Letter: Fuel for debate

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The Independent Culture
Sir: BNFL's criticisms (letter, 4 November) of Friends of the Earth's arguments against the commissioning of Sellafield's MoX plant are wrong.

Firstly, Arthur Roberts quotes Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett as saying that MoX fuel only poses an "extremely low" proliferation risk to justify producing and exporting a fuel that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The Indian and Pakistani tests show how short-sighted it is to believe profitable nuclear exports do not aid nuclear weapons proliferation. It is our duty wisely to build on, not rashly squander, post-Cold War trust by not re-awakening Chinese or Korean fears through the export of weapons-capable MoX fuel to Japan.

Secondly, he states that FOE is "misleading" about MoX waste. Not true. With much more deadly radioactive plutonium, Neptunium-237 and Americium- 241, used MoX fuel is hotter, more poisonous and as long lasting as used uranium fuel.

Thirdly, he states that "Wastes arising from reprocessing MoX fuel can be handled in a similar manner to wastes arising from spent uranium fuel, using existing plants at Sellafield." This suggests that Sellafield is happy to deal with the waste from the MoX fuel it exports by reprocessing it and then storing the waste. BNFL must now tell the public whether it is prepared to offer, or has offered, its foreign customers this facility.

Fourthly, he suggests that there is a market for all BNFL's MoX fuel as it is not much more expensive than uranium fuel. BNFL ensured that the Environment Agency withheld all the figures needed to check such a statement. If BNFL wants to show us that MoX's operations will not be subsidised by the taxpayer, it should show us a full set of signed contracts as it did with THORP.

Dominick Jenkins

Friends of the Earth

London N1