review" of the country's proposed programme, Greenpeace said today.

The reactor in Fukushima Prefecture was to be the first Japanese reactor to load MOX fuel. However, yesterday Fukushima governor, Eisaku Sato, told reporters, that there would be consultations over the loading of MOX fuel "with the people of Fukushima over the next year", indicating there would be no use of MOX in Fukushima until at least 2002. Governor Sato also called for a review of Japan's whole MOX fuel programme.

Since August last year, a court case, now backed by nearly 2000 citizens, was launched in Fukushima seeking an injunction against the loading of the MOX fuel on the grounds that it contains falsified quality control data and that it will increase safety risks at the reactor. The legal action is being backed by Greenpeace and other Japanese anti-nuclear organizations. A court ruling on the case is expected in March. The court case follows a similar legal action in 1999 which forced British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) to admit that it had falsified vital quality control data for MOX fuel produced for Japan. This has led to their multi-billion MOX program being delayed further, with no contracts signed with BNFL as a consequence. Even its competitor the state-owned French company Cogema has failed to secure large scale contracts with Japanese electrical utilities. BNFL is seeking to persuade the Blair government to license a new large £300 million MOX plant at Sellafield, even though the plant has contracts for only 6.7% of capacity – none for Japan).

The other Japanese reactor scheduled to load MOX fuel is Kashawazaki-Kirawa, in the Niigata prefecture, in western Japan. However Niigata governor Ikuo Hiroyama, yesterday told reporters that Kashawazaki "we won't be the first to load MOX fuel" in Japan, indicating it would not use MOX fuel until after the reactor in Fukushima. The delays in the loading of the plutonium MOX programme in Japan come as another plutonium MOX fuel shipment bound for Japan was entering the Southern Ocean between South Africa and Australia. The MOX fuel, produced by Cogema, is being carried by armed British flagged vessel, the Pacific Pintail, with its armed escort vessel Pacific Teal, to the Kashawazaki reactor.

"The Japanese MOX programme is in disarray with major delays and growing political pressure to cancel the programme," said Shaun Burnie. "The countries along the route of the plutonium shipments, like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, are being exposed to huge environmental and health risks for a plutonium fuel programme that is collapsing."

In total about 2,000kg plutonium has been delivered to Japan in the last 15 years, none of which has been used in reactors. It requires as little as 5kg of this plutonium to make one nuclear weapon.

For more information contact: Shaun Burnie 31 629 00 11 33 (mobile), Jon Walter on 31-20523 6608 or visit the Greenpeace International website at www.greenpeace.org

end

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For more information on this press release please contact: Greenpeace International Press Office T: ++ 31 20 5249515 F: ++ 31 20 5236212

ENDS

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