Letter: MOX fuel flies in safety

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The Independent Online
MOX fuel

flies in safety

Sir: Your article (13 June) about the transport of mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel is misleading. MOX material is not nuclear waste. It is not nuclear fuel being imported for reprocessing. It is Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, manufactured from uranium and plutonium which has been separated from recycled used nuclear fuel.

, and other nuclear materials, have been transported by air from Carlisle airport for a number of years, in complete safety. We have never made a secret of this and have publicised this through presentations and international conferences. Carlisle has most recently been used to transport to a customer in Europe. The transports involved a total of five flights and were all conducted in complete safety. That fuel is now in a reactor, generating electricity.

Even in a hypothetical scenario where the container was damaged to such an extent that it was split open, the inside would not disperse in air - it is a hard, stone-like substance and cannot be disintegrated to a powder. The safety of air transportation has been acknowledged by independent experts.

In a report in 1988, an independent advisory group, the Advisory Committee on the Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials (ACTRAM) stated that: "The health risk to people from the international transport of civil plutonium by air to and from the United Kingdom is ... extremely remote. It went on to say that "The tests carried out by BNFL indicate that the packages in use and designed to be sure of meeting the regulations are, in fact, considerably stronger than required by the regulations." ACTRAM was set up at the request of the UK Parliamentary Environment Select Committee specifically to investigate the transport of civil plutonium.

As an additional precaution, BNFL specify that flights will be routed away from urban areas and over the sea wherever possible. Dedicated freight aircraft are used, following routes which are approved by national air traffic control centres and registered with the European air traffic control centre in Brussels.


Media Affairs Manager (Risley)

British Nuclear Fuels plc

Warrington, Cheshire