Japan queries nuclear pellet safety

JAPANESE GOVERNMENT officials flew to Britain this week seeking fresh assurances about the safety of nuclear fuel pellets sent to Japan from the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria.

Senior representatives of Tokyo's Ministry of Technology and Industry (Miti) finished a two-day meeting yesterday with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the government safety watchdog, to discuss the possible falsification of data relating to mixed plutonium oxide (Mox) fuel pellets made by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). Another delegation from Kansai Electric, the Japanese company receiving the shipment, has met BNFL to discuss an "unusual" consignment of pellets sent to Japan that Greenpeace suspects has been subject to data falsification.

BNFL has already sacked three Sellafield employees for allegedly falsifying data relating to quality-assurance checks on 22 lots of Mox fuel pellets, after a report in The Independent. But the company said none of this fuel had left its Sellafield plant and insisted that all Mox pellets already shipped to Japan were free of falsification.