Japan and Britain agreed Tuesday on having tainted plutonium fuel manufactured by British Nuclear Fuels Corp. returned to Britain, Japanese officials said.
Natural Resources and Energy Agency chief Hirobumi Kawano and Anna Walker, the Energy Bureau chief of Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry, reached the agreement in their final talks at the agency’s office.
BNFL and Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture where the BNFL-produced mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel was supposed to be used, are also discussing ways to resolve compensation and other issues involving the data falsification scandal, according to the officials.
The Japanese and British governments will immediately start talks to decide the date for shipping the fuel back to Britain, because Japan has to obtain permission from the U.S. and other countries on the route of the shipment, the officials said.
Japan is required to obtain consent for the nuclear fuel shipment in accordance with the Japan-U.S. agreement on nuclear energy.
In 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 — to be used for the No. 4 reactor — had also been falsified. The shipment was delivered from Britain in September.
Then in February, BNFL announced that a screw and a concrete block had been mixed into two MOX fuel rods awaiting shipment to the Takahama reactor.
The incidents have delayed the start of Kepco’s MOX fuel project, which was initially slated for late last year.
Walker visited in February to express Britain’s apologies over the incident and to brief the agency and Kepco on the British government’s investigation into the data falsification at BNFL.
Japan asked Britain to take the fuel back after the company and the Fukui Prefectural Government urged that the fuel be returned.
Tuesday’s talks were also attended by the ministry’s councilor, Masaharu Fujitomi, and British Ambassador to Japan Stephen Gomersall.
Walker visited International Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma at his office after the agreement was made.
Hiranuma welcomed the agreement, saying: “Japan and Britain have maintained their cooperative relationship on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I’m glad to hear that the issue was resolved peacefully.”