OSAKA — In the wake of a scandal involving British Nuclear Fuels PLC, Kansai Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that it will step up efforts to monitor the quality of plutonium fuel manufactured by foreign companies for use in its nuclear power plants.
Releasing its final report on the scandal, KEPCO said it will strengthen monitoring both at facilities where mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel (MOX) is produced and at the company’s headquarters in Osaka.
The report did not touch on the issue of what to do with the tainted MOX fuel rods that have been sitting at the No. 4 reactor in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, since being delivered from Britain in September last year.
Nor did it mention whether KEPCO will continue to do business with BNFL.
However, the Japanese government and KEPCO have made it clear that they want the fuel returned to Britain and said BNFL can do no more business in Japan, the British company’s most valuable overseas market, until the problem is resolved.
Last September it came to light that quality-assurance data on a consignment of MOX fuel intended for use in the Takahama No. 3 reactor had been falsified by workers at BNFL’s Sellafield plant in Cumbria, northwest England. The fuel was waiting to be shipped to Japan at the time of the disclosure.
In December, there was more embarrassment for BNFL when it was revealed that data on a consignment already in Takahama had also been falsified.
Furthermore in February, BNFL announced that one MOX fuel rod waiting for shipment to the Takahama reactor had been contaminated with a screw, and another had been mixed with a block of concrete.
KEPCO’s report quoted BNFL as saying one of its employees who falsified data is believed to have mixed the alien substances with the rods in order to disrupt an in-house investigation into the falsification of data.
Informal MOX talks
LONDON (Kyodo) Japanese and British officials have held informal talks on the fate of a tainted consignment of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel shipped from Britain and currently stored in Japan, the British government said Tuesday.
Junior Japanese and British government officials are believed to have met this week in order to set the stage for higher-level discussions on what to do with the MOX fuel sitting at the No. 4 reactor in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, since it was delivered from Britain last September.
A delegation of top-level officials from the Department of Trade and Industry is expected to fly to Japan later this summer to present a range of options on what to do with the tainted fuel.
The options presented will include returning the fuel to Britain and possibly recovering some of the fuel so it could be used again.
A DTI spokesman said: “Informal talks have taken place between junior British and Japanese officials in Japan. They are paving the way for the visit of the formal delegation, for which a date has not yet been set.
“They have made a small amount of progress, and we are encouraged by this.”
According to an authoritative source, talks started Monday and were continuing.