Swiss find serious faults in British nuclear fuel

A A A

The nuclear safety authority in Switzerland confirmed yesterday that it had discovered serious faults with controversial mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (Mox) fuel supplied by British Nuclear Fuels.

The nuclear safety authority in Switzerland confirmed yesterday that it had discovered serious faults with controversial mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (Mox) fuel supplied by British Nuclear Fuels.

The revelation that grave problems were found with BNFL's Mox fuel after it was loaded into a Swiss reactor is another blow to the credibility of its main product. Last week BNFL apologised to the Japanese government after it emerged that the company had made false assurances on the quality of its Mox fuel.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate said that three Mox fuel assemblies supplied by BNFL in 1996 were found to be damaged a year after they were loaded into the Beznau 1 reactor. A further nine rods had to be removed forchecks two years earlier than had been planned.

Sources in BNFL have told The Independent that the Mox fuel sent to Beznau was checked at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria by the same three BNFL employees who were sacked for allegedly falsifying quality data.

Serge Pretre, director of the Swiss inspectorate, confirmed that an examination of one damaged fuel rod revealed that it had a manufacturing fault, although he believed this was unconnected with the issue of falsification of quality-control data.

"From what I know of the damage it doesn't seem to be a quality-assurance problem," Dr Pretre said. "We are aware of the problems and have asked the authorities in London to get more information on this case."

The operator of Beznau 1, Switzerland's north-eastern electricity utility NOK, had run a check on the fuel and reloaded it into the reactor before the Mox falsification scandal came to light in September.

Dr Pretre said he had been in touch with Britain's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to try to find out more about the quality-control checks on the Beznau 1 fuel. "We were trying to know if [the fuel] was affected by this falsification." No clear answer has yet been received, he said.

However, a spokesman for the NII said last night that an investigation had revealed that some of the quality assurance data relating to the Mox fuel sent to Beznau was questionable. He said the inspectorate had contacted the Swiss regulators and informed them that suspect data should not affect the safe operation of the fuel.

BNFL said last night that the difficulties at Beznau were not connected with the Mox fuel pellets, but with the fuel pins into which they are loaded. "Nuclear reactors each contain many thousands of fuel pins and the nature of the Beznau problem is a fairly common occurrence with no safety implications," a spokesman said.

Government ministers are irritated with BNFL's repeated reassurances that its acknowledged falsification problems at Sellafield did not affect the first Mox fuel shipment to Japan, which arrived earlier this month.

Helen Liddell, the energy minister, has apologised in person to Japan's ambassador in London for BNFL's mistakes. She is also sending a senior civil servant to Japan in January to show that the Government is taking the matter seriously.

Shaun Bernie of Greenpeace International said that BNFL had again been shown to produce poor-quality, dangerous nuclear fuel. "There are clearly no limits to the extent of BNFL mismanagement when plutonium is involved. All plutonium Mox fuel production should be cancelled," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones